Why does Foundant support youth philanthropy? This question was posed to me many times during my attendance at the 2014 Youth Philanthropy Connect (YPC) conference. Generally my typical response is that, at Foundant, we feel the next generations deserve a seat at the table. We have seen that they won’t disappoint if given that chance, and may even surprise their philanthropic partners with their insights. But as I drove from Los Angeles to San Diego on I-5 in what felt like a perpetual traffic jam, I reflected a little more on why Foundant supports youth involvement in the philanthropic process. What I realized was it is linked to a central portion of our mission statement that reads, “Foundant will continually improve the granting experience.” I believe events like YPC significantly improve the granting experience for everyone involved.
First, Youth Philanthropy Connect is the only national conference focused solely on making youth better grant makers. The grantmaking process is complicated. Consider the number of events and learning opportunities focused on helping adults better fulfill their roles as staff and trustees of grantmaking organizations. Despite knowing that people learn easier when they are younger, most of the training on how to be an effective philanthropist occurs after life experience has created biases and habits. Engaging youth when they are young helps develop the habits we want our future decision makers to exhibit early on, without having to retrain them later.
Second, younger generations are much more likely to break down many of the barriers that make grantmaking inefficient. At Youth Philanthropy Connect, the second day is dedicated to having youth from grantmaking organizations and local nonprofit organizations in search of funds spend time together learning more about each other, and how the grantmaking process affects them differently. It is all too common in philanthropy today for there to be a wall separating the nonprofits from the grantmaking process. The youth attending YPC found many common interests and traits. The familiarity with the nonprofit organizations and, more importantly, the people involved made the grantmaking session – which concludes the conference – easier and better.
Finally, one attribute youth bring to the philanthropic process is their boldness and lack of fear. Youth see big problems and often immediately begin to suggest ways to solve them without considering the obstacles. I listened to many articulate and passionate discussions regarding education, environmental and even economic issues. These kids understand the severity of some of the problems we face locally, nationally and globally. It was obvious this generation does not feel they can or should wait for someone else to solve the problems for them.
After further reflection on the original question of why does Foundant support youth philanthropy, I would counter with this question. Why don’t more people actively support youth involvement in their grantmaking process and Youth Philanthropy Connect as an organization? The very real and very difficult problems we face will need youth in partnership with adults engaging the problems within nonprofits, as well as involved in the funding. The kids who attended YPC are simply better prepared to do this AND work within their foundations to assume some of the risks which will need to be undertaken to make meaningful change.