The online application is now open. The next deadline for applications is March 12, 2020 at 3:00 pm EST.

Overview

The Youth Service Improvement Grants (YSIG) program supports activities to improve the quality of direct services for young people ages 5 to 25 in the five boroughs of New York City. The goal is to strengthen existing services by helping youth-serving nonprofit organizations address challenges or remedy problems at the point of service, where staff and youth interact.

YSIG is unique in that it urges applicants not only to discuss their organization’s promise and potential, but to identify gaps or challenges in the services they provide. We ask applicants to be critical and reflective, to consider why and how complications exist, and to articulate how they intend to improve the ability of their programming to provide positive impact on youth.

Applicants should describe their organization’s mission and the current youth programming that they propose to improve. The application should clearly describe a challenge or problem at the program’s point of service, outline how the organization identified the problem, and explain how the problem adversely affects the experiences or outcomes of youth participants. Next, the application should propose a specific, standalone improvement plan to address the issue, improve the targeted programming, and yield a positive effect on participants’ experiences. Strong proposals will make the case that the quality of youth services would improve if the issue were resolved, and will clearly describe a feasible, sustainable, and appropriate improvement. Examples of problem areas for improvement include: inadequate curriculum, gaps in the service skills of frontline staff, or a limitation in current services that adversely affects participants’ experiences. Beyond these examples, we welcome other compelling needs for service improvement.

Our Focus on Reducing Inequality

In 2018, we took stock of YSIG in the context of inequality in New York City. Three themes stood out in our review. First, the geography of inequality is stark, with poverty rates well over 40 percent in some neighborhoods and too few of our grant dollars going to those communities. Because economic and racial inequality are intertwined, better serving the highest poverty neighborhoods would also mean supporting Dominican, Puerto Rican, Afro-Caribbean, African American, and Southeast Asian youth. Second, a purely place-based approach to grantmaking would neglect under-served communities that are more geographically dispersed. People of Mexican-descent are now the third largest immigrant group in the city, have high rates of poverty but few established organizations tailored to their needs. LGBTQ youth are another group that is too often overlooked and whose well-being demands greater support. Third, our review noted the lack of racial, ethnic, gender identity, and sexual-orientation diversity among executive directors and CEOs of youth serving organizations.

The new YSIG program capitalizes on these insights and aligns more closely with the Foundation’s broader focus on reducing inequality in youth outcomes. We welcome all applicants who share our goal of tackling inequality. We also seek to drive more of our grantmaking to organizations that 1) provide direct services to youth in the ten community districts identified as having the highest risk to child well-being by the Citizens’ Committee for Children, or 2) have existing programming tailored specifically to Mexican-descent or LGBTQ youth, or 3) have leaders (executive directors or CEOs) who are people of color and/or members of the LGBTQ community. Through these grantmaking priorities, we hope YSIG will facilitate service improvements that enhance development and well-being for youth with the greatest needs.

Awards

Awards are $25,000 each and support projects lasting one year. Although the Foundation is prepared to fully fund projects of $25,000, we are also willing to co-fund larger improvement efforts with other funders. Regardless of the size of the budget for the improvement project, we encourage applicants to commit some of their own resources through in-kind support or the use of unrestricted funds. We view this action as an indication of organizational commitment to the improvement project.

The Foundation will award up to six new Youth Service Improvement Grants annually.

In addition to providing grant support, grantees will participate in technical assistance activities designed to help them meet their improvement project goals. We have partnered with the Youth Development Institute to provide one-on-one support as well as learning community cohort meetings over the term of the grant. One-on-one support will allow each grantee to receive customized assistance that will help them work toward the successful implementation of the improvement project. The learning community cohort meetings will focus on peer-based learning and coaching, allowing grantees to discuss challenges, seek advice from peers and colleagues, and collaborate across projects in a supportive space.

Eligibility

All YSIG applicants must be youth-serving community-based nonprofit organizations based in any of the five boroughs of New York City whose staff have direct programmatic contact with youth at the point of service. Applicants must meet all organizational criteria to be eligible.

