Today, we are proud to launch a redesign of our Youth Service Improvement Grants Program.
The Foundation introduced the Youth Service Improvement Grants program over a decade ago as a way to help local organizations strengthen existing programs by addressing issues or problems at the point of service, where staff and youth interact. Since 2007, we have awarded 145 Youth Service Improvement Grants, representing over $3.5-million in support to nonprofit organizations that serve young people in communities across New York City.
As part of the ongoing evolution of this work, which is one of a variety of good-neighbor grantmaking strategies the Foundation has pursued since the 1970s, a stock-taking of the program was initiated by Foundation leadership in 2018. This effort focused on assessing the landscape of youth inequality in New York City in order to gain insight into how the Foundation could do more to support young New Yorkers. Ultimately, three major themes emerged:
- The geography of inequality is stark, 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-served 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.
The redesigned Youth Service Improvement Grants program capitalizes on these insights by aligning its priorities more closely with the Foundation’s broader focus on reducing inequality in youth outcomes. Specifically, the Foundation now seeks to drive awards to organizations that 1) provide direct services to youth in ten 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 LGBTQ individuals.
Through these new priorities, the Foundation intends to facilitate service improvements that enhance youth development and well-being for those youth with the greatest needs.