Youth Leadership and Civic Engagement - Grantmaking Guidelines

Printer-friendly versionPDF versionThe Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan has long supported programs that offer young people opportunities to build their knowledge of the region and to become engaged in leadership development activities.  In 2011, the Community Foundation announced a new initiative focused on building the leadership skills and civic engagement of young people ages 14 to 24.

The Community Foundation’s Youth Leadership and Civic Engagement grants support projects that will of increase the number, quality and diversity of civically engaged young leaders in southeast Michigan, thereby increasing the leadership pipeline for young adults in the region.  Programs are sought that will:

  • Enhance young people’s knowledge of critical issues facing southeast Michigan.
  • Strengthen existing partnerships or promote new partnerships that bring together young people of different backgrounds.
  • Raise the level of civic leadership skills and capacities of young people and increase their engagement in their communities.

Grants range in size from $20,000 to $50,000 and are awarded twice each year.

Project Evaluation: The Community Foundation’s Youth Advisory Committee, is a youth-led advisory committee made up of individuals ages 14-24, that reviews proposals for Youth Leadership and Civic Engagement grants and provides advice supporting youth-developed and youth-operated programs.  Over the past 20 years, more than $1 million in grants have been made through this program in support of youth-serving organizations.  

Who may apply:
Any 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in southeast Michigan may apply for a grant.  Southeast Michigan is defined as the seven counties of Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Monroe, Washtenaw, St. Clair and Livingston.  Please note that all applicants must meet Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan’s Grantmaking Guidelines.

Proposal Format:
The Community Foundation does not require a specific application form or proposal format.  The attached Grant Application Checklist outlines all of the items you should include in a proposal.  Proposal format and length should be as needed to address issues specific to the proposed program or project.  Most importantly, the proposal should provide the rationale for the proposed project, why it is worthwhile and how the project will be sustained in the long run.

Budget: Applicant organizations should submit a budget for the proposed project as well as the organization’s current annual budget.  It is important to discuss the financial needs of the project as a whole and to follow this discussion with specific line items that correspond with the grant amount requested. Project budget line items should include personnel, program materials, and evaluation and marketing costs, as appropriate. 

Proposal Deadlines:
Grant awards are typically announced twice a year in June and December.  Applications received by March 15 will receive a decision no later than June.  Applications received by August 15 will receive a decision no later than December.   

Reporting Requirements:
If a grant is awarded, the grantee organization will be required to submit regular reports to show progress on the project and to verify that all funds were spent as intended.  It is expected that all grantees will be clear in benchmarking their success against project objectives.  

Grant Decisions:
Numerous factors are taken into account when considering the many requests we receive - the quality of the proposed program, and its potential impact and sustainability are among them. The questions below provide insight into the grant decision process.  Please note that this is not a comprehensive list, nor is it intended to be prescriptive.  Nonetheless, these questions may serve as a guide for developing a strong proposal.


  • Does the project reflect best practices for youth leadership and/or civic engagement?
  • Is it consistent with the latest knowledge of what works?
  • Is the project well-conceived and clearly described?
  • Is the project feasible?

  • Will the project prepare young people ages 14 to 24 to take on leadership roles in their community?
  • Does the project have the potential for long-term organizational or community impact?

  • Will the proposed project leverage additional funds from a variety of sources?
  • Is the applicant organization investing some of its own money into the project?

Organizational Capacity
  • Does the applicant organization have the capacity to successfully complete the project?
  • Does the project provide an opportunity for learning by other nonprofit organizations?
  • Is the applicant reaching out for expertise in areas where the organization does not have the needed expertise on staff?

Where to Apply:

Proposals can also be mailed to:
Youth Advisory Committee
Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan
333 W. Fort Street, Suite 2010
Detroit, MI  48226-3134

Grant Application Checklist

The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan does not have an application form. However, we do ask that your proposal include the items listed below:

1) Cover letter outlining:

  • Legal name of the organization
  • Dollar amount requested
  • Purpose of the proposed project
  • Description of the population being served
  • Length of time for which support is requested (generally one year).

The CEO/executive director of the organization should sign the cover letter, and the application should include some evidence of approval of the request by the organization’s board of trustees.

2) Organizational information
  • Name, mailing address, e-mail address and telephone number of the applicant organization and main contact person for the proposal
  • Mission and brief background of the applicant organization.

3) Project description
  • Definition of the issue the proposal is addressing
  • Description of the need for the proposed project
  • Indication as to whether the proposed activity is new, expanded or an ongoing part of the organization’s programming
  •  Basic objectives of the proposed project
  • Detailed work plan and the time frame for accomplishing the project’s objectives
  •  Evaluation plan, including the criteria that will be used for judging the effectiveness of the proposed project, the expected outcome(s), and the impact of the proposed project
  • Geographic boundaries and associated Zip codes of the area that will be serviced by your proposed project
  • Relevant qualifications and experience of the organization and the project’s principal staff
  • Description of any partnerships that are occurring as a part of the proposed project, including an outline of the roles and responsibilities of each partner.

4) Required financial information
  •  Dollar amount of grant support requested and the proposed time period for use of these funds
  • Detailed budget for the project, including the proposed use of grant funds and any additional support anticipated or secured from other sources
  • Provisions for future project funding beyond the grant period
  • Organization’s operating budget for the current fiscal year
  • Copy of a recent certified financial audit.

5) Supporting materials
  • Copy of the most recent Internal Revenue Service 501(c)(3) federal tax-exemption letter, if applicable
  • List of current board of directors, trustees or governing board, with individuals’ affiliations
  • Letters of support or memoranda of understanding from project partners
  • Résumés of principal staff for proposed project, if applicable
  •  Information on the organization’s commitment to diversity with regard to staff, board, constituents and program content
  • Copy of the most recent annual report, if available.
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