Inside or outside of the philanthropic sector, most people would never expect youth to vote on foundation boards, conduct and publish research, distribute hundreds of thousands of grant dollars, and host conferences for philanthropic professionals. I certainly didn’t. Yet, by the end of this year, as a youth participant in philanthropy programs, I will have performed all of those tasks.

By serving as a board trustee for the Council of Michigan Foundations and as a grantmaker for the Grand Rapids Community Foundation’s Youth Grant Committee, I learned that uplifting youth philanthropy invests not only in the philanthropic sector’s future but in its present as well. I noticed how youth representation improved the equitable distribution of funds, outreach, communications, and program design within nonprofits. Internationally, nonprofits have recognized these benefits and are boosting youth involvement in decision-making and programs. As a result of this and other efforts, the definition of who is a philanthropist is expanding.

“[Y]outh representation improved the equitable distribution of funds, outreach, communications, and program design within nonprofits.”

However, despite the increasing opportunities within youth philanthropy, holistic information on its current status and development is severely limited. Most organizations focus their evaluations internally or locally. Data regarding youth philanthropy are fragmented and idiosyncratic, being derived from select programs. Consequently, there are gaps in our understanding of program efficacy and the role young people have in shaping philanthropy. Without a comprehensive look, how will the support for and development of youth philanthropy be informed?

By conducting research at the Johnson Center, my hope is to help solve this issue by enabling others to understand the benefits of, need for, and gaps in youth philanthropy from a global perspective. I reviewed 300 papers, studied dozens of programs, and consulted professionals from the United States, Brazil, China, and Bulgaria. Through this research, I identified four significant findings in youth philanthropy. My hope is that this blog will provide information for anyone who wants to support the present and future of youth philanthropy and, through it, the broader philanthropic sector.

Read the full article about youth philanthropy by Camille Gerville-Reache at Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy.