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 — 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.
Who we are
Baltimore Children & Youth Fund (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.
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.
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. Some funds were devoted to community capacity building and technical assistance, as well as to support the infrastructure of the fund and its grantees.
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. This led to the establishment of three priority investment areas.
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. 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.
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.
During the first grant cycle:
488 organizations applied for grants
66% of the recipient organizations were led by African Americans.
$9.6 million in grants to 84 organizations
Approved by BCYF 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.
Technical assistance for grantees
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.
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 committee community members and experts in nonprofit operations or philanthropy.