One of the most important trends people were talking about at the National Forum on Family Philanthropy was the engagement and involvement of youth (ages 8+) during the grantmaking process. In many ways, it represents the future of grantmaking and how the younger generation’s view of philanthropy will influence the entire charitable community.
We think it’s important not only to pay attention to this trend, but also to invest in the development of these young philanthropists.
There are many ways to engage a youth voice in your foundation. As you consider what this could mean for your foundation, think about how you might benefit from a different perspective when evaluating processes or considering your current funding focus. A young voice offers questions and suggestions that act as a spotlight to old habits ingrained in your organization. Their viewpoint will also provide insight into how the younger generation views common problems. For example, who better than a youth who spends their days immersed in education to provide a unique and grounded perspective to grantmakers in education? Finally, the energy and enthusiasm youth bring to this work is contagious. They put in tremendous effort and thought regarding smaller sized grants because, to them, $1,000 is still life changing.
How youth approach philanthropy can be different than most adults. When you involve them, you can expect a more hands-on approach. The younger generation expects a relationship with their causes.
This relationship, most likely, is as simple as following them via social media, but they want to hear the stories of the people they are helping. Most youth programs we have seen include some type of volunteerism as well.
Here’s an example of how tapping youth energy can really transform your organization/foundation:
One of our family foundation clients had a rather hands-off approach to their giving. They had an outside agency collect, review, and recommend grants. They found that new generations were less involved, and the philanthropic process was becoming more about the money, and less about the cause. They realized they needed to make a change if they wanted to live up to their mission.
They changed their entire organization to engage their youth, and in turn their families:
- They created a youth board, have empowered them with funds, and given them authority to grant those funds.
- They plan local service projects and biannual international service trips where the entire family, young and old, are able to meet the people their grants help and gain perspective on the challenges remaining and triumphs accomplished.
- By continued investment in these youth philanthropists, through training in philanthropy and essential professional skills, they have made the youth an integral part of their organization.
Because the family AND youth have been involved in the philanthropy of the organization, everyone becomes reenergized. Increased participation leaves family members feeling more connected to the process and its impact. Instead of focusing on how much was given in a year, attention is drawn to stories, updates, and the resulting impact of their giving – which makes the entire process feel more personal. Are you ready to get started? The easiest way to begin is to “Just, Do It!” One way or another, the next generation will eventually be involved in your organization. Engaging them when they are young provides an excellent opportunity for everyone to learn from each other and for the older generations to be involved in charting the path forward.
Here a few resources we would like to recommend to help you get started:
- Join us at Disneyland July 24-26 for the 4th Annual Youth Philanthropy Connect conference, Weaving A Web Of Support. Foundant is a founding partner and sponsor of this gathering geared towards youth ages 8-21 involved in philanthropy through a foundation and their adult advisors. This is an incredible opportunity for youth to connect with their peers, share models of youth engagement, learn best practices in philanthropy, and work collaboratively in a unique learning environment created for kids by kids. Learn more.
- Youth Philanthropy Connect, a special program of the Frieda C. Fox Family Foundation, and The National Center for Family Philanthropy joined together to develop Igniting the Spark: Creating Effective Next Gen Boards which offers a comprehensive overview of the growing practice among family foundations and donor advised fund holders using next generation boards. To download these resources visit: http://familygivingnews.org/igniting-the-spark/
Editors note: Foundant Technologies was a sponsor of the National Forum on Family Philanthropy and the one day post conference for youth philanthropists Youth Philanthropy Connect co-hosted with NCFP and the Boston Foundation.