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Grants Guidelines

Grantmaking Programs

Since 1987, The Robert Bowne Foundation has concentrated its grantmaking on out-of-school-time programs in New York City that address, or wish to address, youth literacy. Historically, out-of-school-time programs have served the important function of providing a safe place for youngsters to engage in leisure activities with supportive adults. A growing number of such programs, responding to parents' concerns about their children's success in school, have begun to include educational support among their offerings and to function as a critical link for families and children between home and school.

The Robert Bowne Foundation seeks to have a long-term and substantial effect on the field of out-of-school-time education. Therefore, our first priority is to support individual programs that make literacy education an integral part of their work, provide quality experiences for young people, and seek to evolve as learning organizations by supporting the ongoing development of participants, staff, families, and communities as learners. Through grants and technical assistance, the Foundation seeks to build programs' capacity to support the literacy development of young people.

We also believe that, by studying and disseminating the practices of quality programs, educators, funders, and policy-makers can develop practices and policies to support the development of quality programs for young people. It is, therefore, a priority of the Foundation to identify, develop, support, and disseminate research and practices that will have a significant impact on out-of-school-time education policy.

Youth-centered Programs

Quality youth-centered programs have a clear mission and encourage participants to express their emerging identities. Learning and development require ongoing feedback in varied forms. Therefore, assessment and program evaluation are integrated throughout the programs. Youth-centered programs have cycles of planning, practice, performance and assessment. The programs tailor their activities, techniques and material to the interests, strengths and needs of the youth with whom they work. Youth provide leadership and direction, taking a central role in designing activities, as well as enforcing formal and informal rules for program participants. High quality content and instruction propel youth to accomplishments beyond those they imagined, and programs celebrate young people's achievements.


The Foundation defines literacy as engagement in reading, writing, listening, and speaking in order to better understand ourselves, others, and the world around us. We use the knowledge we gain through these literacy activities to change the world in which we live.

Becoming [literate] is a gradual process that begins with our first interactions with [language-spoken and written]. As children, there is no fixed point at which we suddenly become [literate]. Instead, all of us bring our understanding of spoken language, our knowledge of the world, and our experiences in it to make sense of what we read. We grow in our ability to comprehend and interpret a wide range of reading materials by making appropriate choices from among the extensive repertoire of skills and strategies that develop over time...

This description is consistent with the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and the International Reading Association (IRA) positions and guidelines on reading. We have adapted them to help prospective grantees understand what we mean by literacy.

Out-of-School Time Programs

Quality programs reflect the communities and children they serve. Therefore, literacy behaviors and activities look different in every program. In her book, Community Counts: How Youth Matters for Youth Development, Milbrey MacLaughlin describes some youth programs, in which literacy is an integral part, that are very similar to the types of programs that The Robert Bowne Foundation funds:

... An arts program asks youth to research their cultural history. Young painters learn a good deal of history, gain pride in their background, and gain skills in mural making. A dance teacher encourages her students to keep journals and often starts dance sessions by having students read their writings aloud. These dancers pick up habits of writing and reading while learning hip-hop or double tap.

... In a project focused on childcare in the community, youth read news articles on the topic and study various issues related to childcare. They read in textbooks about "stages of play" and create write-ups on their observations as classroom aides.

... Even hard-driving sports organizations find ways to broaden the perspectives and competencies of youth. For example, it is common in many organizations for team members to come to practice early to work with volunteers on homework, study for exams, or fine-tune specialized units related to their sport. Many coaches work academics into topics of great interest to their young athletes, such as nutrition and weight training. One year a basketball team had six-week units of study on the following topics: finances of the National Basketball Association, physics in the sport of basketball, and neurophysiology.

All young people benefit from and are entitled to quality programs that support their development - intellectual, artistic, physical, emotional, and spiritual - to its fullest potential. Out-of-school-time programs, together with families, schools and other community supports, play a major, though too often unrecognized role in providing support to young people. Through direct grants to programs, technical assistance, and research and dissemination, The Robert Bowne Foundation seeks to increase access to youth-centered, quality out-of-school-time programs for all young people.

Grant Criteria

The Robert Bowne Foundation makes grants to out-of-school-time programs that support literacy development as well as technical assistance, evaluation, advocacy, and research. Awards generally range from $20,000 to $30,000 and may be granted for specific projects or general operating support to the youth literacy program.

The criteria for funding are as follows:

  • The agency must serve youth (preschool to age 21).
  • The agency must have 501(c)3 status and be located within one of the five boroughs of New York City. In rare instances, the Foundation will award a grant to an agency located outside the City if it serves New York City children.

The Foundation does not:

  • make grants to individuals, capital campaigns, or endowments;
  • support religious organizations, primary or secondary schools, colleges, or universities. An exception may be made when some aspect of the organization's work is an integral part of a program receiving funding from The Foundation or if the college or university is participating in a research project supported by The Foundation; or
  • support in-school projects or projects following a traditional remedial model of instruction.

Please note that we are not accepting proposals at this time.

For further information, contact:

Anne Lawrence, Program Officer
The Robert Bowne Foundation
39 Broadway
Suite 1250
New York, NY 10006
Email: Anne.Lawrence@bownefoundation.org