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Announcing PRESTO:  a grant program supporting El Sistema-inspired programs in their first five years through funding, group learning, and mentorship.

El Sistema USA is supporting growth and sustainability of the El Sistema movement in the U.S. by identifying 10-12 members of El Sistema USA within their first 5 years of program activity, and investing in them financially and programmatically. Through PRESTO, we are creating a “cohort” of selected grantees, and launching a 3-year partnership of matching grants and capacity development training in leadership and organizational growth. As a cohort, grantees will share best practices and receive training in fundraising and management, all the while sharing their success stories and challenges. Throughout the 3-year funding partnership, members of the cohort will participate in ESUSA national conferences, and prepare online and in-person presentations to share their growth lessons with the field. The PRESTO cohort members will also be paired with a Mentor from within the membership of El Sistema USA, who will support their paired cohort member’s growth and challenges, and exchange site visits for on the ground learning, all supported through the PRESTO grant. 


Member programs selected will demonstrate high potential through their close alignment to the values and member qualifications of ESUSA. Applicants will be asked to identify their 3-year capacity development goals, and describe the systems or new programs that need to be in place in order to better meet community needs, and increase the total enrollment of students over three years. We are making a $1 million investment in the field over three years, establishing the cohort in Spring 2018 and making matching grants based on applicant total budget.  As an investment in promising ESUSA members, funds will drive increased local investment through leveraged matching opportunities, and will be further supported through training in successful fundraising programs. Successful applicants will describe how they will meet the 2-year matching requirements of the re-granting program, and demonstrate willingness to adopt a 3-5 year internal fundraising plan to replace and add to the matching funds provided by the Foundation.


Award levels will be determined by size and needs of the individual organizations:

  • Year 1: $20,000-$40,000 requiring a 50% match
  • Year 2: $15,000-$30,000 requiring a 100% match
  • Year 3: $10,000-$20,000 with no match required

Group Learning – The Cohort

Ten to fifteen grantees will form a learning cohort which will convene annually at El Sistema USA headquarters at Duke University in Durham, NC.  Topics will include:

  • Leadership
  • Fundraising
  • Governance
  • Evaluation (with the goal of sustainability)


Grantees will be matched with a mentor – the leader of an established program of similar type and region – for mutual site visits and ongoing consultation.

We are currently in our Informational Gathering phase.  Please indicate your interest now if you’d like to be sent an invitation to apply for PRESTO.

Note that you must be a Member of El Sistema USA in order to apply for PRESTO. Not a Member?  Become one today!

PRESTO is made possible by a generous grant from the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation.

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