Citi Foundation: Grants for Higher Education

OVERVIEW: Citi's higher education prioritizes financial planning for college, entrepreneurship, and other strategies aimed at providing young people, especially those in low- and moderate-income communities, with opportunities for success in college and economic self-sufficiency. Even though it does not have a specific program dedicated to higher education, Citi funds nonprofits that work towards those ends.

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

PROFILE: The Citi Foundation, the philanthropic wing of its corporate sister and 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.” It conducts higher education grantmaking through various Signature Programs fall into three categories: Youth Economic Opportunities, Sustainable Cities, and Financial Inclusion.

Citi’s Youth Economic Opportunities subprogram Pathways to Progress, “supports programs that help young people, ages 16-24, build an entrepreneurial mindset, acquire leadership, financial and workplace skills, and begin to engage in the formal economy through a first job.” Citi's funding in this area prioritizes 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." While Citi prioritizes non-academic organizations, it has supported several universities in the past, including Cornell and NYU.

In addition, Citi’s Financial Inclusion program seeks 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 target higher education, 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 grants range from $50,000 to $100,000. 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.

 The foundation prioritizes forming partnerships and collaborating with a variety of organizations, so it may be 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 attract this funder's attention can start by reviewing its grant guidelines and reports and resources.

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