What do bat houses, park benches, and proms for senior citizens have in common? All were projects organized by children and teens in America’s heartland thanks to a partnership between a family foundation and rural community foundations. The goal is to prepare teens to be tomorrow’s community leaders and philanthropists. Their model, which has evolved over almost 25 years, has been a powerful example for the country’s youth philanthropy movement.

A core belief of the Dekko Foundation in Northeast Indiana is that “Great things happen when adults step back and consider what children need to grow and develop.” The foundation’s grantmaking aims to equip young people with the skills, knowledge, and character they need to be self-sufficient in adulthood. A key component of that is youth philanthropy. Dekko Foundation has 13 “Youth Pods” in the four states where the founder had business or personal interests—Indiana, Iowa, Alabama, and Minnesota—and most are affiliated with community foundations.

“The grantmaking is some of the most important work they do,” says Schroeder. “We give them the power to affect their community and they take that responsibility seriously.”

This family foundation/community foundation partnership of nearly 25 years has a triple bottom line—making a positive impact on communities, on youth, and on the foundations.

Hundreds of children and teens are already making their communities better. The Youth Pods have engaged teachers, adult volunteers, and nonprofits serving at risk youth, the homeless, and seniors, just to name a few. Relationships across generations have formed.

Read the full article about the next generation of philanthropists by Susan Crites Price at the National Center for Family Philanthropy.