2023 National Meredith Willson Awards


The Meredith Willson Awards will provide significant, multi-year, general operating support to vibrant national programs and organizations working in music, learning, and well-being as part of The Music Man Foundation’s interest in using the transformative power of music to achieve systemic change. Successful applications will clearly identify the primary system the organization has sought to impact, articulate how and why music plays a key role in advancing described changes, and demonstrate why the organization is well-positioned to take on this system change.

The Music Man Foundation anticipates awarding grants to 3 to 8 organizations in 2023. Grants between $100,000 – $1,000,000 will be paid over a two-year period to support general operating expenses for national programs. Grants will not be awarded to organizations whose applications focus on developing new programs. Grant amounts will take into consideration the organizational budget, scope of the organization’s plans and partnerships, and alignment with The Music Man Foundation’s mission. Grant funds must be allocated by December 31, 2025.

Eligible organizations will have three years of experience conducting programming with a national focus, and an intentional presence in at least three states. Organizations conducting programming with a national focus that also conduct programming with a local/community focus are eligible. If awarded, grant funds will be restricted for nationally-focused programming only.

Eligibility Requirements

In order to be considered for funding, an organization must:

  • Be a non-profit organization with IRS-determined 501 (c)(3) status.
  • Be a national program or organization, defined by having programming that spans at least three states. The efforts in selected states must be intentional and in line with the organization’s strategic plan(s).
  • Have at least three years of mission-aligned programming in music, learning, and well-being.
  • Have had at least one paid employee dedicated to the national programming for a minimum of three years.
  • Not have a structural deficit.

Other Eligibility Information

  • Fiscally sponsored organizations are not eligible to apply.
  • Recipients of a 2022 Southern California Meredith Willson Award are not eligible to apply.
  • For organizations that have previously received a grant from The Music Man Foundation, the organization must be in good standing with the Foundation before applying for the Award.

Guiding Questions this Grant Process Will Explore 

  • What system is the organization impacting and why is the organization well-positioned to take on this system change? Why and how does music play a key role in advancing this change? What impact has been realized to date?
  • Can the organization demonstrate intentionality around its programming, including who is served, where, and why?
  • Who benefits directly and indirectly from this programming and in what ways?
  • How does the organization reflect a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion?
  • What does progress look like for the organization in the next 2-5 years, and what will progress within the system look like over the next 5-10 years?

Defining Systems Change 

The Music Man Foundation interprets systems change as shifting the underlying conditions that make service delivery necessary. We understand that the world operates in systems, and that isolated grants cannot make broad-based or lasting change. Because of this, the Foundation will grant to organizations trying to change the way a system functions. We rely on the expertise of our grant partners to identify the system which the organization is trying to impact.

Frequently Asked Questions

This document includes answers to various questions about the Awards.

Information Sessions

45-minute information sessions were held on February 15 and February 23.  The presentation deck from these sessions is provided here.

Leadership Letter

The Leadership Letter may come from the organization’s Executive Director, Board Chair, or Program Director depending on your organization’s leadership structure. The Leadership Letter should include the signature of its author.

In 1-3 pages:

  • Provide a brief summary of why your organization exists.
  • Share how long you have been in a leadership role at the organization and any noteworthy organizational accomplishments that showcase your leadership capacity.
  • Share how music plays a central role in the organization’s efforts and how music, learning, and well-being are central to the organization’s mission.
  • Address what system your organization is impacting using music and why your organization is well-positioned to take on this system change. Articulate why and how music plays a key role in advancing this change.
  • Discuss ways in which your organization acts as a leader in your field.
  • If applying for support of a national program, please discuss how this program fits within the context of the organization.
  • Discuss your long-term aspirations for the organization and your vision of how the organization’s programming will directly impact system dynamics over time.

In conjunction with the Leadership Letter, we request every submission include a one sheet about the organization’s primary programs, as well as two board-approved organizational budgets that include revenue and expenses: one for the current fiscal year as well as one for the most recently completed fiscal year which reflects budget and actual figures. If you are applying for a national program, a program budget will also be required.  The Leadership Letter should not include a specific grant request amount.


Select organizations will be invited to submit an application. The application will include the following components (please note this is not the application):

  • Executive summary that includes an overview of the organization’s aspirations and its measures of progress.
  • Narrative portion that includes a discussion of the progress the organization aims to inspire, greater detail about programs and their participants, how the organization is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion practices, what activities are planned for the next two years, and what resources are required to achieve the organization’s mission-aligned goals.
  • Financial section that includes a projected organizational budget for the next fiscal year, the board-approved budget for the current fiscal year, and budgets with actual financial performance for the two most-recently completed fiscal years. Also, audited financial statements and/or balance sheets for the most recent two fiscal years.
  • Leadership section that describes the staff structure and board governance.

Organizations will not have the opportunity to request a specific grant amount.

Selection Criteria 

  • Music, learning and well-being are central to the organization’s mission and programming. Further, the connection between the organization’s mission and music programming is evident.
  • Demonstrated organizational accomplishments using music to enhance learning and/or well-being within the system the organization is impacting.
  • Demonstrated understanding of the system the organization seeks to impact and insight as to why the organization is well-positioned to take on this system change.
  • Strategic collaborations and/or partnerships that reflect intentional efforts to play a leadership role in influencing system dynamics.
  • Organization reflects a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. Demonstrated intentionality of programming, including intentionality around who benefits from the organization’s services.
  • Organization has a clear vision of its future intentions. Organization has capacity to identify and track progress towards key milestones for the organization and the system the organization is impacting.


  • February 15 and 23: Information sessions
  • March 1 & 2, 2023: Optional office hours with Foundation staff
  • March 10, 2023: Leadership Letters due
  • April 12, 2023: Select organizations invited to submit full application and schedule site visit/organizational interview
  • June 6, 2023: Applications due
  • May – August 2023: Site visits and/or organizational interviews conducted
  • November 2023: Awards announced


Organizations whose work aligns with the goals of the Meredith Willson Award should get in touch via email:  [email protected].

Instructions for Using the Foundation’s Grant Portal 

For details about setting up your organization’s account and for additional tips on how to successfully submit an application to the Foundation, please find instructions here.