Grantmaking Strategy

BCYF is one of the most unique grantmaking organizations in the United States. Instead of being sustained by private endowments, corporations and individuals, we are funded by Baltimore City residents, with an annual appropriation of 3 cents on every $100 of assessed value of all Baltimore City properties dedicated to BCYF. 


BCYF awards grants to organizations that provide programming to thousands of Baltimore’s young people ranging from academic support and science exploration to dance and photography and more. Unlike traditional philanthropic efforts in Baltimore, BCYF is committed to authentic community engagement. Our strategy, grantmaking priorities, and grant decisions are shaped and led by Baltimore community members and youth leaders.  


Through our strategic investments, we strive to resource a future where 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 serve all our young people. 


According to the BCYF City Ordinance, BCYF funds programs and services that…


  1. Are active in Baltimore City;– 
    • emphasis on programs or services operating in or meant to assist young people from the communities in Baltimore City most impacted by high poverty
  2. Are credible with and accountable to youth and the local communities they are proposing to serve;
  3. Have an element of youth-centered programming; and
  4. Can demonstrate how they are designed to improve outcomes for young people.

Grantmaking Principles

two children participating in an educational activity

Broaden What Counts

Notions of expertise are conferred in a white supremacist society.  Experts are typically understood to be white, corporate, and distant from the community. We must shift this mindset and replace it with a media and social ecosystem that affirms the genius inherent in Baltimore’s Black and Brown communities.

young girl next to wall of notes

Be a Community Resource

BCYF will not be able to satisfy the financial needs of community-based organizations by itself. In response to the 2018 BCYF RFP there were $75 million in requests for funding.  The best use of BCYF is to be a catalyst for transforming the center of gravity of youth service into the hands of the community, and cultivate the community’s ability to be self-sufficient.

young boy holding up work from an activity

Invest with our Values

Leading with trust, making space for healing and relationship building in all things. Reflecting.

young boys learning how to tie ties

Commit to Transparency

BCYF is subject to city audits, public information laws and other reporting requirements. Unlike traditional philanthropic entities, BCYF is committed to authentic community engagement and our strategy and grants decisions have been shaped by a range of Baltimoreans. Instead of making decisions behind closed doors, BCYF partners with Baltimore residents themselves to decide how funds are spent. BCYF reports regularly to the Baltimore City government and citizens.

Grantmaking Priorities

BCYF’s 2023-2025 priorities were determined through the People’s Assembly, held in Spring 2022, where community members shared their experiences and areas of need. The priorities are also strongly grounded in research from the Nobody Asked Me campaign and The Wallace Foundation’s connected learning initiative.


Baltimore’s children and youth deserve access to communities that center cultural wealth, learning based on cultures and the identities of learners and the community, and leveraging cultural assets.


Young people have a sustained connection to culture, heritage, and/or community.



Baltimore’s children and youth deserve access to resources and opportunities that will prepare them for the future.



Young people are connected to careers, relationships, and futures that are meaningful and linked to their interests.


Baltimore’s children and youth deserve access to resources that support their social and emotional needs and overall well-being.



Young people feel that their social and emotional needs are met through their experiences.


Baltimore’s children and youth deserve equitable access to platforms that will allow them to develop their perspectives and leadership abilities and amplify their voices.



Young peoples’ voices are valued in ways that change their communities.


Baltimore’s children and youth deserve equitable access to opportunities that embed and expand learning in social networks that include youth, family, and facilitators.



Young people have access to more expansive networks and communities beyond one program.

We Provide

Direct Grants

Aligned Grantmaking Fund

The Aligned Grantmaking Fund (AGF) provides opportunities to create granting partnerships that leverage the impact of collaborative funding investments in infrastructure and ecosystem building. This deepens BCYF’s commitment to investments that leverage additional funding sources for youth-led and youth-focused projects, build the ecosystem of the social sector in Baltimore, and support the leadership development of Black, Brown, Indigenous, and Asian leaders. These are 1-3 year grants or match support for projects. The AGF is an invitation-only grant opportunity.

Grassroots Fund

The Grassroots Fund (GRF) addresses traditional gaps in Baltimore’s funding  landscape by providing funding for grassroots, Baltimore-based,  youth-serving organizations in support of an organization’s overall mission. BCYF awards multi-year grants to eligible community accountable organizations, disbursing $50,000 a year.

Operating on a multi-year grant cycle allows BCYF to invest in building the capacity of its grantees, which positions organizations for success beyond BCYF funding. In addition to financial support, organizations awarded a GRF grant will receive rigorous technical assistance and capacity-building support to help them sustain and grow. A panel of community grant reviewers selects grantees during an annual grant application process. 

President’s Fund

The President’s Fund (PF) aligns with the BCYF mission, vision, and values and offers flexibility to address pressing issues at the discretion of the President. The PF is an invitation-only grant opportunity. 

Community Accountable Fund

The Community Accountable Fund (CAF) supports youth-serving organizations with a demonstrated commitment to being credible with and accountable to youth and the local communities they are proposing to serve. The fund prioritizes programming that supports a specific population of youth that otherwise do not receive adequate support and Brown, Black, Indigenous, and Asian-led organizations. Grantees are selected through a nomination process.

Technical Assistance

What is technical assistance and why is it important?

Technical Assistance at BCYF is the process of providing targeted support to people and organizations to develop specialized skills, access relevant resources, and strengthen their networks.


BCYF aims to shift the dynamics of grantmaking by empowering communities, uplifting youth voices and strengthening grantee organizational capacity to ensure the delivery of equitable and effective programming to our youth. This challenges the traditional and historically harmful power dynamics of the philanthropic sector.


What are the goals and strategies for technical assistance?

All technical assistance programs at BCYF aim to increase agency for local changemakers by equipping them with the resources, networks, and skills to lead the development of their organizations and communities. 


The BCYF approach:

  • Connect with local changemakers. 
  • Nurture the capacity of leaders and organizations by eliminating access barriers. 
  • Amplifying the work of BCYF grantee partners. 
  • Foster a community that is rooted in abundance, joy, and collaboration.


Grassroots Fund

Addressing traditional gaps in Baltimore’s funding landscape by providing unrestricted funding for grassroots, Baltimore-based, youth-serving organizations.


The 2025 grant application will open in January 2025.