Strategic Priority: Expand Pathways to Funding

Strategic Priority: Expand Pathways to Funding

While some creative youth development programs have grown and diversified sources of financial support, the overall state of CYD funding in the United States is one of underinvestment.[1] The limited funds currently directed toward CYD are comprised primarily of small, short-term grants resulting in disproportionate demands on staff time.[2] The difficult funding realities for CYD programs contribute to staff burnout and can cast uncertainty over the sustainability of the very social and organizational strongholds on which many young people rely.

In the United States a disproportionate percentage, more than 50%, of grants and contributions are awarded to arts and culture nonprofits with budgets larger than $5M.[3] The average budget of a CYD organization in the U.S. is $348,720, and just 8.4% of CYD programs report budgets over $1M in their last completed fiscal year.[4] Inequities in funding to small organizations are exacerbated by the common practice of linking the size of grant awards to current organizational budgets, an approach that locks small budget organizations into cycles of perpetuated systemic inequity.[5]

Of particular note is that community based organizations (CBOs), which operate directly in the neighborhoods and communities they serve and are an important part of the CYD field, often lack access to many traditional funding streams. CBOs engaged in creative youth development are at a funding disadvantage in an already challenging funding environment because of their lean staffs, localized and thus lower profiles relative to larger institutions, and at times inability to meet grant application requirements due to budget size; lack of a grant management track record, external audit, or form 990; or other factors.

CYD’s chronic state of inadequate funding is exacerbated by the fact that CYD programs, being holistic in nature, can fall outside of traditional funding categories—such as arts, social services, health, or workforce development—making programs ineligible to apply or uncompetitive in existing grant scoring processes. Many grantmakers and agencies are not yet aware of CYD and its range of positive outcomes for youth participants .

This section of the National Action Blueprint outlines a set of actions designed to lead to increased investment in CYD from a larger number and more diverse array of funders, both public and private. The path to achieve this includes steps to support:

  • Heightened awareness and understanding of CYD among public and private funders, including of policy and funding examples, practices, and initiatives.
  • Revised grant guidelines and policies that result in more funds for CYD programs and organizations.
  • Funders and practitioners who are CYD champions and can influence other funders.

We aim to increase engagement of:

  • Funders that are champions of CYD and supporting it, whether they call it “CYD” or something else. Some funders already support CYD but don’t refer to the practice as such and are not connected with CYD, its associated networks, knowledge, and research. Other funders have heard of CYD and are interested in a deeper understanding of its evolution and connection to the national and international movement.
  • Funders that aren’t yet aware of CYD or funding it, but whose goals and current portfolios aligns with the outcomes of CYD practice.


  1. Create a market for CYD practice.
  2. Make pathways to funding more equitable for all CYD programs/organizations.
  3. Increase & diversify funding.

The Partners and Action Teams are actively developing plans for ensuring accountability to the core values of racial equity and social justice, youth voice, and collective action as it further develops and implements key strategies.

Key Actions
1. Map the CYD Funding Landscape & Activate a Comprehensive Funder Engagement Strategy

A comprehensive understanding of current funding support for CYD as well as areas of opportunity will guide strategies for growing CYD funding and will help the CYD Movement cultivate funders in an efficient manner.


  • Publish the first-ever CYD Field Survey (May 2018), led by Americans for the Arts, that analyzes and distills benchmarking data on over 950 CYD programs and organizations nationwide, including quantitative data on CYD funding sources, to better understand private and public investment. Distribute and publicize findings nationally.
  • Continue to conduct and publish the CYD field survey every 4-5 years.
  • Create the infrastructure/space for funders who support CYD to stay connected. Convene a small group of funders in Q1 or Q2 2018 to identify action steps specific to infrastructure for funders who support CYD and, potentially, for broader funder education.
  • Create and maintain a vetted list of public and private funders at local, state, and national levels who are willing spokespersons for CYD; list to include specific notes on what each champion is best poised to speak on and to what audiences.
  • Collaborate to inform and engage associations of funders, public administrators, and elected officials:


  • Conduct “skill and will mapping” to identify which funders are both knowledgeable about CYD as a practice and have a strong commitment to fund CYD (whether or not they are currently calling their current program areas “CYD”). The purpose of doing this is to help CYD stakeholders make decisions about how to prioritize efforts to increase investment, including the identification of exemplary funders and funding models as well as gaps in awareness, knowledge, and commitment.
    • Develop the metrics for skill and will in order to map funders along a spectrum. Include skill and will for funding CYD programs, and national and/or collective work, to advance the overall field of CYD.
    • Invite current funders (national, state, local), the Partnership, and nonprofit organizations (grantees) to submit names and notes on what we already know about funding/funders. Additional sources will include the CYD Field Survey and data from Mass Cultural Council’s Youth Reach grantees (e.g., cash matches from national funders).
    • Map the funders along skill/will metrics and segment the sectors (public/private and local/regional/national). Name the varying funding structures and what funders are currently funding as it relates to CYD.
    • Based on data, include an analysis of potential increased funding for CYD across all categories of funders, including: Federal – existing buckets where CYD funding is allowable currently (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development), State and Local Arts Agencies, Private Foundations, Family and Local Community Foundations, and Corporate Foundations.
  • Explore and make recommendations on potential pathways for increased investment in CYD based on skill and will mapping. Create a prioritized call list of funders for current CYD funders and stakeholders to reach out to. Target funders based on skill and will mapping findings and strategizing about where to focus efforts, short game, and long game.

