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Funding Youth Philanthropy (Webinar #3)

In 2018, Indiana Philanthropy Alliance (IPA) and the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy partnered to host a free 4-part webinar series designed to support next-gen leadership and giving.


The third webinar, “Funding Youth Philanthropy,” explored recent findings on how funders choose to support youth philanthropy programming. Featured speakers included research faculty and students from the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, as well as Foundation Center staff.

Worldwide, more than 200 foundations offer youth grantmaking programs and over 100 related resources exist, yet this information is not broadly available. To understand the funding of these programs, we must first recognize why youth philanthropy is important and its benefits, as identified by Dr. Steven Sherrin, former Visiting Research Associate at the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

  • Individual benefits, such as increased empathy, beliefs about social responsibility, and commitment towards helping; leadership development/academic benefits; stronger beliefs they can create positive change (self-efficacy).
  • Organizational benefits in that youth are innovative, enthusiastic, energetic, and are potential future donors.
  • Community benefits in the form of direct contributions of time, talent, and money; and youth engagement in charitable goals promote a cultural shift to viewing youth as assets right now to the community and society.

In Indiana, 28 community foundations have some sort of youth philanthropy program, such as a youth council. Typically, the primary role of these councils is to grant funds, which are allocated from the community foundation. In some cases, youth participants are also fundraising for the grant fund. The results of a 2018 survey of these 28 Indiana programs are highlighted here:

So, how are these youth philanthropy programs funded? As is the case in Indiana, foundations are overwhelmingly identified as the primary funders of youth philanthropy, according to Sasha Zarins, MS, of the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. However, recent changes include an increased demand to see collaboration, a desire to see youth lead and inform programs, and increased demand to see service-learning work. As a result, new funding models are emerging which include:

  • Youth giving circles
  • Increased local family foundation support
  • Self-funding youth groups

Brea Reimer-Baum, a former youth philanthropist who now holds a master’s degree in Philanthropic Studies from the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, provided three examples of youth-philanthropy-funded programs. A necessary question to address is the sustainability of the program. For this, Reimer-Baum offers three pieces of advice:

  1. Diversify!
  2. Knowledge and “approach-fulness” of your organization is just as important as having money in the bank.
  3. Strategize for the future you want to see for your organization.

Lastly, Sarina Dayal of Foundation Center highlights a 2014 research publication, Scanning the Landscape of Youth Philanthropy: Observations and Recommendations for Strengthening a Growing Field. Two key observations made are: 1) foundations are financially supporting youth philanthropy, and 2) programs with sustainable momentum have strong and varied stakeholder support. A number of needs were also identified, and out of those needs came the birth of—an online portal which tracks the number, amount, and impact of grants made by youth globally.

A full recording of this webinar along with the resources shared can be found on the Indiana Philanthropy Alliance website.

The 2018 Youth Philanthropy Series incorporated IPA’s 4-pillar model of Serving, Giving, Leading, and Engaging to highlight the progression of youth taking action and engaging others in their communities. It was tailored for foundations, youth-serving organizations, and nonprofits interested in engaging young people in philanthropy.

For breakfast, I had two eggs over easy on whole wheat toast and decaf coffee.

Author: @jmarkland

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