A Guide to Finding Funding and Grants for Mentoring Programs

Posted by eporter on August 31, 2023

A Guide to Finding Funding and Grants for Mentoring Programs

So, you have big plans for your youth mentoring program, and you’re ready to develop, expand, and hit the ground running, but you don’t have the funding or resources you need to launch a new mentoring program or take your current mentoring program to the next level? There are numerous organizations and foundations that provide funding and grants for mentoring programs to apply for, so you can provide evidence-based training to your mentors, offer high quality resources and activities to matches, employ a team of professional mentoring program staff, evaluate your program, and more. You just need to know where to find the resources to help!

Managing a successful youth mentoring program can be costly, and many programs have limited funding and support to stay afloat. According to a recent study, the average cost of initiating and supporting a community-based mentoring program is approximately $1,398 per match during the first month of each mentoring relationship and approximately $1903.19 per match, in total, during the following 19 months of each relationship.1 Though the cost of supporting a mentoring program is approximately $3301.19 in total for every match that lasts 20 months, half of mentoring programs in the nation have an annual budget under $50,000. The good news is, we have researched sources of funding to help you create and sustain a high-quality mentoring program. The list below includes possible sources of funding that might support the development, growth, or operations of mentoring programs. We have also added some guidelines to help you apply for grants for your mentoring program, so you can provide invaluable experiences for matches, and training and resources to attain positive mentee outcomes.

Who Provides Funding and Grants for Mentoring Programs?

Department of Justice

Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) Grants

The Youth Mentoring Program grant is the only mentoring-specific grant program funded by the U.S. Congress, and it is managed by the OJJDP. The OJJDP provides funding to certain subgroups of mentoring programs, and grant categories are updated every one to three years. Some initiatives have been offered annually, whereas others are only requested once, based upon national priorities. Also, the goals and requirements within an initiative often vary from year to year.  Thus, if you want to apply to this funding source, you need to check the OJJDP website each year in the late winter. Below, find a list of the mentoring-relevant solicitations that were published by the OJJDP for the 2023 fiscal year:

    1. Youth Mentoring Program Grants:
      1. National Mentoring Programs (NMP) Grant
      2. Multistate Mentoring Programs Initiative
      3. Mentoring Programs for Youth in the Juvenile Justice System
      4. Mentoring for Youth Affected by Opioid and Other Drug Misuse

Under the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), the OJJDP also provides grants to both state and local entities to fund efforts to prevent or help youth in or at risk of becoming involved in the juvenile justice system. Two grant programs under the JJDPA are applicable to mentoring programs:

    1. Title II State Formula Grants Program
    2. Title V Youth Promise Grants for Local Delinquency Prevention:
      1. Strategies to Support Children Exposed to Violence Grant
      2. Reducing Risk for Girls in the Juvenile Justice System Grants
      3. Opioid Affected Youth Initiative Grants

The OJJDP also provides funding under the Consolidated Appropriations Act to support projects to improve the juvenile justice system, prevent youth involvement in the juvenile justice system, and help victims of crime:

    1. Byrne Discretionary Community Project Funding/Byrne Discretionary Grants Program

The OJJDP provides funding through the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to fund youth violence prevention and early intervention activities, such as mentoring:

    1. Youth Violence Prevention Program
Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) Grants

The BJA provides funding to some local governments to support criminal justice prevention and intervention activities, such as youth mentoring programs. To see if your local government received funding this year, visit the links below:

    1. Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program
      1. 2023 JAG Allocations

In conjunction with the OJJDP and Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), the BJA provides funding to prevent violence in communities and support community-based violence prevention and intervention programs:

    1. Community Based Violence Intervention and Prevention Initiative

Department of Education Grants

The Department of Education offers grant programs that are aimed at improving the quality of education and school staff for students. These grants may be funding opportunities for school-based mentoring programs:

  1. Student Success and Academic Enrichment Grants

Under the Department of Education, the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education also offers three grant programs that are applicable to school-based mentoring programs:

  1. Full-Service Community Schools Program
  2. Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program
  3. Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants

Department of Labor Grants

The Department of Labor provides various funding opportunities for mentoring programs, specifically mentoring programs aimed at preparing or involving youth in the workforce. These grants are applicable to mentoring programs that serve youth who face barriers to education or are involved in the juvenile justice system:

  1. Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Grants
    1. WIOA Youth Formula Program (Title I)
  2. Reentry Employment Opportunities Program
  3. Workforce Pathways for Youth Program
  4. YouthBuild Program

Department of Health and Human Services Grants

The Department of Health and Human Service provides funding for school-based activities that increase awareness of, provide services to students with, or train professional staff on mental health issues. This includes funding for mentoring programs that practice prevention, intervention, or awareness activities:

  1. Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education)

