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Home / Creative Youth Development / YouthReach / Application Process


Application Process

Creative Youth Development is an intentional practice that fosters active creative expression through the arts, humanities, and sciences, while developing core social, emotional, and life skills, for youth of all ages. Creative Youth Development programs approach young people as active agents of their own change, with inherent strengths and skills to be developed and nurtured. The overall goal is that culture plays a major role in supporting the growth of creative, productive, and independent minded citizens and thriving communities.

Through YouthReach more than $13 million has been granted to 120 organizations over the past 23 years, reaching over 40,000 vulnerable young people, their families, and their communities. The YouthReach Initiative has been supported since its inception with grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. YouthReach is a model program that has received national recognition, with many projects cited for excellence by the prestigious National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards given by the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. In November 1998, the YouthReach Initiative was honored by the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies with the first annual Innovation Award, which recognizes “best practices among state arts agencies.”

The goal of YouthReach is to promote integration of substantive out-of-school arts, humanities, and science opportunities into a collaborative response to the needs of young people and communities. The program aims to develop and deepen opportunities for young people to create a more just and equitable society through their art-making and to position creative youth development programs as key leaders in discovering and developing opportunities to improve the livability and economic vitality of their communities. To this end, YouthReach works to foster dynamic cross-sector collaborations to ensure young people’s academic, professional, and personal success.

Program Guidelines – FY2019-21

The deadline for FY19-21 YouthReach grants has passed.

The following guidelines are for reference purposes only. Guidelines will be available in the Fall of 2021 for funding from FY23-25.

Eligibility Requirements

YouthReach supports innovative programs that:

  • Provide safe and healthy youth spaces
  • Are assets-based
  • Are youth driven
  • Foster the development of positive relationships and social skills
  • Set high expectations for growth and learning
  • Address the broader, cross-sector context in which creative youth development exists

The primary applicant for a YouthReach grant must be:

  • A cultural organization with a strong programming history in the proposed project’s primary discipline (arts, humanities, or interpretive sciences);
  • Incorporated in Massachusetts as a non-profit organization; and
  • Current in its tax-exempt status under IRS Section 501(c)(3).

Grant Amounts

Applicants should request grants of $15,000/year. Actual grant amounts will be determined by the money available and the number of projects recommended for funding. The deadline for new applicants to YouthReach is January 19, 2018. The deadline for returning applicants to YouthReach is May 1, 2018.

Review Criteria  

Below are the criteria that review panels use to evaluate YouthReach proposals. A complete application package includes:

  • Project summary and logic model
  • Application narrative and curriculum or schedule
  • Biographies of key personnel
  • Detailed project budget and summary
  • Collaborator list

YouthReach proposals will be reviewed using the following criteria on a 100-point scale:

  • Community need and participation (30 points)
  • Program Design (45 points)
  • Program Evaluation (15 points)
  • Fiscal Management (10 points)

Community Need & Participation (30 points)

Documented need among the young people for whom this program is designed,  and documented lack of access to similar opportunities within this community for these young people. Quality programming may include:

1. Evidence that participants are culturally under-served and at particular risk.

This could be challenges such as :

  • Violence in their homes or community
  • Poverty
  • Immigration status
  • Disability
  • Incarceration
  • Mental illness.
  • Lack of support and resources in their homes, schools and communities
  • Few other arts or social service resources are accessible to this population.

2. Documentation proving there are no barriers to program participation for at-risk youth such as:

  • Prohibitive participation fees
  • Lengthy or intimidating application or audition processes.
  • Solutions have been found to address transportation and turf issues.
  • Participation is not limited to highly talented or easily engaged youth.

Also, Evidence that the community is involved in responding to the needs of the participating young people. For example:

  • The program works to change the way the community views and thinks about vulnerable young people
  • The project coordinates appropriately with other youth-serving, cultural, and community organizations along with other efforts within the community.
  • Appropriate partners or collaborators are actively recruited and involved in meeting the needs of the young people

Quality of Program Design (45 Points)
Evidence that the staff, collaborators, and program design will provide young people with substantive, high quality arts, humanities, and/or science experiences that are designed to develop artistic excellence through skill development and hands-on exploration and discovery (25 points). Examples of evidence that might indicate quality are listed below:

  • Instructional design of the program encourages the pursuit of artistic excellence.
  • Program design includes frequent performances or culminating events – giving young people an opportunity to present work to others and be a visible and audible part of public life.
  • Instructors have strong credentials as artists (as performers/presenters, are respected in their field, have appropriate training in their discipline) and as educators (have significant experience as educators with the target population, demonstrate pedagogical skills that fuse arts, humanities, or science learning and youth development).
  • The program, teachers, and partners set high expectations for participation, growth, and learning.
  • Youth learn to effectively critique their own work and the work of others by acting as peer mentors.
  • As a result of the program young people excel in the discipline and/or techniques taught.

