Baltimore Children & Youth Fund, Inc. (BCYF) is a nonprofit organization stewarding public funds to ensure our children and youth are healthy, ready to succeed in school and live in stable, safe and supportive families and communities.

Our vision is that children and youth throughout the city enjoy access to high-caliber enrichment and learning opportunities, and children and youth programs have the resources they need to equitably serve all our young people.


1) Racial Equity: The entire grant review process must be built on racial equity. We should clearly identify and directly address how society’s power structures show up in the operation of the Proposal Review Panel, including how assumptions about race may figure into the decision-making process. Specifically, white people should not dominate or drive the conversation. Additionally, the evaluation of different programs should include a basic understanding and appreciation of the cultural resources and assets within each community. 

2) Intergenerational Leadership: In the West we often greet each other by saying, “How are you doing?” The Maasai people of East Africa greet each other by asking, “How are the children?” This greeting represents the idea that the well-being of the children defines the well-being of the community. The purpose of the Fund is to help the whole city of Baltimore to embrace and live out the worldview embodied in this Maasai greeting. Specifically, the well-being of our children is everyone’s responsibility. The Proposal Review Panel must include youth leaders along with adults. Having different generations work together will reflect how our entire community must work together to improve the quality of life for our young people.

3) Community Ownership: The purpose of the Fund is to provide the communities typically seen as merely recipients of services with equal, authentic decision-making power to disperse the Fund’s resources. This means that the members of the Proposal Review Panel should reflect the totality of our community. Specifically, the Proposal Review Panel must include a variety of people who are highly committed to the communities they serve.

4) Collective Decision-Making: “Gatekeeping,” when one person has too much power in a decision-making process, marginalizes the people and communities who are most hurt by structural racism. Gatekeepers can use their power to circumvent community accountability and limit access to power and resources. Therefore, the Proposal Review Panel must structure its decision-making process to be collective, not individual. Specifically, the Proposal Review Panel will work together truly as a group to make decisions.


Prioritizing Baltimore youth:

The effort to create a dedicated fund to support programs for Baltimore’s young people was launched in 2015 by then-City Council President Bernard “Jack” C. Young — a response to the unrest in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody, an event that sharply illuminated longstanding inequities in public funding in Black communities. The Baltimore City Council approved creation of the Fund through a charter amendment that was sent to the ballot in November 2016. The measure was approved by voters in November 2016 with more than 80 percent support.

The charter amendment calls for BCYF to receive an annual appropriation that is at least $0.03 on every $100 of assessed or assessable value of all property in the City of Baltimore. 

Setting The Groundwork:

In 2017, a Task Force of community leaders, youth program service providers, City government representatives and other key community representatives was convened to make recommendations on the Fund’s governance and operations. The Task Force presented recommendations which stressed the importance of racial equity and community empowerment as core principles guiding the Fund’s design, and developed the following guiding values under which to operate:

  • Our work is informed, driven and led by youth voices, and
  • Our work both advances equity and is welcoming and supporting of all races, classes and gender identities, and
  • Our work is accountable and impacts to local communities, neighborhoods and places where young people connect, and
  • Our work is not politically-driven and promotes confidence from the caring networks of Baltimore’s young people, and
  • Our work inspires new partnerships and new approaches to philanthropy to advance Baltimore’s young people, and
  • Our work is focused, expedient, and conducted with urgency.

Executing the Mission:

The recommendations from the task force were bold and unprecedented in the Baltimore grantmaking arena, reflecting the reality that the city’s grantmaking structures and systems often fail to meet the needs of the community. In short, the task force recognized that a different approach was needed.

To facilitate such a radical shift in grantmaking, the task force made a crucial recommendation to designate a local organization to take on two major responsibilities for the Fund:

  • Serve as the temporary intermediary to distribute the first year of grants.
  • Create the permanent organization to sustain the work of the fund for years to come. 

