Money Talks: The Friendly Funding Approach in Youth-Led Philanthropy

Youth involvement, youth voice and youth leadership are integrated in all the work we do here at Youth Funding Youth Ideas (YFYI). We are youth trained as grantmakers who fund projects that are also led by youth. We offer funding and a one-on-one support system for applicants and grantees. Because we are youth, we understand the importance of meeting people where they are. That is why our approach to funding is to offer an accessible, flexible and customizable experience focused on meaningful relationship building. Keeping in mind that our applicants come from diverse backgrounds – ranging in age and education level to technological accessibility – helped us create a system that meets them half way; they bring the ideas and we bring the tools and support.

We know that most of our applicants have never written a grant proposal before. To cater to that need, we have created a specific applicant workshop that allows for prospective grantees to become familiar with our requirements and learn about our process. We also give the opportunity for prospective grantees to ask many questions as they need in order to feel confident when filling out our application. If they do not have access to a computer, we offer use of our computer lab and personal assistance along the way. Our goal is to ensure our applicants never feel alienated or out of place. We want them to feel empowered and confident throughout the process.  For example, if the grantees have a great idea but their proposal lacks overall development, we encourage the youth leaders to schedule one-on-one brainstorming sessions with a youth member of our grant board to find ways to make the proposal stronger before our funding meeting.

After we make our funding decisions, we contact the funded and non-funded proposals personally. For both; funded and non-funded proposals, we discuss the strengths and improvements needed to maximize impact of the project. While we offer weekly hands on support and regular check-ins with funded projects, we also continue to build a relationship with our non-funded applicants. We provide personal assistance, customized workshops, and access to resources to help them improve their proposal for the following grant cycle.  For example, if a project is not funded because we find it too adult-led we offer leadership workshops for the youth to help them develop the skills necessary to lead a project. In reviewing proposals and interviewing our applicants, we make it a priority to get to know who they are, not just what their projects are about.

 Due to our one-on-one approach we are able to identify strengths and areas of improvement unique to each project and the individuals in it. Although we aim to fund great projects, what’s most important to us is helping youth build the confidence they need to follow through on their ideas. We want applicants to not only feel empowered but also heard. Youth are constantly put down because of their age or told that their ideas are not good enough; here we give them an opportunity to make their ideas a reality.

We understand that the key to great outcomes is not just monetary, it’s relationship building. We don’t just fund cool projects, we invest in our most valuable resource – people.