Numerous federal, state and local government agencies award grants to nonprofit organizations to operate programs for youth. Supplementing this funding is the growing number of corporate and foundation sponsors of youth programming. Getting grants in this competitive arena requires an organization to prove it is meeting a well-defined need, showing evidence of your organization’s ability to sustain itself for the long term and offering unique but evidence-based solutions to the problems youth are facing.
Types of Youth Grants
There are more than 2,000 federal domestic assistance programs in the United States, hundreds of which are geared specifically toward youth, as well as adults and organizations that work with youth. These grant programs seek to help at-risk youth, those in foster care or receiving public assistance, immigrant youth, juvenile offenders, low-income youth, minorities, disabled youth, overweight and obese youth, pregnant and parenting teens, rural and urban youth, all students, youth with chronic illnesses, unemployed youth, runaways and homeless youth, gang members, youth who are substance abusers, youthful victims of crime, as well as youth with myriad other special needs. In addition to offering programs that help and treat these youth, youth-related grants help nonprofit organizations collect data and conduct research on youth issues and get training and technical assistance.
The development of youth and their transition to adulthood has many implications for the future of the country. Therefore, the U.S. government spends billions of dollars each year, much of it in nonprofit grants, to help youth grow up safely and succeed in life. The major federal sponsor of youth grants is the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), under which lies the Administration on Children and Families, the Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB). FYSB supports grant programs related to runaway and homeless youth, family violence, abstinence education, mentoring children of prisoners and pregnant and parenting youth. In addition, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) runs a rural youth development grant program that is designed to dismantle the economic and physical barriers children in remote regions encounter and prepare them for adulthood through activities, access to technology and training, and leadership skills. The USDA also runs the National Children, Youth, and Families at Risk (CYFAR) Program, which supports nonprofits in 600 communities around the country that aid families in building resilience and fill unmet needs of families in at-risk categories.
In the corporate realm, several companies are major contributors to youth development, after-school and mentoring programs.
The federal government also sponsors grants to organizations that help ensure America’s youth are properly prepared to enter the U.S. workforce. For example, the Department of Labor runs Job Corps, the Workforce Investment Act Program, and the Apprenticeship and Training Program. In addition, there is a growing movement of nonprofit organizations that are incubating youth entrepreneurs. The Aspen Institute, Coleman Foundation and the Corporation for Enterprise Development provide a mix of technical and financial assistance to the nonprofits helping young people run businesses. Moreover, the Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy sponsors educational programs for disabled youth to start their own businesses.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice offer grants to organizations that help protect and nurture youth, particularly those facing difficulties such as child maltreatment or those who are rehabilitating from gang life. FYSB provides funding to organizations that assist with runaway and homeless youth and those who have experienced family violence. In addition the HHS Healthy Schools/Healthy Communities program awards grants to increase health care among under-served and vulnerable youth populations, such as those who are homeless, migrant or live in public housing. The Justice Department’s Youth Offender Reentry initiative provides funding to states, which in turn contracts to organizations that help rehabilitate and re-assimilate youth after incarceration. The Department’s Safe Havens program help families with child abuse and domestic violence experiences to have monitored visits with protected children.
The U.S. Department of Education funds dozens of programs annually to provide formal and informal education and educational assistance to youth in the United States. Among the more popular grant programs are Upward Bound and Learn and Serve America. Upward Bound gives money to organizations that help at-risk and low-income students get motivated for higher education through improved academic performance and individual motivation. Learn and Serve grants youth-serving organizations to create opportunities for students to engage in service learning.
The number of grant opportunities for youth-serving organizations makes it impossible to inventory all of them in this space. The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance compiles a list of all grant programs to which nonprofits may apply for funding. In addition, resources such as the Finance Project and Civic Enterprise also have exhaustive resources on the hundreds of programs to which youth-serving organizations may be eligible.
Angela Ogunjimi has been a prize-winning writer and editor since 1994. She was a general assignment reporter at two newspapers and a business writer at two magazines. She writes on nutrition, obesity, diabetes and weight control for a project of the National Institutes of Health. Ogunjimi holds a master's degree in sociology from George Washington University and a bachelor's in journalism from New York University.