Youth Empowerment

Black children holding hands on beach smiling

Youth Empowerment Request for Proposals  

United Way of Olmsted County is a community change organization that fights for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in our community. We recognize there are systemic influences that present some parts of our community with opportunities, while presenting others with barriers. UWOC aims to support communities in implementing self-determined solutions to the challenges they face.  

After a 1.5-year process lead by Black community members, United Way of Olmsted County is opening this Request for Proposals to invest in culturally specific youth development programs. We invite applications from Black-led organizations that focus on serving Black youth.  

The proposal period begins January 4th and ends February 14th. 

What We’re Funding: 

We are investing in Black-led programs that provide high quality youth development programming for Black youth, because when young people have access to the resources they need, it helps transition them into stable adulthood. Our youth empowerment grants provide grantees multiyear funding to operate youth development programs for Black youth in middle and high school.  

When we say youth development programs, we mean out-of-school time activities that connect youth to caring adults, opportunities to develop new skills, build healthy relationships, and support academic achievement. A high-quality program will serve primarily Black youth from low-income households and use current best practices in the youth development field. They will also result in one or more of the following outcomes: 

  • Improving or maintaining positive social skills 

  • Improving or maintaining positive physical, mental, and emotional health 

  • Improving or maintaining satisfactory grades and/or attendance at school 

  • Improving or maintaining leadership and/or career-affiliated skills 

We have identified the following best practices and invite applicants to discuss if they utilize them: the 5 key elements of developmental relationships, starting programming early in a young person’s life, one-on-one vs group mentoring, supporting positive identity formation and critical consciousness, supporting positive relationships with caregivers, and how Black culture influences their work. Please review our research section for more information on what we consider high-quality programming. 

Additional Investment Details: 

  • We anticipate making awards to 3-5 programs that support positive youth development within the Black community. 

  • Youth Empowerment grants provide unrestricted program-level funding. Funds are intended to be used for general program operations in alignment with your proposal. Funds are not restricted to any specific line item or program activity.   

  • This is a three-year grant to be paid in monthly installments between July 2023 and June 2026.  

  • There is no minimum or maximum award amount. In recent grant cycles, the average annual program award has been about $35,000 annually. 


  • Public information session: January 24

  • Initial proposals due: February 14

  • Program meetings (by invitation): March 1 - March 15

  • Finalists notified: around March 25

  • Funding begins: July 2023  

We encourage you to review the proposal questions in advance. All proposals should be submitted through UWOC’s online grants portal. For assistance with the online tool, please contact Zeni Aly at 507-287-7877 or Applicants will be notified about the status of their proposal on or around February 24th.  

How to Apply: 

Proposals are accepted through United Way of Olmsted County’s online grants portal. The grants portal works best in Google Chrome.   

We strongly encourage you to review the grant application materials carefully before beginning your application. The following documents may help you as you prepare your application:    

For this grant, UWOC has engaged an experience grant writer who can assist organizations with up to 4 hours of support navigating this application process, including but not limited to, asking questions about the application questions and/or process, how to prepare for a program meeting, and what organizational documents to submit. Please review our FAQ for more information on what is in scope for free support.  

Our team is eager to assist you if you have questions about your proposal idea or are experiencing technical difficulties with your application in Community Force. For technical support you may contact Zeni Aly at 507-287-7877 or To schedule a time to meet with our staff to discuss a proposal idea you may contact Grace Pesch at 507-287-1533 or  

Proposals will be evaluated by a team of community volunteers, in coordination with United Way of Olmsted County staff. Reviewers will evaluate proposals on the following criteria:  

  • Agency and program eligibility: Proposal information shared meets all demographic and geographic eligibility requirements.  

  • Program design and impact: Program explicitly and intentionally serves the Black/African American community. Program demonstrates strong impact or potential for impact, as demonstrated through use of best practices, program outcomes, and continuous improvement. 

  • Program budget: Budget is comprehensive of all program expenses and revenue and ask is appropriate for program plans. Please ask for what you need to operate your program, not what you think you may receive. 

To be considered for a Youth Empowerment grant, agencies must meet the following criteria:   

  • Be an eligible nonprofit agency  

  • Be a culturally specific organization that serves and is led by Black/African American communities  

  • Serve primarily low-income Black residents of Olmsted County  

  • Operate a youth development program 

For the purposes of this proposal, we are defining a culturally specific organization as non-profit or community-based organizations that serve and are led by people from the Black/African American community, specifically descendants of enslaved peoples. To be considered a CSO eligible for a Youth Empowerment grant, organizations must meet all three of the following criteria: 

  • Executive Director is Black/African American (descendent of enslaved peoples) 

  • At least 50% of people served by your agency identifies as Black/African American (descendent of enslaved peoples) 

  • At least 50% of staff and leadership are Black/African American (descendent of enslaved peoples) 

  • Programming provided is explicitly and intentionally designed to the Black/African American (descendent of enslaved peoples) community  

Eligible nonprofit agencies include:  

  • Agencies designated as a 501(c)3  

  • Faith-based organizations, provided they can demonstrate that there will be no explicitly faith-related content included in their programming and that there are no discriminatory restrictions on service recipients  

  • Unincorporated community groups, provided they can document their relationship with a proper fiscal sponsor.  

Funding will not be provided for:  

  • Individuals   

  • For-profit entities  

  • Political campaigns, candidates, parties, or partisan activities  

  • Programming that includes theological functions or requires religious participation.  

We welcome questions and open dialogue with potential partners. If you’d like to discuss your proposal or are wondering if this grant opportunity is a good fit for your agency, please contact Grace Pesch at or 507-287-1533.  

We enter partnerships with our grantees with a spirit of service, mutual respect, and transparency. Where our expectations do not align with those of our partners, our team will work with grantees to develop mutually beneficial solutions. If you have questions or concerns about the expectations outlined here, we invite you to speak with our staff at any point during the proposal process. 

  • United Way of Olmsted County holds the following expectations of our grantees: 
    • Meet with a cohort of funded partners quarterly to discuss successes, growth opportunities, and resources needed to support your programming. 

    • Meet with United Way staff at least annually to touch base on your program operations, community needs, and our relationship. 

    • Report annually on program performance measures, including: 

      • Total number of program participants 

      • Participant demographics (including race, gender, income, disability status, and city of residence, where such information is available)  

      • Key program outcomes, disaggregated by race and income level where possible 

      • Additional performance measures to be co-developed by program staff and United Way 

      • If you do not currently collect all this information, our team is available to support you in building your data collection routines to facilitate shared learning about your program and its participants.  

  • Submit updated organizational information at least annually, including: 
    • Organization and program budgets 

    • Board of Directors roster 

    • Financial documents, in accordance with United Way’s financial reporting policy 

    • Demographic information about your organization’s staff and Board of Directors, where your data collection and privacy practices allow. 

  • Support United Way’s fundraising and community change efforts; for example, by sharing our program information with your participants, helping us to develop client stories for marketing materials, or hosting an employee giving campaign. 
  • Funded program partners and United Way sign a funding agreement annually throughout the grant period; a sample partner agreement can be found on our website (Sample Partner Agreement). 

We know that our partners also hold expectations of United Way of Olmsted County. We are eager to understand how we can support our grantees beyond funding to foster healthier organizations, stronger leadership, and more effective partnerships.  

We will review proposals in two stages: 1) a brief written proposal, 2) by invitation, a meeting with United Way staff and volunteers to discuss the program being proposed. Prospective partners will be notified after each stage whether their proposal is advancing in the review process.  

Public information session - January 24th at 1 PM via Zoom

  • An optional public information session will be held on January 24th at 1 PM via zoom. Please review our information session to learn more about this grant opportunity. Staff are also available for individual follow-up discussions upon request.  Our recorded information session is available here: 

Initial proposals must be completed by midnight on February 14th, 2023

  • We encourage you to review the proposal questions in advance, which are made available above. All proposals should be submitted through UWOC’s online grants portal. For assistance with the online tool, please contact Zeni Aly at 507-287-7877 or Applicants will be notified about the status of their proposal on or around February 24th.  

Program meetings (by invitation) - March 1st-March 15th, 2023

  • Those continuing in the application process will be invited to have further dialogue with United Way volunteers and staff. This meeting is an organic conversation intended to clarify any remaining questions our reviewers have about your program and address any questions your organization has about partnership with United Way of Olmsted County.  

  • At this time, we will also request organizational documents, including financial documents and budgets. Budgets may be submitted in your own preferred format; if you do not have a budget template of your own, a sample can be found on our website (Budget Help Page).  In preparation for your dialogue with United Way volunteers and staff, we will share specific things we are looking for you to expand upon from your initial application. 

  • Applicants will be notified about the status of their proposal on or around March 25th.  Final partnership commitments are subject to approval by United Way of Olmsted County’s Board of Directors.   

Development of performance measures – April 2023

  • Finalists will work together with United Way staff to develop the performance measures to be reported during the funding cycle. These measurements will be co-created and specific to the program. United Way of Olmsted County uses the Results-Based Accountability (RBA) framework and will support programs in developing RBA measurement plans.  

Final awards announced – April 21st, 2023 

  • Partners can anticipate being notified of the final status of their request on or before April 21st 2023, after United Way’s Board of Directors has approved its final decision.  

Funding begins - July 2023  

  • First disbursements of Youth Empowerment grants will be made in July 2023. Awards are disbursed in monthly installments. Prior to the first disbursement of funds, all partners must execute a funding agreement.