Supporting Youth and Next-gen Philanthropy: How to Get Started
Sammie Holzwarth, Kimberly Myers Hewlett, and Vasser Seydel on NCFP’s recent webinar
This article was originally published by Foundant Technologies and is re-posted here with permission.
Bringing the next generation into the fold is a natural progression for many family philanthropies. Teaching children at a young age about shared values, engaging youth in service learning and site visits, and formally preparing the next-gen for board service are all methods of onboarding the next generation into the culture, community, and responsibilities of the foundation. Choosing when and how to introduce youth and the next-gen to the family’s philanthropy is a critical decision for those planning to have a multi-generational philanthropy effort.
In NCFP’s recent webinar Supporting Youth and Next-gen Philanthropy: How to Get Started, NCFP board members, Kimberly Myers Hewlett and Vasser Seydel, shared their perspectives on when they were introduced to philanthropy, and how their foundations continue to formally and informally prepare the next-gen for involvement. The conversation, moderated by Foundant Technologies’ product manager and youth philanthropy expert, Sammie Holzwarth, explored the different techniques and strategies for successfully engaging youth along a spectrum of ages.
How do you engage youth and next-gen in your foundation?
Kimberly Myers Hewlett wears many hats—she is President of the Myers Family Foundation, founded by her parents, a Director of the Flora Family Foundation, her husband’s family’s foundation, and works with family donors in her day job at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.
Her first true introduction to family philanthropy was when she was brought onto the Myers Family Foundation board in her mid-20s. Her parents started the foundation to connect as a family and with their community. Kimberly was encouraged to partner with her parents to develop the giving strategy and culture of the foundation. When she married her husband, she was given a board seat on the Flora Family Foundation—a foundation created specifically to serve as a training ground for the family to grow as strategic and effective philanthropists.
As a parent to younger children now, Kimberly is engaging her kids in both families’ philanthropic efforts. On the Myers’ side, there are many moments of values-sharing—her father plans summer trips with his grandchildren, building shared values and connection through these experiences together. On the Flora Family Foundation side, there is the recognition that each parent teaches differently, so any education around the foundation is parent-led when the children are between ages 5 and 17. When children turn 18, they enroll in a formal three year “bootcamp” where the youth work closely with the Foundation President to understand family values, why the foundation was created, and the expectations of board service. After the three-year term, they become full members of the board at age 21.
For Vasser, a Director on the Turner Foundation board and Chairperson of the Turner Foundation 3rd Generation, engagement also began informally through family and expanded more formally through a junior board. Vasser started by saying “I can’t remember a time that I didn’t understand what philanthropy was.” Although she wasn’t formally taught about philanthropy as a child, philanthropy was at the core of her family’s culture and relationships. Family retreats and site visits, holiday conversations about grantmaking, and her grandfather Ted Turner’s public giving imbued the younger family members with a sense of what philanthropy meant to the family and that they would have a future role as stewards.
As the next generation grew to include 14 cousins, the Turner Foundation staff approached the 3rd generation with the idea of a junior board—a more formal mechanism for G3 to learn grantmaking strategies, work together, and understand the role and responsibilities of a trustee. The board was co-developed by staff and the 3rd generation: the group completed values assessments, established a grantmaking process, and wrote mission statements. The staff gave the 3rd generation much ownership over the process, which led to greater buy-in for the endeavor and made space for the next-gen to actively participate. As the board got its wheels, G3 began to plan regular board meetings, arrange site visits, and schedule a G3 retreat before the full family retreat together. Vasser credits the junior board with her readiness to serve as a full Turner Foundation trustee, a position she just recently accepted.
“We found that being on a junior board is hard work at times—you do have to sit down and do the homework—but it also can be fun and full of passion. It can represent everyone’s differences and the things that unite us at the same time,” Vasser shared.
What is important to discuss with your next-gen as you start this work?
Both Kimberly and Vasser reflected on what families might prioritize or build into their formal and informal next-gen engagement. Vasser shared that all families should consider discussing privilege, equity, and wealth with their children before and as they grow more involved with the foundation. Having those conversations at a young age, to break down the complexities and demystify the topics, helps next-gen understand their place in the world and the broader context of their family philanthropy.
Kimberly reflected on her active role teaching her children about philanthropy and how important it is to both listen to your children and proactively share teachings about giving. “This situation—the pandemic, the racial disparities and everything coming to light—has really accelerated my teaching to my kids. It’s really forced me to give them some tools so they can give back,” she shared. Being prepared to answer your children’s questions about giving back, proactively having conversations about what is happening in the world and in the community around you, is essential to preparing youth for the next level of philanthropic engagement.
Looking Ahead and Learning More
Different families employ different strategies to teach youth and next-gen about family philanthropy, and there are plenty of resources for those interested in learning more. Much of the engagement is informal at first, with learning taking place through shared experiences, conversations about values and making space for youth to ask questions. As family members grow older, there is often a formal mechanism for engagement that lets youth learn by doing. Kimberly and Vasser shared their perspectives on the journey of engaging next-gen, and for those interested in the full webinar discussion, see the replay here. NCFP has many resources on engaging youth and the next-gen—see a selection of resources below to get started: