Engaging the Next Generation of Philanthropists

next generation

By Molly Galo, Senior Consultant, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Too often, we hear adults grumbling about the teenagers of today. How many times have you heard someone say about teens “they’re so entitled,” or “they only think about themselves?” While that may be true about some teens (some adults, too!), I’d like to highlight some model teenagers, being empowered through a program of the Oak Park and River Forest Community Foundation, to become the next generation of philanthropists.

The aptly named Future Philanthropists Program (FPP), begun five years ago, helps students learn the art and science of philanthropy. The Program has four over-arching goals:

1. To instill knowledge and understanding of the important role of philanthropy in the community and in society.

2. To give teens a leading role as primary decision makers in the important process of allocating grants to charitable organizations.

3. To teach teens the art and science of fundraising in order to plan and implement activities that result in charitable contributions.

4. To provide opportunities for teens to express and demonstrate volunteer leadership activities in the community.

Here’s how FPP works: each year, approximately 20 juniors in high school are accepted into the highly competitive, two-year program, and are charged with distributing $25,000 in grant funds to worthy local nonprofit organizations. Over the two years, students gain hands-on experience working with the three pillars of philanthropy: learning to give responsibly to charitable efforts, raising money for community betterment, and volunteering one’s time and talents.

During the first year, juniors learn the ins and outs of investing for nonprofit purposes, distribute requests for proposals, review grant requests and make site visits, then award money to qualified organizations they have collaboratively selected.

Year two, senior year, is devoted to learning the art and implementation of fundraising, execution of promotional techniques, volunteering, exploring social entrepreneurship, and examining applicable college coursework options.

All of this happens through the guidance of some pretty great adults — community members selected for their own philanthropy, fundraising, and volunteer activities. These mentors give their time and talent to guide the juniors and seniors through the two-year journey.

These are some teens — and adults — we can all be proud of. Wouldn’t be it be wonderful if every community started a program like this? For more information, visit http://www.oprfcf.org/index.php/future-philanthropists .

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