Evidence that staff, collaborators, and program design will meet the developmental needs of participating young people (20 points). Examples of evidence that might indicate quality are listed below:

  • Program encourages sustained, long-term involvement by participating young people and offers them expanding opportunities as they progress.
  • Program operates as part of, or is actively developing, a holistic community of support for young people rather than isolated from other programs and services.
  • Program is based on participating young people’s assets rather than on deficits.
  • Staff have received adequate and appropriate training to meet students’ developmental needs and have access to appropriate resources within or outside the organization to address issues beyond current program or staff capacity.
  • Program fosters the development of positive relationships with adults, peers, and the community.
  • Participants, teachers, artists, and appropriate collaborators play a meaningful role in the planning process both in designing the program and throughout its implementation.

Program Evaluation (15 points)
Effectiveness of plan to document and evaluate the programs impact on participating young people (15 points). Examples of evidence that might indicate quality are listed below:

  • Program evaluation measures the young people’s progress toward program goals; systems are in place to monitor and document the changes in skills, knowledge, attitude, or behavior that the program intends to promote.
  • Staff regularly analyzes evaluation data and uses it to improve the program. When appropriate, students are included in this process.
  • Student assessment and program evaluation systems are manageable and adequate time, staffing, money and other resources are in place to implement them.

Fiscal Management (10 points)
Soundness of fiscal management, including diversity and reliability of financial support (10 points)

  • Match is met by a reasonable margin.
  • Budgeted expenses align with the proposed activities, staffing, and schedule.
  • Organization is in good financial health and has a good track record of financial management and fundraising.
  • Projected funding is sufficiently diverse’ the proposed program’s fate is not reliant on any one funder.

Award Assignments

Successful applicants receive three-year grants to support activities that take place between July 2018 and June 2021. All awards are contingent upon the Mass Cultural Council’s allocation and receipt of sufficient funds from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and National Endowment for the Arts.

Matching Requirements

All YouthReach grants must be matched based on the criteria below. First-cycle grants can be matched with cash and in-kind support. However, in-kind goods and services may not exceed 50 percent of the match. “In-kind” refers to a donation of goods or services. Any goods or services that you do not have to pay for are considered in-kind. Free rehearsal space, donated supplies or pro bono consultant work are examples of in-kind goods and services. Staff time on this project paid for by the primary applicant should be listed as cash match; staff time on the project paid for by a collaborating organization is an in-kind donation. Funds raised by a collaborating organization specifically for the project constitute a cash match.In all cases, grants or funds received through any other Mass Cultural Council program may not be used as matching funds.

Note: Match requirements will vary in future cycles according to how long a project has been funded through YouthReach as follows:

Project Cycle Match Requirement
First-cycle projects (Years 1 and 3 of YouthReach funding) 1:1 (up to 50% in-kind)
Second-cycle projects (Years 4 and 6 of funding) 1:1 (cash)
Third-cycle projects and beyond (Year 7+ of funding) 2:1 (cash)

Rules Pertaining to Multiple Proposals

In any single Mass Cultural Council fiscal year (July 1 – June 30), an organization may be the primary applicant for only one YouthReach grant application and a fiscal sponsor for one YouthReach application. However, an organization may be the primary applicant on one project and collaborate on others. YouthReach-funded organizations may not receive funding for the same program through SerHacer, however, application organizations may apply for a SerHacer grant if it is a separate program of the organization that serves a group of young people unique to that program. YouthReach funding does not preclude organizations from applying to other Mass Cultural Council programs for which they meet eligibility requirements. Funds from other Mass Cultural Council programs cannot be used to match YouthReach grants, however.

Review Procedures & Funding Decisions

After the application deadline, Mass Cultural Council staff review applications for eligibility and appropriateness. Ineligible and uncompetitive applications are removed from consideration. The remaining applications are passed on to a panel of independent reviewers to conduct site visits and evaluate applications according to the review criteria. Panels are comprised of administrators, artists, and youth development specialists who represent diverse geographic, ethnic, philosophical, and aesthetic perspectives. Panelists evaluate applications and make funding recommendations to the Mass Cultural Council’s board. The board considers these recommendations in the context of the agency’s available funds and makes all final funding decisions. For details on the decision-making process, see the timeline above.

Site Visits

Program Site Visits are a critical part of the application review process and every effort is made to have a panelist visit each applicant. The purpose of the site visit is for panelists to gain first-hand experience and direct contact with the proposed project’s key players, location, and community.

The site visit will occur during a regular working session, not a culminating event, final showcase, or performance.  In the case of multiple program sites every effort will be made to visit each defined Program site.

Site visits are scheduled ahead of time to accommodate both the reviewers’ and the applicants’ schedules. Following is a list of required elements for the panelist during a site visit:

  • Observe “the process” in action—class, rehearsal, etc.—so that panelist can see the interaction between adults and young people, instructional approach and flow, space, etc.
  • Talk to senior staff from the organization and key staff for proposed program.
  • Talk to someone in a caretaking/authority position with the participating (or intended) young people, outside of the program staff (parents, collaborators, case workers, or other key stakeholders as appropriate).
  • Talk to participating (or intended) young people.
  • See examples and/or documentation of completed student work.
  • Review and discuss specific evaluation/documentation tools.

