Citi Foundation: Grants for Higher Education


OVERVIEW: Citi's philanthropy in the higher ed realm focuses primarily on financial planning for college, entrepreneurship, and other strategies geared at providing young people (especially those in low- and moderate-income communities) the opportunity for success in college and economic self-sufficiency. Even though it doesn't have a higher ed specific program, Citi has supported nonprofits that work towards those ends. Two key areas to look at from Citi are U.S. Youth Economic Opportunities and Financial Inclusion.

IP TAKE: Citi is heavily invested in young people’s futures, but awards grants on an invitation-only basis, which makes it extremely challenging for first-time grantseekers to earn support.

PROFILE: The philanthropic wing of financial behemoth Citi “works to promote economic progress and improve the lives of people in low-income communities around the world, which it does through “efforts that increase financial inclusion, catalyze job opportunities for youth, and reimagine approaches to building economically vibrant cities.”

In terms of higher education, a key area is its U.S. Youth Economic Opportunities program, which looks above all "to increase the number of low-income youth who complete postsecondary (college-level) education, gain skills to enhance employability, become employed or start their own income-generating business." Within this scope, as well as its overall grantseeking approach, Citi's funding is allocated to direct service programs, organizational capacity-building and planning, and "systems change" through efforts that bring together multiple stakeholders or research that analyzes "successful interventions to increase youths’ employability prospects or entrepreneurship activity."

A key element of the Youth Economic Opportunity program is Citi's Pathways to Progress Initiative. This $50 million, three-year initiative started in 2014 and aims to provide "entrepreneurship training, civic engagement opportunities, mentorship, and summertime employment" to 100,000 low-income youth and is again directed at improving young people’s chances for financial stability and success, particularly by “helping youth build an entrepreneurial mindset, acquire leadership, financial and workplace skills, and begin to engage in the formal economy through a first job.” This is achieved by a number of sub-programs and doesn't focus exclusively on college-age students: projects that support young people aged 16 to 24 are eligible for funding. Important to note is the Pathways Initiative's geographic focus, which is restricted to the cities of Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, Newark, St. Louis, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.

Another main focus of Citi’s philanthropic work is on “Financial Inclusion.”  The goals here are twofold: to “support financial inclusion and the growth of businesses that provide new income generation and/or employment opportunities for low-income individuals,” and “to increase “the number of low-income adults or youth who adopt positive financial behaviors and accumulate and preserve financial assets.”  As with Citi’s Youth Economic Opportunities program, the Financial Inclusion program does not explicitly include higher ed as its target for funding, but organizations working with young people from this age group may certainly find support available if their work aligns with Citi’s goals and strategies.

Citi's commitment to youth stretches into other focus areas and regions as well.  Its Financial Inclusion program, for example, is targeted at increasing "the number of low-income adults or youth who adopt positive financial behaviors and accumulate and preserve financial assets." Internationally, meanwhile, the Youth Economic Opportunities program has distributed millions of dollars abroad annually, and particularly highlights its longstanding relationship with Junior Achievement, a nonprofit "dedicated to educating students about workforce readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy through experiential, hands-on programs." So whether you're focused on educational, vocational, or financial training for youth in South L.A. or South Africa, there is an opportunity to get support from the Citi Foundation.

In the past, Citi has also funded additional areas related to higher ed. For example, 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 largely fall under the umbrella of Youth Economic Opportunity.

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, all of which can be reviewed by year, program and region in the foundation's Grant Search database.

If is one thing is evident in Citi's grantmaking, it's that the foundation has a clear preference for forming partnerships and collaborating with a variety of organizations to achieve results. With that said, it's extremely difficult for first-time grantseekers to earn Citi support. 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.


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