YouthCARE received notice in mid-July from the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) that our application for a 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21CCLC) grant, was not recommended for funding. MDE indicated that “Fifty-five applications were submitted in response to this grant opportunity, and the requests for funding far exceed the resources available.” Competition for limited grant dollars is increasing as federal dollars available to states and communities for vital youth programs are shrinking.
The news from MDE means that YouthCARE lost nearly $350,000 of support for critical youth programs this fiscal year, which ends May 31, 2018. This loss, which is nearly one-third of our $1.1 million annual budget, is devastating to our operations, to say the least.
YouthCARE was fortunate, and is grateful, to have received 21CCLC funding through MDE for the past five years. This funding provided a number of critical youth development programs, especially the growth of our YouthLEAD teen leadership and development program. It also helped maintain and enhance program quality for Camp Sunrise and the Young Women’s Mentoring Program. The greatest impact in the MDE funding was an overall increase of our adult staff from seven to 15 full-time positions as well as an additional four part-time positions. The 21CCLC funding allowed YouthCARE to more than double units of service, a measurement of quality in youth development, from 6,983 to 16,392 during the five-year period.
In response to this situation, the YouthCARE Board of Directors commissioned a Task Force, consisting of Executive Committee volunteers and the Leadership Team staff, to develop financial recovery strategies that will ensure YouthCARE’s ability to continue to provide vital programs and services to multicultural youth in our community.
We believe that given the national discourse of hatred and intolerance at every level of our society, organizations like YouthCARE that work to break down barriers and to help youth of color succeed in an increasingly diverse world are more important than ever. YouthCARE’s mission, “To promote respect for self and others, develop future leaders, and provide youth with positive multicultural activities and relationships with caring adults,” is essential to our democracy and our way of life.
As a result of the loss of MDE funding, YouthCARE is reducing its workforce. This will cause the closure of our YouthLEAD teen programming at Little Earth and at other sites in Minneapolis and St. Paul. This will also mean the elimination of five full-time staff positions, reducing our full-time employee headcount from 13 to seven.
We will continue our Young Women’s Mentoring Program at Little Earth in Minneapolis and at McDonough Townhomes in St. Paul. We will also maintain our YouthLEAD teen programming at McDonough Townhomes. Camp Sunrise will likely reduce the number of weeks of summer programming next year. And, a fewer number of large social recreation events will be held throughout the upcoming school year.
The Executive Committee of the Board and the Staff Leadership Team met several times during the past few weeks to develop the financial recovery strategies below. We engaged representatives from the Nonprofit Assistance Fund and our accountant to better understand where we are and our path forward in light of the loss of MDE funding. Here are key points of the financial recovery plan approved by the Board:
- Two staff were laid off (Assistant Camp Director, and YouthLEAD Program Specialist at Little Earth), two open positions (YouthLEAD Program Specialists serving Minneapolis and St. Paul) are not being filled, and a full-time position (Operations Manager) has been moved to part-time. The number of full-time employees has been reduced from 13 in 2016-17, to seven this year.
- Recovery strategies and revised budget assume “zero growth” in Corporate and Foundation grants; however, we plan to aggressively seek new local, state, and national grants. Our grant writing and fundraising efforts are bolstered by the addition a full-time Development Assistant last year through a United Way-funded capacity building grant.
- The Camp Sunrise budget remains intact for this summer; however, it is expected that camp will be shortened from 10 weeks to 7 weeks in 2018.
- The Young Women’s Mentoring Program is planned to remain intact, given the grant support it receives and the impact we are making on young girls.
- The YouthLEAD program at Little Earth is being phased out. The teens at this location participate in programs offered by other providers.
- Board members have been asked to assist further with opening doors and helping with fundraising. Board Member, Elizabeth Eberle, an Ecolab executive, has agreed to chair this year’s Annual Campaign. We are recruiting other campaign leadership and soliciting board members for their support. The campaign will kick off in mid-September, with a goal to raise $45,000 to help sustain our programming.
- A business planning process, chaired by Board Member Julia Classen, a respected Twin Cities’ area nonprofit consultant, will be initiated to build a business plan that will chart the future of YouthCARE, given our new fiscal reality.
Several scenarios were proposed to the Board of Directors to ensure that any budget cuts made would have the least impact on our mission, programs, and youth development outcomes.
Last year, with the support of many donors, volunteers and staff, YouthCARE served approximately 500 youth from Minneapolis and St. Paul. We are proud of our accomplishments, including: redesign of our website (scheduled for debut in mid-November), implementation of our donor database, hiring of a Development Assistant, being selected by Carlson for Community students as beneficiary of their Annual Charity Auction, and most importantly, helping youth make the successful transition from adolescence to independent adulthood!
To avoid a potential $350,000 operating deficit, we cut nearly $100,000 in expenses, mostly salaries, from this year’s budget. This still means we could have a nearly $250,000 deficit unless we can significantly increase our grants and fundraising. We hope that when called upon for support you will say “yes,” and join us in sustaining YouthCARE programming. [Click here to donate online now.]
These choices are difficult to make; however, we are confident of the path forward. Our board and staff are committed to serving the youth of our community. Because of the loss of MDE funding, the number of youth we serve this year will be impacted greatly. We invite you to give of your time, talents, and treasures to continue to support and help sustain and grow YouthCARE – now and in the future.
Chair, YouthCARE Board of Directors
Willie Dean, Ph.D.