In this session, Naomi Leapheart of the Matchstick Group in Philadelphia shared some compelling facts about youth philanthropy and why it is crucial to the future of giving. The first formal youth philanthropy initiatives began 25 years ago. They started small and grew into a national movement launched as programs at various foundations and nonprofits. They share the following characteristics:

  • Grants aren’t very big, average $2500
  • Funds come from everywhere—money raised by young people and support from foundations
  • Youth participants are diverse but still mirrors “adult” institutional philanthropy in terms of how money is raised and decisions are made to give
  • Often developing young people as foundation/philanthropy leaders is secondary to raising and giving money

Because youth philanthropy is often small and limited in scope, it often gets a bad rap. It is viewed as an “after school program” created solely to give something for teens to do. However, youth philanthropy offers a myriad of benefits for both teen and organizations:

  • Provides a reliable mechanism to gain new perspectives on community needs and solutions. Shift focuses from deficiencies to assets.
  • Incited more civic involvement and awareness among young people
  • Transform field of philanthropy into a more inclusive and accessible industry
  • Create natural feeder pipeline for leadership development orgs like EPIP
  • Youth Philanthropy can teach us something about grantmaking. i.e. keep it simple. Act of giving doesn’t need to be difficult.

Additionally, the models of youth philanthropy are extensive and diverse, allowing people a variety of ways to engage young people and instituting change. This flexibility also provides examples to organizations and young people on how philanthropy can take on many forms instead of the top-down money focused way we usually think of it:

Giving time and talent:

School based: Service learning and volunteerism
Community based: Affinity groups and volunteerism Example: Youth Leadership Institute in San Francisco, CA
General advisory: Civic/municipal and organizational. Example: Philadelphia Youth Commission by Mayor of Philadelphia

Giving treasure:

Foundation based: Fundraising and grantmaking

Giving time, talent, treasure:

Collaborations between organizations and young people, and giving circles. Example: Common Cents in NYC, Youth United Way of Kalamazoo

Using YOUTHadelphia, a program run by the Philadelphia Foundation that $100,000 each year to youth led and youth engaged projects in philly, as a model we examined the challenges in sustaining a youth philanthropy program at a foundation. Foundations usually have legal/due diligence administration under control. However, they struggle with youth engagement and giving up a degree of control over philanthropic process.

Therefore there are some key questions we should ask when launching a youth philanthropy program:

Rationale: Do we want youth to participate in social change? In institutional philanthropy? Good for community philanthropy?

Support: Will we make a concrete financial contribution? Is this model sustainable?

Programmatic concerns: How large/small should program be? What will curriculum be? How can we ensure a responsible yet equitable grant process?

Engagement: How will we recruit them? Can we develop a meaningfully diverse pool Who will facilitate program? What will role of adults be?

Evaluation: How will we know we’re successful? Impact on community vs impact on youth? What is the feedback loop? Is pipelining important?

Interested in learning more about youth philanthropy?  Check out these resources:

AFP Blog: Youth in Philanthropy

Youth in Philanthropy at the foundation center

Minnesota Toolkit for Giving

Learning to Give- A curriculum on youth philanthropy

The National Youth Philanthropy Clearninghouse

Can’t come to the conference?  Check out the livestream or follow the conversation on twitter.  Make sure to visit Rosetta Thurman and  Trista Harris for their insights.