American Rescue Plan Funding

Mentoring programs are eligible to receive funding from State Education Agencies (SEA’s) and Local Education Agencies (LEA’s) under the American Rescue Plan. To see if your local school district or state received funding this year, visit the link below:

  1. State and Local Educational Agency/School District Plans

Congressional Project Funding

Your state or local government may provide funding for various youth development projects, and your mentoring program may be able to apply for community project funding through your state’s Member of Congress. To see if your state received funding, sign up for communications from your Member of Congress to receive updates on opportunities for applications. Learn more below:

  1. Community Project Funding

Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF)

AmeriCorps provides the Volunteer Generation Fund for programs and organizations that complete volunteer management activities. Any school, organization, or nonprofit, including mentoring programs, that aims to increase volunteer recruitment and retention is eligible for funding:

  1. Volunteer Generation Fund

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

The SAMHSA provides various grant opportunities to community organizations and nonprofits that seek funding for mental health and substance misuse awareness, prevention, and intervention activities. Visit the links below to determine if your state received funding and if your program is eligible:

  1. SAMHSA Grant Opportunities for 2024
    1. Grant awards by state

National Science Foundation (NSF) Grants

The National Science Foundation provides grant, contract, and cooperative agreement opportunities to support research and education in science and engineering. Some STEM mentoring programs may be eligible to apply, especially within the Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings Division:

  1. NSF Funds
  2. Programs: Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Information Settings (DRL)

United Way

United Way provides various grants and funding opportunities to local organizations and nonprofits, and many are applicable to mentoring programs. Research your local United Way’s grant opportunities to see if you are eligible for funding. To find your local United Way, visit the links below:

  1. Find Your United Way
    1. United Way Funding

Local Funders

In addition to federal funding, there may be other opportunities for your mentoring program to receive funding in your state and local community, and local grants are usually less competitive than national grants! Research your local independent foundations, community foundations, and businesses to find funding opportunities for your program.

How to Apply for Grants for Mentoring Programs

Finding grants to apply for and winning the grant are two separate feats. The process of applying for grants can be daunting, but we have outlined some tips to help you secure the funding you need to elevate your program:

Do your research.

Each grant application may look a little different, so even if you have applied for grant funding before, it is important to review all proposal and application guidelines thoroughly. Before you apply, be sure that your program is a good fit. Research the funder, and consider what they may be looking for in applicants. This will help you clarify and craft your proposal. In addition, note all submission deadlines, formatting requirements, and supplemental information to supply.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

If you are unsure about proposal requirements or eligibility, be sure to ask the funder, so you won’t miss any steps! Agency contact information is provided at the end of most grant announcements. In addition, if you are struggling to craft your proposal, there are abundant resources, such as professional grant writers, and graduate students or professors at local colleges and universities who are interested in helping nonprofit organizations, that can help you develop a winning proposal. Seeking help can make the difference in winning the award, so do not be afraid to use the resources that are available to you.

Proofread, proofread, proofread.

Once you have drafted your proposal, it is vital to review your application carefully. Proofreading can help you eliminate errors in your writing, ensure your language and goals are consistent throughout each section of the proposal, and edit your language so your messages are clear and concise. It is important to establish a clear structure throughout your proposal. This may include sections for your mission, project goals, objectives, plans, timeline, and projected budget.

Keep note of all proposal deadlines and work ahead of time, so you have time to proofread thoroughly before submitting your applications. Working under a time crunch can cause stress, and it is easy to overlook mistakes when writing under pressure.

Be patient.

The process of approving and awarding grants can be lengthy, so once you have submitted your proposal, it is important to be patient. Research funding opportunities ahead of time, so you can be prepared and obtain funding in advance. It is also helpful to file all application documents and proposals to aid your future grant application writing and grant management.

Using Your Funding for Better Outcomes

You may already have big plans in mind for your mentoring program once you have received funding, but if you are not sure where to start, mentor trainings are a strategic way to use some of your funds to improve mentee outcomes. Studies have shown that providing mentor training, as well as training for mentees, positively impacts mentor retention, mentee outcomes, and mentors’ feelings of closeness and satisfaction within the match.

Mentoring Central offers various innovative, engaging training options for mentors, mentees, and parents or guardians of mentees including web-based, self-paced courses and instructional materials to guide in-person workshops that have been proven effective through rigorous research and testing. To better prepare your matches for an impactful mentoring relationship and improve mentee outcomes, consider devoting some of your funding to training your matches: https://mentoringcentral.net/mentoring-training/.


  1. Alfonso, Y. N., Johnson, S. L., Cheng, T., Jones, V., Ryan, L., Fein, J., & Bishai, D. (2019). A Marginal Cost Analysis of a Big Brothers Big Sisters of America Youth Mentoring Program: New Evidence Using Statistical Analysis. Children and youth services review101, 23–32. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2019.03.002