Fast Friends… Linking Youth from Foundation Junior Boards

Eleven-year-old Kylie of the Frieda C. Fox Family Foundation is a veteran grantmaker, having served on the junior board of her family’s foundation since age 8. But unlike the adults on her family’s foundation board, who can meet peers at grantmaker meetings and conferences, Kylie had no kids to compare notes with on grantmaking except those in her own family.

That all changed this summer when her junior board, based in California, was invited to meet with kids from a foundation in Illinois. Thus was born an idea that could lead to a retreat next summer for junior board members, ages 8 to 21, from across the country.

Here’s the back story:

The Frieda C. Fox Foundation’s junior board made a presentation at an Association of Small Foundations Conference two years ago. The four young presenters, who ranged in age from 8 to 16, wowed the all-adult audience with their thoughtful description of their grantmaking process including videotaping of site visits, meetings held using Skype, and their commitment to personal volunteering. They were joined by a 22-year-old who with her sisters had been active in the foundation’s grantmaking since adolescence and was the junior board’s liaison to the foundation board.

These young speakers were pros—the Fox Foundation has been training their young generation since the beginning. Founded in 2003, the junior board was formed in 2006, and before that, the family’s teenagers were invited to participate in the grantmaking committee.

Their ASF session got rave reviews; for many attendees, this was new territory. Although much has been written about Next Generation boards for young adults, there hasn’t been as much research or writing on establishing junior boards for school-age children. The session led to follow-up calls to Fox Foundation Executive Director Dana Marcus from families that wanted to know how to start their own junior boards or get ideas for existing ones. As a former school teacher, Marcus knows how to engage kids and has been happy to share her techniques.


But the ASF conference was somewhat disappointing for her junior board members. “They were hoping to meet other kids, but there weren’t any,” Marcus recalled.

Then this summer she heard from Annie Hernandez, program officer of the Lumpkin Family Foundation in Mattoon, IL. This 54-year-old foundation has for the past decade had what they’ve named their Sixth Generation Grant Committee for family members older than 10. The annual family board retreat was coming up, during which the Sixth Generation Committee would also meet, and as the advisor for the group, Hernandez had asked the kids what they’d like to do at their meeting. “They wanted to hear from other kids,” Hernandez said. She had heard about the Fox Foundation’s active junior board, and when she realized the retreat site in Napa Valley would be about two and a half hours away from Marcus’s office, she invited the Fox Foundation kids to join them at the meeting.

Marcus’s 16-year-old daughter, Katie, whom the Fox family has included on their foundation’s junior board, traveled with her mother to the Lumpkin retreat. Kylie, the 11-year-old who lives in Los Angeles, joined the meeting via Skype. The two-hour meeting of the two groups of young people was a huge success.

“There was an immediate kinship,” Marcus said. “Usually when you get kids together there is awkwardness at first, but they were starved to talk about their mutual interests.”

“It was so cool talking to people who know what we’re doing,” stressed Kylie. “I don’t really talk to my friends at school about this. I might say I’m going to a meeting, but they don’t know what my junior board does.”

“I got to meet and talk to kids my age, and it was interesting how their junior board functions,” echoed Katie. “We have two totally different systems. Later, when we went back to our own meeting, we said ‘What can we learn from them?’” The Fox group has already made changes in their grantmaking procedures as a result of their meeting with the young Lumpkin family members.

Marcus and Hernandez learned from each other, too. Both foundations are now dealing with how to engage the older teens who already have a lot of experience and may want more responsibility. As a result of the meeting with the Lumpkin family, Marcus started a “junior varsity board” for the 18 to 21-year-olds. Meanwhile, the Lumpkin kids liked the way the Fox kids could make individual grants “in their own backyards” rather than just making a few grants by consensus. They’ve asked the Lumpkin board for additional grant funds to make this possible.


The Lumpkin and Fox Foundation kids are staying in touch. “I’m friends with them on Facebook,” Katie said. “This was such a great learning experience. We focus so much on our own system, but if we look at others, we can learn from them.” The success of the meeting was so clear that Marcus and her junior board members are now thinking bigger. “We want to meet other foundation junior boards,” Katie explained, “so we don’t feel we’re alone in this big field.”

They proposed to the Fox board and got enthusiastic approval to organize a retreat for kids from other junior boards. Marcus is pulling together a planning committee of adults and youth, including representatives from Lumpkin, to hold the first of what she hopes can become annual retreats in summer, 2011. The first is being planned for the last week in June at Disneyland in California. Designed for youth ages 8-21 involved in philanthropy through their family’s foundation or donor advised fund, the program Marcus envisions would include age appropriate ice-breaking and team building activities in the park morning and evening, with speakers and interactive sessions held in the afternoon at one of the Disneyland conference centers. Adult family members would be invited to participate in a portion of the retreat and may have their own programming as well.


In pursuing the idea of a retreat, Marcus has discovered a dire lack of information on junior boards. She wants to find ways to connect youth in the field, and not just for the retreat. The National Center for Family Philanthropy has offered to help her conduct research. In the December issue of Family Giving News, we will feature a short survey Marcus and her team are devising to get a snapshot of the current field of junior boards.

Meanwhile, if you would like to be kept informed on the Disneyland retreat, contact Dana Marcus at


  • From the Desk of The Frieda C. Fox Family Foundation’s Junior Board, from the Association of Small Foundations, Summer 2009 Newsletter: Describes how the Fox family engages youth in the foundation’s work, so they may become effective and engaged grantmakers and volunteers in their community. This article is written by the Ingrid Fox, Junior Board Advisor and four Junior Board members ranging from age 8 to 16.
  • Using Advisory, Adjunct, or Junior Boards in Family Philanthropy. This Family Philanthropy Teleconference features Eleonora Frey, Frey Family Foundation and Virginia Esposito, National Center for Family Philanthropy. 
  • Travel Expenses for Next Generation Board Members: Guidance around when it is permissible to reimburse younger family members for travel expenses related to the work of the foundation.
  • Forming an Adjunct or Associates Board: Questions to Consider. This list of questions is designed to help decide whether and how to form an associate, adjunct, or next generation board. Questions include: What criteria should be applied to grant recommendations coming from adjunct trustees? What is the source of the funds for such grants and what will be the duration of appointment to Adjunct Trustees status?