By Ashley Cierlak-Lubben
Graduate Student, Grand Valley State University
Philanthropy is a term often misunderstood by the general public. Although the Merriam-Webster’s Tenth Collegiate Dictionary defines philanthropy as “goodwill to fellow men; and active effort to promote human welfare; a philanthropic act or gift; or an organization distributing or supported by philanthropic funds,” (Merriam-Webster 1993, 872) philanthropy is often perceived as the wealthy giving money to the poor (Agard 2002). It is important to understand this common misconception when discussing the definition of youth philanthropy, as it has often been used to correct this problem of varying meaning.
Youth Philanthropy is, at the broadest level, youth giving of their time, talents and treasure. However, to better understand the importance of the concept, these definitions are far more helpful: 1) about helping youth answer deeper questions, such as, “What do I care about?” 2) an approach to empower youth as leaders in their communities; and 3) means in which youth develop knowledge of and participate in philanthropic projects such as volunteering, grant writing, and community service (Rosen and Sedonaen 2001).
Youth Philanthropy is a recent trend in the United States, growing out of the late 1980s and early 1990s. It was at the beginning of the 1980s that many nonprofit organizations began to face financial struggles, specifically in regards to individual donor funding. This forced many organizations, such as National 4-H, to reevaluate their mission and programs (Swanson 2002). It was out of this reevaluation that a few organizations began to consider the future of the sector as a whole. Understanding that the nonprofit sector was reliant on the time, talent, and treasure of others, organizations started youth programs to ensure the future of the sector.
Around the country, a number of organizations were creating a future for philanthropy by starting youth initiatives. In 1985, one of the first youth initiatives was started by the National Capital Region Foundation of the District of Columbia to teach youth how to raise funds and create grants. Simultaneously, the National Crime Prevention Council and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation were establishing youth initiatives in the Midwest. Throughout the late 1980s, programs were developed in other areas such as New York, but many of them no longer exist (Rosen and Sedonaen 2001).
Starting in 1986, Michigan Community Foundations’ Youth Project (MCFYP) started a ten-year long endeavor, working with youth to develop their talent as grant makers. Over time, it became apparent that children did not fully understand the concept of philanthropy (Agard 2002). Therefore, the idea of teaching children about the concept of philanthropy was developed, and thus Learning to Give was born and established in 1997 (Agard 2002). Learning to Give (LTG) is a “comprehensive program” that includes classroom curriculum, professional development, materials and resources for educators, and publications (Agard 2002; Learning to Give).
In 1986, the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) started a pilot program for Teens as Community Resources in Boston. Then, in 1987, the NCPC started another pilot program in Indiana, based on the aforementioned program. Youth as Resources (YAR) grew and became a model for youth philanthropy programs across the country. In 1995, the Center for Youth as Resources was established to help coordinate the growing and expanding YAR programs (Center for Youth as Resources).
The expansion of the aforesaid programs, Youth as Resources and Learning to Give specifically, shows the continued importance of youth in philanthropy. Currently, there are over 80 YAR programs in 22 states and in many nations, including Canada and Poland (Center for Youth as Resources). As more schools, youth groups and church groups are influenced by programs such as LTG or YAR, the future of the philanthropic sector will be insured.
The concept of youth philanthropy is important for many reasons. The involvement of youth in philanthropy is beneficial to the individual, the organization, the community and society as a whole.
Youth flourish from being active in philanthropic initiatives (Rosen and Sedonaen 2001). Philanthropic deeds give kids ownership and pride. When young people are not involved in the community they often feel marginalized and unimportant (Crestinger 1999). Children and adolescents serving their community are given the control and assurance that is needed to build their sense of self worth. More tangibly, there is evidence that young people that volunteer, write grants, or fundraise, learn life skills, responsibility, and commitment as well as improve their grades and behavior in school (Safrit 2002; (Rosen and Sedonaen 2001).
Organizations in which young people work benefit from their service. Anecdotal and professional literature show numerous ways that youth organizations can benefit by including young people in their decision making processes. Many professionals in the field discuss how young adults and children offer new insights into problems along with enthusiasm and energy (Allen 2002; Swanson 2002). It is also important to remember that organizations are benefiting from youth philanthropy, in that young people are future potential donors (Allen 2002).
Society also benefits from youth philanthropy. The concept promotes a cultural shift, away from viewing youth as lazy, to a culture of viewing youth as assets to the community and society as a whole.
Ties to the Philanthropic Sector
The idea of introducing youth to the philanthropic sector stems from the need to perpetuate current giving and to expand the potential giving in the sector.
By involving youth in philanthropic deeds, research has shown that as adults, these individuals will continue to give and/or serve the sector in a variety of ways (Agard 2002). This is important, as 26 percent of the population, in 2002, was under the age of eighteen (Allen 2002).
Currently, the inclusion of youth in the philanthropic sector helps to develop a stronger sector by providing more energy and a fresh perspective on important community issues (ibid.).
Key Related Ideas
Public Act 444 was an act passed in Michigan that influenced at what age members of a board could vote. The age limit was lowered from 18 to 16 in 1988 (Calhoun 2002; Allen 2002).
