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 urges applicants not only to discuss their organizations’ 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.
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.
Priority Consideration: Reducing Inequality
As part of the ongoing evolution of YSIG, which is one of a variety of good-neighbor grantmaking strategies the Foundation has pursued since the 1970s, Foundation leadership took stock of the program in 2018. This effort focused on assessing the landscape of youth inequality in New York City in order to gain insight into how we could do more to support young New Yorkers. Ultimately, three major themes emerged:
- Inequality corresponds with geography, with poverty rates well over 40 percent in some neighborhoods and too little of Foundation grant dollars going to those communities.
- A purely place-based approach to grantmaking would neglect under-resources communities that are more geographically dispersed. Mexicans, 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.
- There is a notable lack of racial, ethnic, gender identity and sexual-orientation diversity among executive directors and CEOs of youth serving organizations.
Today’s Youth Service Improvement Grants program capitalizes on these insights by prioritizing applications from organizations that 1) provide direct services to youth in eleven community districts identified as having the highest risk to child well-being by the Citizens’ Committee for Children, 2) have existing programming tailored specifically to Mexican-descent or LGBTQ+ youth, or 3) are led by people of color or members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Awards are $25,000 each and support projects lasting one year, starting on September 1 of the award year.
The Foundation will award up to six new Youth Service Improvement Grants annually.
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 as an indication of organizational commitment to the improvement project, especially in larger organizations.
- 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.
- Have their own 501c3 tax-exemption. If an applying organization is separately incorporated but tax-exempt through a group ruling (religious institutions), the applicant should supply the 501c3 letter of the parent organization and documentation that it is part of the group.
- Have an operating budget between $250,000 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 $250,000 and $5 million.
- Have most recent financial statements reviewed by an auditor, per New York State law requirement. If the organization’s annual budget is under $750,000, then certified public accountant’s reviewed financial statements are required.
- Have filed IRS Form 990.
Reducing Inequality Criteria
- Provide youth services in one of the eleven community districts identified as having the highest community risk to child well-being by the Citizens’ Committee for Children:
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
CD 12- Williamsbridge
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 currently operate in one of the districts. Organizations can identify the community districts in which they serve youth on the New York City Department of City Planning’s Community District Profiles webpage.
- Have well-defined programming tailored specifically to Mexican-descent youth
- Have existing well-defined programming tailored specifically to LGBTQ+ youth
Many programs serve Mexican-descent and LGBTQ+ youth, but only those organizations with programming specifically designed for these populations are eligible for priority consideration under this criterion.
- Have a leader (executive director or CEO) who is a person of color and/or is a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
What We Do Not Support
The YSIG program only supports improvement activities at the point of service for youth. We do not support:
- General operations.
- Planning, needs assessment, and evaluation proposals.
- Program 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.
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.