4 Ways Donors Can Invest in Adolescents and Youth Differently

By Mary Adebisi, A360 Youth Innovation Officer, SFH Nigeria

We’re still a long way off from meeting the unique sexual and reproductive health needs of young people like myself. But with our voices and leadership guiding the way, we can all choose to listen, respond and invest differently to bridge the gaps.

On August 12 – in celebration of International Youth Day – my fellow youth advocates from PSI, the International Youth Alliance for Family Planning, FP2030, Y-Act, Be Girl, YourLife and Women Deliver came together for #WeChoose, a Twitter chat to discuss insight-driven solutions to the challenges in funding and implementing adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health (AYSRH) programming.

And what we heard? The status quo is not working, and money alone is not enough to fill the current gaps.

Traditional funding structures are bureaucratic and largely top-down, leaving little room for youth to engage with non-youth partners. Between extensive funding requirements and a lack of transparency around available funding opportunities, there seems to be no shortage of barriers in accessing funding.

However, innovation often comes from youth and as we rethink how to fund AYSRH programming and services, youth insights must continue to guide the way. It’s time that #WeChoose to invest in youth, differently.

Here's How:


When young people are involved in the funding conversations from the start, donors can ensure that corresponding opportunities are accessible and relevant to young people. Youth-responsive funding opportunities support young people and donors, together, to align donor agendas and youth priorities while moving away from more traditional, bureaucratic funding structures. Through flexible and targeted grant opportunities for youth, donors can work with young people to strengthen the impact of our work and grow our respective organizations.


Funding applications can be competitive and time consuming. As we look to shift investments, we must reduce the application burden on youth. Whether enabling application submissions in different languages, to earmarking funds specifically for smaller or less established organizations, or collaborating with youth to submit an application, consider strategies to ensure youth understand exactly what is being asked of us and are able to be competitive in our applications.


Donor reporting is often complex, with strict requirements for narrative reports, financial reports, audits and more. Youth organizations may face challenges meeting these requirements, often stemming from limited capacity. A flexible approach to reporting allows organizations with less capacity to showcase the impact they’ve made without feeling overwhelmed by administrative requirements. Donors should work with youth, building relationships and together identifying effective reporting structures for youth funding. This approach supports organizations to focus on impact rather than stretching already limited staff capacity on redundant or ineffective reporting.


For each youth funding opportunity, consider investing a portion of the grant into capacity building and trainings for young people. This investment can help encourage young people’s agency and strengthen smaller youth organizations, which in turn will reap sustainable AYSRH impacts at scale. As the project grows, so too do the youth on the team. By providing young people with opportunities to build our skills, we will be better equipped to meet project goals and provide young people with the health services they want and need.

We know that we’re still a long way off from meeting the unique AYSRH needs of young people but with young people’s voices and leadership guiding the way, we can all choose to listen, respond and invest differently to bridge the gaps.

How Will You Choose to Invest Differently, Today?

We invite you to use the below graphics on your social media channels to let your community know how you’re choosing to invest in youth differently. Join us as we work to catalyze the change young people say they want and need – and make sure to tag us in your post @Adolescents360

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