These elements can take place in any order, so long as they are included as part of the site visit. Applicants are expected to set up the visit to accommodate these requirements. For more on site visits, see the Site Visit Report (PDF) form reviewers complete and Preparing for Your Site Visit (PDF).

Reporting Requirements

All grant recipients are required to submit regular reports to the Mass Cultural Council detailing the project’s progress, including any changes in timeline, personnel, collaborating organizations, or content, along with annual financial information. Reports must demonstrate continued commitment to the project by all partners and be signed by officials from the primary applicant agency. 

The Mass Cultural Council has the right to withhold, reduce, or discontinue funding if a YouthReach partnership:

  • Misses deadlines for grant reports.
  • Does not notify the Mass Cultural Council of changes in project collaborators or other significant changes in the project.
  • Fails to comply with the terms of the grant contract.
  • Is unable to raise the required match.
  • Demonstrates inadequate financial management and oversight.
  • Does not properly credit Mass Cultural Council support.
  • Demonstrates inadequate recruitment and/or retention of participating youth.

Mass Cultural Council will not release the next year’s funding until complete reports are received from the primary applicant.

Legal and Other Requirements

Access Policy
In accordance with state law, the Mass Cultural Council recognizes the importance of non-discrimination, diversity, and equal opportunity in all aspects of its programs and activities. The Mass Cultural Council is committed to access, not only as a matter of state and federal law, but also as a policy designed to encourage the participation of all segments of the Commonwealth’s population in Mass Cultural Council-funded programs. The Mass Cultural Council also considers low-income communities, rural populations, and citizens over 65 years old as underserved populations that should be proactively included in programs.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that persons with disabilities have access to public programs or services on an equal basis with the rest of the general public. Furthermore, federal law mandates that any program or service that receives federal or state funding must be accessible to persons with disabilities. Therefore, all events and programs funded by the Mass Cultural Council must be accessible to persons with disabilities, including those with visual, hearing, mobility, and learning disabilities. Accessibility includes the facility and event location as well as the content of the program.

Conflict of Interest 
To ensure that all Mass Cultural Council review panels are free from conflicts of interest and the appearance of such conflicts, panelists are required to disclose any past, current, or prospective affiliation they or their immediate family members may have with an actual or potential applicant. “Affiliation” applies to employment, board memberships, independent contractual relationships, advisory or policy relationships, substantial contributor relationships, and other financial relationships. In addition, panelists are required to disclose any past or current adversarial relationships with actual or potential applicants of a professional or personal nature. Mass Cultural Council board members are not permitted to participate in discussion or votes related to any applicant with whom they have an affiliation or any applicants competing with that applicant.

Reconsideration Policy
An applicant may request reconsideration of a Mass Cultural Council decision on an application if the applicant can demonstrate that the Mass Cultural Council failed to follow published application and review procedures. Dissatisfaction with the denial of an award, with the amount of an award, or with the duration of an award does not constitute grounds for reconsideration. The first step in the process is to consult with the appropriate Program Manager to review the procedures that resulted in the Mass Cultural Council’s decision. If the applicant wishes to pursue reconsideration, a written request must be sent to the Mass Cultural Council’s Executive Director within 30 days of the date of notification of the decision. Such requests will be reviewed by the board no earlier than its next scheduled meeting.

Acknowledgment of Funding
Grant recipients are required to credit the Mass Cultural Council in all print, audio, video and internet materials, and all publicity materials (such as press releases, brochures, posters, advertisements and web sites). Detailed information will be provided in the contract package mailed to grantees.

Application Process

All items are required for an application to be considered complete. Incomplete applications will affect the outcome of an application. Email and faxed materials are not acceptable.

1. Review the Program Guidelines (above) to ensure that you understand the YouthReach Program rationale.

2.  Contact Program Manager Erik Holmgren to confirm eligibility and to discuss any questions you may have about the program.

3. Create an organizational profile to access the online application forms.

(Please note: Usernames/Passwords created for previously-submitted CIP-Gateway, Cultural Districts, Cultural Facilities Fund, YouthReach and/or SerHacer applications can all be used.)

4. Complete the online application, comprised of the following elements:

o    Project summary and logic model

o    Application narrative and curriculum or schedule

o    Biographies of key personnel

o    Detailed project budget and summary

o    Collaborator list

o    First-time applicants to the Mass Cultural Council only:

IRS Tax-Exempt Letter
Articles of Incorporation
Financial Statements for the most recently completed fiscal year

5.  Click the “final submission” button of the application by the deadline. The electronic application will then be automatically received by the Mass Cultural Council.

The electronic submission of all the application pages and support materials listed above constitutes the final application.

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