And so it began. Our youth board had Zoom calls nearly every month where we met each other, discussed what philanthropy is, made general plans, and eventually researched and sent out our first grants. Our members, ranging from ages 8-15 (LINK TO AVATARS), were spread across the country, making us Zoom experts even before the coronavirus hit. When Neil Gobioff and Gianna Rendina-Gobioff kicked off the Gobioff Foundation youth board remotely in 2019, they didn’t know it would prove to be such a wise decision.
“We have always wanted our family, especially our children, to learn about giving from a young age. Creating a youth board with our extended family and friends has helped us learn more about each other, our communities, and how we can be of help and not cause harm. Our goal is for the youth board to have fun and learn about the joys of philanthropy,” shared Neil and Gianna.
During the global pandemic, our youth board completed our first big project, a joint $1,000 grant. This required us to collectively select ONE organization, rather than our previous experiences where we individually chose our own nonprofit to give a smaller $100 grant. The process of actually deciding which nonprofit organization would receive the grant involved a lot of research, debates, and even existential questions about justice and dismantling systems of inequity (see image*), until eventually coming to our decision to give the money to the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice.
The goal our youth board researched and developed was to support an organization that was addressing both human rights and the environment. The more we learned and understood, the more we became invested in the intersectionality and realized how these issues are intertwined. Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) are disproportionately affected by climate change, are often underrepresented at decision making tables, and are given the least resources to handle it. We, like many in our nation, are making an effort to recognize the oppressive systems that have and continue to target and harm BIPOC. One of the biggest reasons that we ended up choosing the Deep South Center was because their staff was made up entirely of BIPOC, and serves such communities.
The grant to the Deep South Center not only was our largest grant yet, but it was also crucial in helping us find our identity as a youth board. As a relatively new youth board, we were still learning about each other and trying to shape our structure. Having to come together and decide our priorities gave the board the most important thing it could have, a clear purpose.
Philanthropy has and always will be important to society, but right now it is crucial that we take a stance against injustice. My fellow Gobioff Foundation youth board members and I are by no means first nor the only ones who have come to this conclusion; rather we have been able to recognize the importance of it in ourselves and our purpose within it. We call on you to do the same. These are not new or comfortable issues, and these are not simple issues that will go away quickly. Most of us are in this space because we have privilege and resources, whether it be money, time, expertise, or connections. While it may be more difficult to take action or simply meet because of the global pandemic, it is even more critical that we refuse to stay quiet and act now. Silence is violence, neutrality is no longer an option.
If you are thinking about starting a youth board or bringing a group of young people or families with young people together to explore and act in philanthropy—or if you are re-examining an existing group—I implore you to make the commitment and share your power and privilege!
Our advice would be to start by asking the questions:
- What privilege do you experience, as an individual and as a philanthropist?
- What does justice mean to you?
- What future are you fighting for and what does that future look like?
- And, most importantly, what are you going to do about it?
To learn more about Gobioff Youth Board members, check out their avatars and profiles here. For more information about the Gobioff Foundation, please visit www.gobioff-foundation.org. For more information about youth philanthropy efforts, we invite you to learn more about resources and meetings from NCFP’s Engaging Youth Peer Network.
The views and opinions expressed in individual blog posts are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the National Center for Family Philanthropy.