Lead Agency Grants

Youth Service America

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Anticipated deadline: Jun 15, 2021

Grant amount: Up to US $9,000

Fields of work: Volunteerism & Philanthropy Youth Development & Leadership

Applicant type: Nonprofit, Government Entity

Funding uses: Project / Program

Location of project: United States

Location of residency: United States

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About this funder:



Founded in 1986, Youth Service America® supports a global culture of engaged children and youth committed to a lifetime of meaningful service, learning, and leadership. With half the world’s population under age 25, our mission is to help all young people find their voice, take action, and make an impact on vital community issues. Starting in 2016, Youth Service America® will focus all our assets and outcomes on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

Lead Agency Program

YSA’s 2020-2021 Lead Agency program supports schools and nonprofits that activate youth volunteers on 9/11 Day of Service & Remembrance (September 11, 2020), MLK Day of Service (January 18, 2021), and Global Youth Service Day (April 23-25, 2021). Supported by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the Lead Agency program offers youth development organizations, networks of afterschool programs, community-based organizations, and schools/school districts grant funding, capacity-building training, and ongoing support to effectively engage young people in meaningful service and civic participation activities that put their health and safety first by following guidelines of federal, state, and local governments.

Our vision is 100% youth participation for the common good. What do we mean by youth participation for the common good? “Participation” includes volunteering, voting, charitable giving, and connecting with those around them by joining community groups or organizations. In the United States:

  • 22% of young people ages 15-24 volunteer, and 22% donate to charitable causes.
  • 26% of students say they often work on projects with real-world applications in school.
  • 23% of families have a child enrolled in an afterschool program, and 33% have a child in a summer learning program.
  • 32% of youth are a part of more than one community group.

Even though these participation rates are at or near record-high levels, we’re still leaving 3 of every 4 young people out of actively participating in our democracy. Participation rates are even lower among youth from low-income and minority communities. YSA is working to change that. Starting in 2020, we’re focusing our work on increasing these rates to 50% by USA250 on July 4, 2026, on the way to 100% a decade later so that no one is left behind.

Volunteering for the first time in childhood is an expressway to a lifetime of civic participation! We see national days of service – such as MLK Day of Service, Global Youth Service Day, and 9/11 Day of Service – as the perfect on-ramps

Lead Agencies are a vital part of increasing youth participation in their communities by engaging new youth volunteers for the first time on national days of service. The primary role of a Lead Agency is to convene a coalition of partners who will collectively activate youth – especially those in middle and high school in under-served communities who aren’t usually asked to participate. Lead Agencies convene partner coalitions of:

  • organizations with young people – afterschool, youth development, and extracurricular programs, K-12 schools, colleges and universities, and faith-based organizations, etc.
  • organizations with opportunities to serve – community-based organizations, government agencies, volunteer programs, etc.

In turn, these coalitions activate youth, ages 5-25, to lead service or service-learning projects through which they:

  • build youth-adult partnerships that create connections with caring adults who encourage young people to use their Sparks (passions, interests, and skills) to help others,
  • provide opportunities to learn and practice 21st Century Skills (Collaboration, Communication, Creativity, and Critical Thinking),
  • strengthen their community by working towards achieving the Global Goals (17 UN Sustainable Development Goals), and
  • LeadASAP (through Awareness, Service, Advocacy, and Philanthropy projects that follow health and safety guidelines of federal, state, and local governments).

To support Lead Agencies in building the capacity of their coalition members, we will provide online training and networking opportunities throughout the year, including three day-long virtual Youth Service Institute trainings (specific dates TBD in early August 2020, October or November 2020, and February or March 2021).

For the 2020-2021 program, YSA is offering Lead Agency Grants of up to $9,000, depending on the number of youth volunteers engaged on two or three days of service. Applicants should focus on engaging middle and high-school aged youth, especially those from under-served communities. Applicants may work locally, regionally, statewide, or multi-state and must be based in the United States.

You can learn more about this opportunity by visiting the funder's website.


  • This grant is only open to schools and organizations based in the United States.
  • All Lead Agencies must engage at least 500 youth as volunteers for MLK Day and GYSD.
    • ForLead Agency facilitating projects for 9/11 Day, there is also a required minimum of 500 youth volunteers.
    • For those applying to higher tiers, they must meet the tier’s requirements of at least 1,000 youth volunteers per day, or 1,500 youth volunteers per day.
  • For 9/11 Day and MLK Day, we ask that at least one of your projects addresses a specific issue area. On 9/11 Day, at least one project must focus on veterans and military families. n MLK Day, at least one project must focus on economic opportunity
  • Grant funding must be used to assist in the execution of projects for your two or three days of service. This may include covering the cost of project materials and supplies, coalition meeting and training costs, marketing costs, and sub-grants for coalition members.


  • Funds should not be used on purchasing items to directly donate.
  • Staff compensation and expensive, one-time use items cannot be covered by this grant.
  • Per funder restrictions, we cannot allow funds for the following projects
    • Attempting to influence legislation
    • Organizing or engaging in protests, petitions, boycotts, or strikes;
    • Assisting, promoting, or deterring union organizing
    • Impairing existing contracts for services or collective bargaining agreements;
    • Engaging in partisan political activities, or other activities designed to influence the outcome of an election to any public office;
    • Participating in, or endorsing events or activities that are likely to include advocacy for or against political parties, political platforms, political candidates, proposed legislation, or elected officials
    • Engaging in religious instruction, conducting worship services, providing instruction as part of a program that includes mandatory religious instruction or worship, constructing or operating facilities devoted to religious instruction or worship, maintaining facilities primarily or inherently devoted to religious instruction or worship, or engaging in any form of religious proselytization;
    • Providing a direct benefit to
      • a business organized for profit;
      • a labor union;
      • a partisan political organization
      • a nonprofit organization that fails to comply with the restrictions contained in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 related to engaging in political activities or substantial amount of lobbying except that nothing in these 9 provisions shall be construed to prevent participants from engaging in advocacy activities undertaken at their own initiative; and
      • an organization engaged in the religious activities described in paragraph 3.g. above, unless CNCS assistance is not used to support those religious activities;
    • Conducting a voter registration drive or using CNCS funds to conduct a voter registration drive;
    • Providing abortion services or referrals for receipt of such services. 


This page was last reviewed June 16, 2020 and last updated June 16, 2020