12 Northside Grants Awarded through Youth-Led Grantmaking

What happens when nine Northside youth get together with three philanthropy leaders and spend two days awarding more than $170,000 to local youth enrichment efforts? Magic: The answer is pure magic.

But let’s backtrack for a second.

In 2022, the Northside Funders Group (NFG) engaged in a series of listening and co-design sessions with youth, teachers, families, school administrators, and organizations serving youth to help us shape a new funding opportunity for new and existing youth enrichment opportunities on the Northside. The result was the launch of the Northside Youth Enrichment Fund (NYEF). NYEF supports Northside projects that expand learning by connecting young people to exceptional enrichment opportunities in and outside of the classroom.

With an initial pool of $75,000, we used the inaugural grant round as a learning opportunity, then applied those lessons to a more formalized funding strategy moving into 2024. During our first grant round, we received 56 applications requesting a total of more than $530,000. This overwhelming response highlighted the desire and need for resources focused on youth enrichment.

It also confirmed that nonprofits and schools are not the only spaces where youth enrichment activities take place. Local businesses and leaders emerged as mentors, program developers, and coaches who bring unique opportunities for youth to grow.

For both NFG and the inaugural grantees, the NYEF’s beauty and power is not only in what we fund, but how we fund. Our engagement with stakeholders as we designed the fund made it clear that we would benefit from a participatory grantmaking process that centered youth voice in decision-making. Who better to determine what resonates as an enrichment opportunity for youth than Northside youth themselves? NFG answered that call, assembling a grant review committee comprised of two NFG funders and four Northside youth who reviewed all 56 applications and ultimately awarded $87,089 in grants to nine projects led by nonprofits, for-profits, and individuals. Through this process, NFG was able to transform the NYEF from what could have been a traditional funder-driven enterprise into an enrichment and leadership development opportunity for Northside youth, breathing life into the goal of the fund. As one grantee put it:

“I’ve been applying and receiving grants for years, but (to receive a grant from) the NYEF is a true feather in my cap…. To have youth themselves decide that what we are doing is seen as additive to Northside youth thriving is the ultimate validation.”

2023 NYEF Grantee

After this kind of success, NFG was eager to repeat, improve, and expand this youth-led grantmaking. We got to work replenishing the fund, and thanks to generous support from the Mortenson Family Foundation, Best Buy Foundation, Carlson Family Foundation, Thrivent and pooled resources from NFG’s general membership, we nearly doubled the size of this year’s pool. We also offered grants of up to $15,000, up from $10,000 last year.

This time, we received 76 applications totaling over $1 million in requests. That meant our review committee faced some tough choices. Were they intimidated by the challenge? Not at all. Which brings us back to the magic that happens when nine Northside youth and three funders come together to make grant decisions. Splitting into three groups, we spent two days reading, asking questions, eating food, reviewing budgets, and digging into the funding criteria to get from 76 to 24 to 12 proposals.

NFG held a space for a true exchange of ideas and perspectives between Northside youth and adult reviewers who do this every day. We explored concepts like what “enrichment” really means to young people, how we know if something has a lasting impact, and what mutual accountability looks like. We saw youth peer coaching happening in real time, as well as cross-generational mentoring and coaching.

We learned how to share space in discussions and debates, and we practiced the art of influence and consensus building. And, importantly, we held space to express joy at investing in great projects, as well as the discomfort and sadness necessary to “bless and release” worthy projects because our available funds were running out. This is youth enrichment. This is magic!

The group ultimately awarded $171,500 to 12 organizations that provide enrichment opportunities to youth ranging in age from 10 to 20 years old.

Join us in congratulating this year’s NYEF grantees:

Hopewell Music Cooperative North – Hopewell Music Lesson Programming: To support Hopewell Music Cooperative North to provide school age (k-12) students with instruction from professional musicians on 13 instruments and provides performance opportunities. 

Nonprofit for Black Girls: To support Nonprofit for Black Girls’ mentorship program, Black Girl Advocate, which is designed to create meaningful and enriching opportunities for Northside youth, particularly black and brown girls aged 13-19. The program offers a range of activities and experiences, such as college and cultural tours, which expose these young women to new educational and cultural perspectives.

The Camden Collective – Camden Youth Employment Program: To support the expansion of The Camden Collective Youth Employment and Mentoring Program, a program within The Camden Collective that offers Northside youth, ages 14 – 18, the chance to receive paid, mentored employment and enrichment activities while supporting our food shelf and community events. 

Black, Educated, Successful, Thriving (B.E.S.T) – Young Male Enrichment Program: To support a six-week summer enrichment initiative designed to empower eight recent Black male high school graduates from the Northside community as they prepare to embark on their college journeys. Set to run from June – July, this program will be hosted at a local community space that is easily accessible to Northside residents. 

Green Garden Bakery-Green Garden Bakery Youth Leaders Urban Exchange – Summer Learning in Columbus and Detroit: Green Garden Bakery (GGB) is an innovative social enterprise program that was started in 2014 by and for youth in Heritage Park – Minneapolis. GGB has developed a product line of healthy vegetable-based desserts using vegetables grown in their community garden. This grant will support a 10-day youth trip to Columbus, OH and Detroit, MI.

Legal Rights Center – Know Your Rights Legal Empowerment Camp: To support the, Know Your Rights Legal Empowerment Camp, which will bring together up to 50 Northside youth for a 1-week long summer program focused primarily on legal empowerment and legal education, as well as storytelling and restorative practices.

The Bakken Museum – Bakken Museum Northside Community STEM Invention Programs: To support The Bakken Museum to lead onsite camp for NS youth to use makerspace and make inventions, creation utilizing STEM skills- partnership with North Commons and Mpls Park Board 

Dynamic Dolls Dance Team: To support this Northside-based competitive dance team with uniforms expenses and competition fees to ensure that all youth involved in the program can fully participate without having to sit out due to financial barriers that the family face. 

Somali Youth and Family Development Center – Empowering East African Youth: To support East African girls and boys through two programs: East African Girls Taking Action and Boys of Hope. These programs will happen during the 2024-25 school year at Metro Schools College Prep in north Minneapolis.

The Top Model Coach LCC – Be the Star That You Are! To support BE THE STAR THAT YOU ARE, an out of school program that offers valuable skills and opportunities for personal growth. This includes self-love, healthy boundaries, fitness, nutrition, goal setting, one on one mentorship, table etiquette, public speaking and much more.

Northside Boxing Club: To support Northside Boxing Club (NSB) after School and Summer programming. NSB is a state-of-the-art boxing gym, fitness, nutrition, and education center that lives in the heart of North Minneapolis in the Folwell neighborhood.

WE WIN Institute, Inc. – Rites of Passage: WE WIN Institute serves youth ages 5-18, offering year-round programs that provide academic and social support utilizing a multi-cultural and afro-centric approach to education and academic success. This grant supports the Rites of Passage program occurs 3 days/week; 3 Hours/day at Zion Baptist Church – 621 Elwood Avenue North.

So what’s next? We are planning an event for May or June where you can hear from a panel of NYEF youth reviewers, grantees, and funders about youth-led grantmaking and the inspiring enrichment opportunities taking place across the Northside.

After that, NFG will get back to work raising funds for the Northside Youth Enrichment Fund so we can keep supporting committed leaders as they offer the kinds of growth opportunities that Northside youth deserve.

Our Members who are Committed to a Thriving North Minneapolis

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Northside Funders Group

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