I remember it like yesterday, sitting in a room with 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. This was part of a 4-H club’s service project, visiting an assisted living community and singing songs to bring holiday 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 a philanthropist regardless of their age, social-economic income, and family dynamics. But what is youth philanthropy and why should you integrate it into your organization?
The Youth Philanthropy Initiative of Indiana (YPII), founded in 2001, is dedicated “to growing lifelong philanthropists who give of their time, talent, and treasure for the common good.” YPII defines youth philanthropy as 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, we’ve found that the most successful youth philanthropy programs 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.
YPII’s philosophy has been to provide creative philanthropic resources, educational training, and technical assistance and research to youth-serving organizations, community foundations, schools and after-school programs. Our YPII resources can serve as valuable tools for adults who are parents, teachers, and mentors in a young person’s life. Expanding on YPII’s mission of “growing lifelong philanthropists”, we invited Stephanie Stilson, PhD., Developmental Psychologist, Naflion, LLC, to give her insights of youth development and how that might correlate with a young person learning and experiencing youth philanthropy. Three key insights came from her issue brief, Nurturing Lifelong Philanthropy: Developmental Insights.
- Start early and be sticky by introducing and nurturing caring behaviors.
- Focus on behaviors and actions to help youth form habits that reflect the 3T’s: time, talent, and treasure.
- Plan for expanded youth philanthropy influences by providing meaningful opportunities for service and learning, incorporate the Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets.
Young people connected with foundations, youth-serving organizations, and schools 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 YPII has 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 the following life-skills through youth philanthropy programs/service-learning.
- Consensus Building
- Critical Thinking Skills
- Organizational Skills
- Understanding Group Dynamics
- Facilitation Skills
- Relationship Building
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. Philanthropy supporting organizations 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.