Presenting and participating at the Youth Philanthropy Connect International Conference in Anaheim this July was an enriching and fun experience for me, not only as a practitioner in youth philanthropy, but also as a parent. I was able to view the conference and the importance of youth philanthropy through a different lens because my ten-year-old daughter, Cara, joined me on this adventure. She participated in the Early Explorers track of the program and learned about philanthropy while engaging with her peers from across the US. While we have discussed what I do for work around the dinner table, this experience gave her a whole new perspective about why it’s important to help in your community. She was able to evaluate a grant proposal and, as part of a team, awarded funds to a local organization. She felt empowered, and I, through her enthusiasm, was excited in a new way about philanthropy. Of course, her favorite parts of the conference also included the delicious Mickey Mouse waffles and Mickey shaped pretzels.
There are 830 youth philanthropy programs worldwide, with 574 of those programs in the US alone. This really is a movement. The new website Youthgiving.org captures all of this information and more about the new youth philanthropy movement. For many years at the Foundation for MetroWest we offered our Youth in Philanthropy program because our trustees believed in the importance of educating the next generation of philanthropists. We developed our own curriculum that not only educates students but makes an impact on many nonprofits in MetroWest.
Reflecting on this conference, I realized that the Foundation has been a pioneer in the field, but there are many other colleagues across the country to collaborate with and share ideas. We are all aiming to make an impact on youth in our communities. We know that youth are learning from their experiences of becoming young philanthropists. There is now evidence that when young people participate in youth philanthropy programs, there is a strong connection to 22 of the 40 developmental assets* of a well-rounded child. Youth become more responsible, caring, engaged in learning, and culturally competent, all while providing positive peer influences and developing integrity. Isn’t that what we want for all of our children?
As an adult who works regularly with our youth, designs curriculum, and thinks broadly about how the Foundation can further engage in the youth philanthropy movement, I return from this conference with new ideas, innovative tools, and connections with many new colleagues from across the country. I look forward to bringing these ideas and connections into the work I do at the Foundation to make our Youth in Philanthropy programs even stronger.
*40 Development Assets for Adolescents, Search Institute, Minneapolis, 2006