Youth Work and Business is a Match Made in Heaven

2-puzzle-pieces-connected-mdYouth work and business: It is a pairing we need to see more of. When young people develop their unique skills and talents, businesses benefit. Then why aren’t businesses a more significant source of support for the ‘boots on the ground’ youth-serving organizations?

The lack of youth work and business partnerships is clear when looking at funding sources for Youth Intervention programs.

Primary funding sources for youth-serving organizations are:

  • Government: The largest funder of youth-serving non-governmental organizations (NGOs) is the government. It is in the government’s best interest to ensure that all young people do well.
  • Philanthropic sector: The next leading source of funding for youth-serving NGOs is a broad array of foundations and trusts. This sector does include corporations with established foundations. However, increasingly corporate foundations are: a) establishing funding priorities aligned with their products; and b) giving more dollars globally as they become more global.
  • Individual donors: Some youth-serving organizations have many individual donors, while others have only a few. No matter the size of the contribution, this gift is often the most personally valued.
  • Social enterprises: Growing in popularity, this funding vehicle enables a youth-serving organization to earn income in the marketplace (e.g. selling a product, operating a food service). However, for various reasons, it is simply not an option for some organizations.

The pairing of youth work and business makes sense

Youth work contributes to a business’s profitability by:

  • Developing a skilled labor force: The skills gap between employers’ needs and employee readiness is a big problem. Businesses need workers that not only have the technical skills, but also the emotional and social skills to meet the needs of the 21st-century
  • Improving public safety: Businesses need strong, safe, and vibrant communities. Without public safety they cannot attract the skilled workers they need. MN law enforcement associations support Youth Intervention as a means to strengthen communities.
  • Promoting a larger, stronger consumer base: The strength of the economy is determined by marketplace supply and demand. Youth Intervention turns likely consumers of government services into life-long producers with disposable income.
  • Enhancing public visibility as a good neighbor: Wanting young people to thrive is a universal desire. And every business needs to develop goodwill with their consumers and communities served.

Besides families, businesses are the main beneficiaries of youth work.

The time has come for more youth work and business partnerships

Too many youth-serving organizations are struggling to find the funds needed to serve all the young people in their communities. Businesses need to begin making this community investment now.

Youth-serving organizations need to begin creating strategies to gain support from the business community. These strategies need to build on the mutual benefits obtained from youth work and business partnerships. It is the only way to create greater traction for these partnerships.

I see a future where youth work and business partnerships are commonplace. But what matters most to you and me is the ultimate goal: Our young people become happy and healthy contributors to the common good.


Paul Meunier is the Executive Director of the Youth Intervention Programs Association (YIPA).
YIPA provides relentless advocacy in Minnesota and exceptional online training for youth-serving organizations and youth workers everywhere. Join us!