Younger Americans Act (H.R. 17 and S. 1005) is new legislation that assures young people will provide access to resources in the community and services that will prepare them for young adulthood. In the legislation, the importance of community service is discussed (Calhoun 2002; National Youth Development Information Center).
Youth as Resources, although it is also the name of an important organization, it is also a concept important to the philosophy of youth in philanthropy. It is the idea that youth share responsibility and control with adults in a philanthropic setting. This concept is in contradiction to the idea of youth as recipients or youth as objects, where youth are viewed as subordinate to adults (Pratt, Hunt and Owen 1996).
Important People Related to the Topic
- Paula Allen: Along with John Calhoun, Allen was influential in developing Youth as Resources. She still serves as the director of the Youth as Resources of Central Indiana, and has written about the importance of youth in philanthropy.
- John Calhoun: Calhoun was appointed U.S. Commissioner of the Administration for Children, Youth and Families, by President Carter. As well, Calhoun was very influential in expanding the Youth as Resources program. Calhoun continues to be influential through his writing on the subject of youth in philanthropy. Calhoun is currently the CEO of the National Crime Prevention Council.
- Philip Lovell: Lovell is the Campfire’s director of Public Policy in Washington D.C. Lovell spearheaded the project to get the Younger Americans Act into congress.
Related Nonprofit Organizations
- Center for Youth as Resources was established in 1995, after great success of the program Youth as Resources (YAR). The center was established by the National Crime Prevention Council. It is an organization that oversees 80 YAR programs in 22 states, as well as, Canada, New Zealand, and Poland (http://www.ncpc.org/) .
- Learning to Give is an organization that works to provide tools for educators so that philanthropy is valued in our culture. Learning to Give provides curriculum, publications, and resources in hopes that philanthropy will be taught as “an integrated component of K-12 education” (http://www.learningtogive.org).
- National 4-H is the non-profit partner of 4-H and the Cooperative Extension System. The National 4-H has been a leading organization in promoting youth in philanthropy. This organization has worked to make youth philanthropy a central focus in many of its programs. As well, the National 4-H stands out for its inclusion of youth on its board of directors (http://www.4-H.org).
- The National Crime Prevention Council is a national nonprofit educational organization. It was responsible for the initial implementation of Youth as Resources in Boston and the subsequent creation of Youth as Resources in Indiana. John Calhoun, a leading person in the perpetuation of youth in philanthropy, is the current CEO (http://www.ncpc.org).
Related Web Sites
The Council of Michigan Foundations Web site, at http://www.cmif.org, contains information on numerous organizations dealing philanthropy and youth. The Web site also has resources and publications on philanthropy with an emphasis on grants.
The Learning to Give Web site, at http://www.learningtogive.com, contains information about how to educate students, grades K-12, to be philanthropically knowledgeable. The Web site serves as a resource for educators looking to implement philanthropic concepts into their curriculum.
The Youth Grantmakers Web site, at http://www.youthgrantmakers.org, offers resources, lessons and information on how to engage students in the grantmaking process. This Web site is a communication of the Michigan Community Foundation Youth Project (MCFYP) of the Council of Michigan Foundations.
Bibliography and Internet Sources
Allen, Paula. “Youth and Philanthropy: Legal Issues, Practical Consequences.” New Directions for Philanthropic Fundraising 38 (2002). 49-65.
Agard, Kathryn A. “Learning to Give: Teaching Philanthropy K-12.” New Directions for Philanthropic Fundraising 36 (2002). 37-53.
Calhoun, John. “Claiming Youth: A new Paradigm in Youth Policy.” New Directions for Philanthropic Fundraising 38 (2002). 67-81.
Center for Youth as Resources. Center for Youth as Resources. Accessed 03 October 2004. No longer available.
Crestinger, Mary. "The Benefits of Youth Philathropy Programs." (1999) Youth Philanthropy: A Framework of Best Practice. Accessed 03 October 2004. http://www.wkkf.org/Pubs/PhilVol/Pub557.pdf.
Learning To Give. Learning to Give. Accessed 01 October 2004. http://www.learningtogive.org.
Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. 10th ed., 1993. Springfield, MA. ISBN: 0877797099
National Youth Development Information Center. The Younger Americans Act. Accessed 07 October 2004. http://www.nydic.org/nydic/yaanew/YAA.html.
Pratt, Carolyn, Brend Hunt, and Jennifer Owen. “Conducting Needs Assessment.” National Youth Philanthropy Conference, 1996.
Rosen, M. and Maureen Sedonaen. “Changing the Face of Giving: An Assessment of Youth Philanthropy.” (2001). Youth Leadership Institute. Accessed 01 October 2004. http://www.irvine.org/assets/pdf/pubs/youth/Youth_Philanthropy.pdf.
Safrit, Dale. “Developing Effective Teen- Adult Partnerships through Volunteerism: Strengthening Empathy, Engagement, Empowerment, and Enrichment.” The Journal of Volunteer Administration 20 (2002): 4, 21-26.
Swanson, Nancy. “The Power of Youth in Philanthropic Fundraising.” New Directions for Philanthropic Fundraising 36 (2002). 91-99.
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