Organizational Criteria

  1. Serve youth ages 5 to 25. At least 80 percent of youth participating in the services targeted for improvement must be in this age range. The applicant’s staff must have direct contact with youth at the point of service.
  2. Have their own 501(c)(3) tax-exemption. If an applying organization is separately incorporated but tax-exempt through a group ruling (religious institutions), the applicant should supply the 501(c)(3) letter of the parent organization and documentation that it is part of the group.
  3. Have an operating budget between $1 million and $5 million, if the organization serves youth only. If the applying organization serves youth and other populations, its operating budget must be less than $20 million and its youth services budget must be between $1 million and $5 million.
  4. Have most recent financial statements reviewed by an auditor, per New York State law requirement.
  5. Have filed IRS Form 990.

To receive priority consideration, applicants must meet at least one of the reducing inequality criteria in addition to all organizational criteria.

Reducing Inequality Criteria

1. Provide youth services in one of the ten community districts identified as having the highest community risk to child well-being by the Citizens’ Committee for Children:

Bronx:

  • CD 1 – Mott Haven
  • CD 2 – Hunts Point
  • CD 3 – Morrisania
  • CD 4 – Concourse/Highbridge
  • CD 5 – University Heights
  • CD 6 – East Tremont
  • CD 7 – Bedford Park
  • CD 9 – Union Port/Soundview

Brooklyn:

  • CD 5 – East New York
  • CD 16 – Brownsville

Organizational offices do not need to be based in one of these community districts, but the service targeted for improvement must be currently operating in one of the districts. Organizations can identify their community districts on the New York City Department of City Planning’s Community District Profiles website.

2. Have well-defined programming tailored specifically to Mexican-descent youth or to LGBTQ youth; or

With New York City being a diverse metropolis, it is likely that many programs will serve young people that fit into these groups. However, priority consideration is reserved for applicants that have well-defined services that are specifically designed for them. Others will not receive priority consideration.

3. Have executive directors or CEOs who are people of color or LGBTQ individuals.

What we do not support

The YSIG program only supports improvement activities at the point of service for youth. We would not support:

  • General operations.
  • Planning, needs assessment, and evaluation proposals.
  • Organizational improvement activities not focused on changes at the point-of-service, such as board development or financial system updates.
  • Capital fund projects, scholarships, endowments, lobbying, real estate purchases, or awards to individuals.
  • Expansions or additions to programming, including changes that simply increase the number of slots in a program or result in new programming. As such, all proposed budgetary items must be directly related to the proposed improvement.
  • Public and private schools.
  • Organizations that utilize fiscal sponsors/conduits.
  • Organizations that are based outside the five boroughs of New York City.

Organizations previously funded under the YSIG program cannot apply again for at least 18 months after the end of their award.

Selection Criteria

Applications for Youth Service Improvement Grants are reviewed by a dedicated volunteer committee of Foundation staff once a year. Committee members have a diverse range of expertise, including finance, communications, and nonprofit administration. Thus, applications should be written to address an educated lay audience. If you use acronyms that may not be familiar to a lay audience, please be sure to spell them out the first time. If you use terms that are not commonly known, please provide relevant context and explanations.

Grantees will be selected according to the following criteria:

  • The applicant provides a clear, compelling explanation of how the current services create positive and meaningful experiences for youth.
  • The applicant clearly identifies a problem at the point of service and explains how the problem has adversely impacted the experiences of participants.
  • The applicant details how they identified the problem and clearly articulates its likely causes.
  • The applicant makes a strong case that the quality of services to youth would significantly improve if the problem were addressed.
  • The improvement plan effectively addresses the problem: it is targeted specifically at the causes of the problem, it is likely to be effective, and it is sustainable.
  • The improvement activities can feasibly be implemented within the one-year grant period, which begins on September 1, 2020.
  • The applicant identifies a capable staff member or manager to oversee the improvement plan and track progress across the timeline. This is different from staff working to implement the improvement.
  • The applicant outlines a compelling plan to collect and use information to determine whether the improvement project is successful.
  • The applicant makes the case that the improvement can be sustained operationally and financially.
  • If additional funds will be required to continue the improvement after the grant period, the applicant provides a feasible plan to achieve sustainability.

Resources

When preparing an online application, the narrative and background information portions of the proposal must be completed in the microsoft word templates, which are provided below. You may download and complete these files and upload to the application portal when you apply, or you may download the templates from the application portal while preparing your application.