Here's One More Funder That Believes in After-School Programs

There's a lot of research suggesting that after-school and extended learning programs are effective for improving educational outcomes and preventing negative social outcomes. But this isn't an area that attracts a ton of funder attention. The Mott Foundation has been the top leader in this space for many years, with other major foundations, like Ford dipping in and out over time. Even as excitement has grown about after-school programs, though, the number of stalwart funders that stick with such funding at a national level is limited.

Which is why the New York Life Foundation (NYLF) is good to keep an eye on. Since 2013, the foundation has given over $24 million for middle school after-school and out-of-school-time efforts—with money continuing to flow out the door. 

In the past, we’ve focused the most on childhood bereavement funding when talking about NYLF. This is largely because childhood bereavement is such a niche cause that so few funders have on their radar these days.

Perhaps the foundation's success with that niche is why it's been so engaged in after-school funding, with a focus on supporting after-school and summer programs to help eighth graders transition to ninth grade. 

Children have consistently been the top funding focus with New York Life, and the foundation gave $7.5 million to educational enhancement programs in a recent year. More recently, NYLF announced its support for 18 out-of-school programs serving disadvantaged youth. Not all of the grants were huge, but they’re all very targeted to the cause. Ranging between $15,000 and $100,000, the 18 new grants totaled $750,000 and were spread to communities across the country.

This is important to note because many New York nonprofits might think that they have a leg up on the competition because of their geographic location. But at least as far as after-school programs go, the whole nation is fair game. Three of the 18 new grantees are based in the NYC metro area. For example, Harlem RBI received a $100,000 two-year grant. Also, the Arab-American Family Support Center in Brooklyn and South Asian Youth Action in Elmhurst received $15,000 and $50,000 one-year grants respectively.

NYLF senior program officer Marlyn Torres explained the insurance funder’s ongoing dedication like this:

In small communities, big cities, and everything in between, afterschool programs are working to meet the needs of middle schoolers, helping them during that critical transition time between eighth to ninth grade. We are pleased to partner with the Afterschool Alliance in this effort, and value their considerable expertise on afterschool issues and their broad-based network of afterschool providers, educators, and other youth development experts.

But what makes these out-of-school education grants stand out from NYLF’s past support is that these are the first ones in the funder’s new $1.95 million initiative called Aim High. This money is being distributed over the next three years following a competitive application process. While most NYLF grant programs aren’t open to unsolicited applications, this one was. This particular application deadline has passed, but perhaps more opportunities will be available like this in the future.

As a general rule, NYLF awards funds for capacity building, for direct service activities, and also for program expansion. Some of the funder's partners in the after school, expanded learning, and summer learning space are After-School All-Stars, Building Educated Leaders for Life, the Eagle Academy Foundation, and 4-H Juntos.