Establishing a Fund to Support Children and 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 in 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 the creation of the Fund through a charter amendment 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 that stressed the importance of racial equity and community empowerment as core principles guiding the Fund’s design.
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:
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.
Delivering for the Community
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.
The First Grant Cycle
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.
Building a permanent organization
In July 2020, BCYF, a newly formed nonprofit organization, assumed responsibility for the Youth Fund, under the direction of an Interim Board of Directors, comprised of committed community members and experts in nonprofit operations or philanthropy.