I remember it like yesterday, sitting in a room that contained an elderly gentleman recovering from hip surgery as he talked about his passion for ballroom dancing.
Photos of this pastime decorated his temporary recovery room. I was an awkward middle school student delivering a handmade snow globe (yes, the kind made from a baby food jar). This was part of a 4-H club’s service project, visit an assisted living community and sing songs to bring a little cheer to the residents. Almost thirty minutes later, our club leader came around the corner and breathlessly peaked into the room.
“We’ve been looking for you!” she exclaimed. What came out of this experience was the knowledge was the knowledge that by sharing a small piece of my time and my talent for listening, I brought great comfort (or treasure) to a very lonely individual.
This started me on a personal and professional mission to promote youth philanthropy.
Now don’t be afraid of using that “p” word, it’s a great and powerful word that belongs to everyone that is sharing their time, talent, and treasure with others. Everyone can be philanthropist regardless of their age, social-economic income, and family dynamics. But what is youth philanthropy and why should you integrate it into your own programs?
Youth philanthropy is the ongoing and intentional giving of one’s time, talent, and treasure to help the common good (both locally and for national/international efforts). Youth-serving organizations can integrate youth philanthropy by engaging their youth in on-going giving, serving, fundraising, and grantmaking (or the giving of funds).
Over the years, the most successful youth philanthropy programs tend to include a combination of the following components: philanthropy education and training, leadership development, community service, civic engagement, grantmaking, encouragement of personal giving, fundraising events/ activities, and the development of youth and adult partnerships.
Young people all over the country and in my home state of Indiana are serving their communities by both recognizing community needs and then finding solutions and even in some cases creating non-profit organization to solve those needs. They are giving of their time, talent, and treasure by dedicating many hours of volunteer service and raising funds for their cause. These youth are leaders, strong role models that lead by example so their peers will also take action and care. Lastly, youth have the ability and passion to engage others to make a difference, regardless of an individual’s age.
Through research and evaluation I’ve also found that the Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets are supported through youth philanthropy experiences. Interviews with youth participants report that they’ve learning life-skills through youth philanthropy programs/service-learning.
These include the following:
• Consensus Building
• Critical Thinking Skills
• Organizational Skills
• Understanding Group Dynamics
• Facilitation Skills
• Relationship Building
So I’ll conclude with a question, why should you be thinking about incorporating youth philanthropy in your organization? Because providing philanthropic educational resources for youth and their families can nurture the spirit of generosity among all, regardless of income level. Engaging youth in giving and serving is an integral part of developing and maintaining a vibrant community and is an investment in building a base of committed nonprofit volunteers, potential board members, and future donors who realize the difference they can make individually and collectively for their community.
As educators and the staff of nonprofit youth-serving organizations we have an obligation to help and educate others understand what philanthropy can do for their schools, community and society at large.
Visit these helpful links to learn about program and resources that will help you integrate concepts of giving and serving (youth philanthropy) into your programs.
For breakfast I had homemade gluten free “everything” muffins (cranberries, nuts, yogurt, banana, apple sauce, etc.) and a banana. Every breakfast includes two cups of coffee at home and one more for good measure at work!
Author Profile: @jillgordon