OVERVIEW: Citi Bank's corporate responsibility program has made education a major priority. The foundation's U.S. Youth Economic Opportunities program is the primary driver of its college readiness support. It focuses on grants that target underserved young people, and supports organizations through direct service programs, capacity-building, and research- and policy-oriented "systems change." More specifically, Citi has supported programs geared towards helping students prepare for college and/or the workforce, and many grants have supported innovative programs that include counseling and financial planning.
IP TAKE: A major goal of the foundation is to provide underserved youth (age 16-24) with improved employment and entrepreneurship opportunities as well as financial literacy, and Citi's support therefore seeks to prepare students to enter college and/or the workforce. Grantseekers should highlight measurable results and a track record of success in their applications, but keep in mind that proposals and letters of inquiry are by invitation only.
PROFILE: Academic preparation, good study habits, and the admissions process are not the only elements of college readiness. With the rising cost of a postsecondary education, financial issues can pose a serious barrier to college enrollment and success, especially for academically talented students from low- and moderate-income families.
With that in mind, the Citi Foundation's philanthropy is intended "to promote economic progress and improve the lives of people in low-income communities around the world." To that end, it seeks to "increase financial inclusion, catalyze job opportunities for youth, and reimagine approaches to building economically vibrant cities," as well as take advantage of the corporation's human capital to "drive thought leadership and innovation" in fulfilling its mission.
Citi’s helps low- and moderate-income students navigate the financial aid process and supports programs that educate students and their families about strategies for financing a college education, and beyond. As the philanthropic arm of one of the nation's largest banking corporations, Citi Foundation focuses its college readiness grantmaking activities on projects associated with financial aid and planning.
However, its work does not stop there. The foundation also supports academic preparation programs to increase college enrollment and persistence, and it funds research efforts designed to lead to solutions that will increase college graduation rates.
In recent years, Citi's support has tended to range from $50,000 to $100,000 per grant. That said, the foundation has awarded a notable number of larger grants. Most grant recipients were national or regional organizations. Other recipients included charter school organizations, institutions of higher education, and even some local education organizations. All of these can be reviewed by year, program and region in the foundation's Grant Search database.
In the past, Citi has also funded additional areas related to college readiness. Two examples include research on the U.S. educational system as well as global competition. Additionally, its College Success program awarded grants to organizations helping students, particularly those in low- to moderate-income families, work toward graduating from high school, enrolling in and graduating from college, and develop college savings and financing strategies - efforts that now appear to fall under the umbrella of Youth Economic Opportunity.
The biggest hurdle for fundraisers is the selectivity of Citi Foundation's grantmaking approach. Applications are accepted by invitation only "from organizations with demonstrated successes in its outlined focus areas, and the foundation "will not review any unsolicited letters of inquiry or proposals." Organizations hoping to grab this funder's attention can start by reviewing its grant guidelines and reports and resources.
- Rosemary Byrnes, Senior Program Officer, U.S. Youth Economic Opportunities
- Tia Hodges, Program Officer, Youth Economic Opportunities and Pathways to Success