2. Develop CYD Communications Tools and Case Examples for Funder Engagement

In order to gain the support of funders and build investment in CYD, the Movement must:

  • Effectively communicate the transformative power of CYD;
  • Demonstrate ways to invest in CYD that support high quality experiences and positive youth development; and
  • Show that other funders are currently investing in CYD.


  • Collect, prioritize, document, and disseminate a compendium of case examples of effective public and private funding models at local, state and national levels. Sources will include Action Team Mapping project; CYD National Toolkit; Guild; Action Teams; Mass Cultural Council on both YouthReach and international models; and Field-at-Large. The case examples will include both public and private funding models and will seek to collectively illustrate diverse and effective pathways of achieving support and results. Examples may include private foundations; programs based out of state arts agencies; collaborative networks such as Arts for Incarcerated Youth Network in Los Angeles; profiles of federal, state, and local investment in CYD from other sectors such as juvenile justice and workforce development; tech and venture capital dollars; linkage funding through real estate development; distributed models; social impact bond investing; Children’s Funds; Los Angeles Urban Funders’ bimodal funding model, et al. The CYD National Partnership will elevate these innovative and effective case examples through its growing network of relationships in the allied youth sector and via its communication platforms to reach CYD stakeholders. The Partnership and CYD stakeholders will use the case studies to inform, inspire, and influence funders, policymakers, CYD colleagues, and allied sector partners.
  • Demonstrate broad-based support on to positively influence potential funders and supporters and to publicly acknowledge current supporters.
    • Create and maintain online roster of current supporters. Include statements from elected officials, public and private sector leaders, and funders.
    • Circulate and publicize roster of supporters in CYD National Partnership’s communications platforms, including website and eNewsletters.


  • Work in concert with the Visibility & Impact Action Team and CYD National Partners to create a suite of CYD communications tools and resources.
    • Shape bold, clear and targeted messaging for key audiences of funders based on analysis of current funding landscape and map of current areas of alignment between the outcomes of CYD and goals of allied youth sectors.
    • Produce talking points for practitioners. The CYD Movement needs to have consistent messaging around what the CYD field wants with regard to funding support, including a vision and rationale.
    • Identify and share case examples with the CYD Partnership and Movement.

3. Elevate the Role of Intermediary Organizations and Networks

Community-based CYD organizations have an opportunity to increase engagement with intermediaries in order to access resources and information and to forge partnerships. Intermediary organizations serve as central coordinators of state or local out-of-school (OST) time systems and school districts and can support improvements in program quality, scale, and sustainability of OST programs by fulfilling functions such as the coordination of programs and services, data collection, research and evaluation, fundraising, grantmaking, professional development and technical assistance, publicizing programs, and providing leadership via a unified voice to influence policy[6].

Intermediaries vary by community and can include state and local Afterschool Networks and a range of public agencies providing programming and services to youth, from State Arts Agencies and Local Arts Agencies to offices of children and youth, to school districts, to parks and recreation divisions of public agencies.  Examples of intermediaries include the Providence After School Alliance (PASA), Minneapolis Afterschool Network, and Utah Afterschool Network.


  • Document and disseminate case studies of successful intermediary organizations to support quality, scale, and sustainability of CYD.


  • Map out intermediaries in local and regional areas and, in collaboration with the Partnership, inform CYD programs of their local intermediary organization(s).
  • Support development of case studies on intermediary organizations by sharing information about effective intermediaries and of best practices within intermediaries.

Next: Strategic Priority: FIELD BUILDING


[1]Creative Youth Development Field Survey, 2018; Montgomery, 2016; Afterschool Alliance research (?); Search Institute Sparks research.

[2]Stevenson, 2013.

[3]Sidford, Holly. Fusing Arts, Culture and Social Change: High Impact Strategies for Philanthropy. Rep. National Committee for Responsible Philanthropy, Oct. 2011. Web. 3 Nov. 2014.

[4]Americans for the Arts CYD Field Survey, forthcoming, 2018.

[5]Kitchener, Amy, and Ann Markusen. Working with Small Arts Organizations: How and Why It Matters. GIA Reader 23.2 (2012). Grantmakers in the Arts. Web. 3 Nov. 2014.

[6] Delale-O’Connor and Walker, 2012.