The task force desired an intermediary that had worked in disenfranchised communities in Baltimore, had experience in racial equity and knew how to build the capacity of organizations serving Black communities in Baltimore. 

Associated Black Charities (ABC) was selected to serve in that role. ABC, under the leadership of President and CEO Diane Bell-McKoy, was the only foundation in the Baltimore region with an explicit focus on racial equity.

In November 2017, the City Council authorized ABC to serve as the Fund’s interim operator and authorized ABC to allocate up to 10 percent of the Fund’s resources for administrative costs. The balance –$10.8 million – was to be distributed in grants to Baltimore organizations serving children, youth, young adults and supporting programs. Some funds were devoted to community capacity building and technical assistance, as well as to support the infrastructure of the fund and its grantees.

Manifesting the Vision:

Over the first half of 2018, ABC brought on a team to lead the Fund’s work and develop a framework for participatory grantmaking in which the community would have a meaningful role. The Fund held six community sessions to hear from city residents. 

A range of Baltimoreans — young people, youth-serving mentors and practitioners, youth and community advocates and concerned adults — helped determine which children and youth needs and issues the Fund should prioritize in its first year. This led to the establishment of three priority investment areas. 

After an open application process held independently of ABC, the fund established a team of 24 Baltimore City community members with diverse backgrounds, ages and grant-review experience to serve as reviewers. Panelists were chosen to achieve diverse representation of geography, age, race and gender. The Fund provided in-depth training to the grant review panel, and the panel deliberated carefully before making grant decisions that were forwarded to ABC.

During the first grant cycle:

  • 488 organizations applied for grants.
  • BCYF approved grants totaling almost $9.6 million to 84 organizations in August 2018. Recipients were located across Baltimore. Some were firmly established while others were less experienced but had promising programming to engage with children and youth.
  • Two-thirds of the recipients were led by African Americans.
  • BCYF provided technical assistance for grantees to build their operational capacity and provided support to help grantees have background checks done and obtain insurance.
  • ABC provided support related to financial management and management information.

Along with the grants, BCYF provided hands-on support to help grantees improve their ability to receive, spend and document grants. The BCYF team provided technical assistance to people interested in applying for grants; they also provided support to grantees, including helping them prepare for continuation grants. This deep commitment to supporting grantees through hands-on, expert technical assistance sets BCYF apart in Baltimore grantmaking.




Task Force of community leaders, youth program service providers, Baltimore City government representatives, and other key stakeholder representatives met together to make recommendations concerning the management of the Fund.


Baltimore City community members helped set the Fund’s Year 1 investment priorities during six community design sessions in March and April 2018. At the community design sessions, Baltimore City residents — young people, youth-serving mentors and practitioners, youth and community advocates, and concerned adults — helped determine which children and youth needs and issues the Fund should prioritize in its first year.


A team of 26 young leaders and concerned adults gathered in a one-day retreat managed by Frontline Solutions in partnership with Two Gems Consulting Services  to analyze the data and insights gathered from the six community design sessions.  The recommendations from the Data Retreat were submitted to the Planning Team, who used them to structure the Fund’s Year 1 RFP.

A New Organization:

In July 2020, the Baltimore City Council and mayor enacted legislation to permanently establish the Baltimore Children & Youth Fund as an independent entity. BCYF, Inc. is now a stand-alone organization with a board of directors and a talented team to run the organization – as intended originally by city leaders who conceived the idea of a new youth-focused fund. ABC’s role overseeing the Fund ended June 30, 2020.

As an independent organization, BCYF now has more permanence and the ability to hire full-time staff. It will continue to strengthen its ability to make grants and provide critical support to community-based organizations serving the city’s young people.

The Fund will maintain its focus on racial equity in its grantmaking and technical assistance and will continue to include the community in its work. The Fund will also continue to build its organizational partnerships, working in collaboration with stakeholders across the public, private and philanthropic sectors to expand much needed opportunities for Baltimore’s young people. 

Youth across the city will continue to have access to high-caliber opportunities – and all of Baltimore will benefit.