Ohio philanthropy programs develop tomorrow’s leaders
Youth philanthropy councils can be effective tools to grow the next generation of philanthropists in community foundations, as those who attended OGF’s workshop devoted to practical advice and resources for engaging youth in philanthropy found out this summer.
Today I’m talking with Ramona Grigsby, who for the past 14 years has led one of the state’s first youth philanthropy programs, the Youth Fund Advisory Committee at the Community Foundation of Greater Lorain County. The interview is part of a longer article in the current OGF Connection newsletter, which you can read online. We’re also updating our directory of youth philanthropy programs across the state and will release it online in the next few weeks.
Why did your foundation establish a youth in philanthropy program?
In 1998 our Board of Directors chose to create an opportunity for youth in Lorain County to become directly involved in philanthropy. Led by the president of the board, they established an endowed youth fund, to be guided by an all-youth advisory committee. Students in grades 8-12 from the sixteen public school districts and several private schools in the county comprised the membership. The foundation’s board believed that fully engaging youth was a new and extremely effective way of creating new philanthropists.
It required trusting in a vision where empowered youth are given real responsibility over a sizeable amount of money. Teens are asked to make critical evaluations to determine which grant applications will be successful. They learn to ensure the grantee reports at project’s end and accounts for the funding. Are there signs that we are making new philanthropists? I believe we have some evidence. Sometimes our students graduate and go off to college and tell us that they’ve joined a community service group on their campus. They talk about helping their group decide where to contribute their charitable efforts.
What is the secret to engaging youth?
Be real and be truthful. Being young doesn’t mean a student can’t learn about philanthropy, it only means s/he may not have encountered this information yet. Teens are generally eager to learn new things and are quick to prove they can do what is required of them. Keep your expectations high. Their manner of accomplishing a job may actually prove more innovative than you expected! Over the last fourteen years I’ve watched high school seniors and juniors work closely with 8th and 9th graders to review grant requests. The older students treat the younger ones with respect. The younger ones catch on quickly that they are encouraged to speak up and offer constructive comments. Allow humor to dot the landscape and food to break the attention lag at meeting’s half-time. Be glad to see them . . . it will make their day.
Read more about what Ramona and others have learned from engaging young people in philanthropy and check out great resources if you’re thinking about starting a youth philanthropy program in your community.