Mentoring programs connect young people to caring adults who can help them overcome challenges and succeed in life. The programs recruit, screen and train adults to serve as mentors. Youth mentoring programs, which are usually operated by nonprofit organizations, require funding to support their operations, including salaries, overhead, insurance, mentor screening and monitoring youth-mentor matches and program activities. Foundations and other funding sources provide grants to nonprofit organizations with demonstrated ability to operate effective programs and manage funds.

Things You Will Need
  • Paper

  • Files

Apply for nonprofit status to the Internal Revenue Service. Foundations award grants to 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations. If your organization already has nonprofit status, prepare to submit proof to potential funders.

Develop a mentoring program plan. Whether you are starting a new program or seeking funding for an existing program, your plan or narrative should describe how and why your program operates. Include the need for the program in your area and the target population, such as at-risk teens; procedures for recruitment, screening, training and matching; staffing and funding.

Design a process for monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of the mentoring relationships in your program. Funders want to know how you will track participation and measure outcomes. For instance, you might choose to have mentors submit contact forms documenting contact with those they mentor. If your program focuses on academic achievement, you might choose to note participants’ school performance before and after involvement with mentors.

Create a one-year plan or project for submission to potential funders. Most funders provide grants to support projects and not organizations. Grants usually support projects for one-year periods. Your one-year plan should include your mentoring program plan, the evaluation and outcome measurement process, and project numbers, such as the number of mentors you plan to recruit, the number of individuals to be provided with a mentor, the activities and events your program will provide and the expected outcomes. Include your one-year program budget with all expenses and income related to the mentoring program.

Identify potential funders for your program. Several federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Education Mentoring Grants, support programs throughout the country. Local governments, often through county or city community services offices, redistribute federal funds in the form of grants to nonprofit organizations that meet needs in their communities. Many national and regional foundations and corporations provide grants to mentoring programs. For instance, the Walmart Foundation has state and national giving programs. The 650 community foundations throughout the United States leverage resources from private foundations and donors to support local nonprofit organizations.

Make a list of funding sources that are a good match for your program and include application processes and deadlines. Some sources do not have deadlines and some require submission of a letter of inquiry before submission of a full proposal. Many foundations encourage contact with their program officers to discuss plans to submit proposals.

Include the potential funders you choose in your budget under income you expect to receive for your program. Depending on the total budget for your program, split the expenses among the potential funders to whom you will submit applications and target specific expenses to individual funders’ criteria and guidelines.

Prepare your proposal or grant request by following the foundation’s procedures to the letter. Many nonprofit organizations submit funding requests and competition is stiff for grant dollars. Your well-prepared submission is more likely to pass the scrutiny of screeners.

Compile information about your organization for submission with your grant request. Potential funders request a list of board members, your 501(c)(3) letter from the Internal Revenue Service, your organization’s mission and background, articles of incorporation, financial statements or audits and proof of insurance.

Submit your grant requests by the funding sources' deadlines and include all requested attachments. Make sure your submission is clean, free of errors and follows all instructions. Some foundations allow you to mail your submission and others require the use of online electronic application processes.


Use the web site to search for federal grants. The Foundation Center compiles information about foundations and grants; the information is available on the Center’s web site and most public libraries have copies of the Center’s hardcover book of foundation information. Nonprofit organizations often list their funders on their web sites. Check the web sites of local mentoring programs to find potential funders.