"Developing" our future philanthropists
March 24th, 2008
Our Youth Grant Committee (YGC) makes me proud! Here are high school students who are learning the ropes about giving away money to various projects in and around the metro Grand Rapids area. In Michigan, community foundations were fortunate to have had a matching grant program to grow our unrestricted and field of interest assets through the vision and generosity of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation based in Battle Creek in the early 1990's. Part of the incentive was to involve young people in our grantmaking processes. We promised the Kellogg Foundation then and into the future that every community Foundation would keep the program excellent and vibrant. This was done as a matching grant effort through the encouragement and wisdom of Russ Mawby the President of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation at that time, developed more fully by Joel Orosz who was a Program Director then and Kathy Agard who wrote the grant as the Director of Community Foundation Services at the Council of Michigan Foundations. It has resulted in a phenomenal program that has launched many youth philanthropists around our state for the past 16 or so years! Wow - talk about looking to the future, Russ, Joel and Kathy are visionaries and now we are all reaping the benefits and will be for decades to come! We view this program as an integral and critical part of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation (GRCF) and one of the reasons that it has been so effective is due to the leadership of our staff member Cris Kooyer who is one of our Program Officers. A few years ago, our YGC leaders presented a proposal to our board of trustees to include a youth member on our board. It has been a fantastic experience for our board and for the YGC member. This year we are thrilled with the leadership and intelligence demonstrated by Margaret Kennedy a senior at Catholic Central High School. She is an amazing young woman from a very supportive and involved family. Her two older brothers served on the YGC and her younger brother is currently on it as well. A well rounded YGC family! Last year the YGC held a news conference to announce the results of their needs assessment on which their grants are based and it received broad coverage. It gave the YGC leaders an opportunity to learn how to write releases and promote their activities. They were very successful! In fact, the public information campaign received a Bronze award from our national organization, the Council on Foundations through the Communications program known as the Wilmer Shields Rich awards. More on these awards in a future post - GRCF won six awards! So the next time you are "compelled" to watch the TV program Oprah's Big Give and witness the "contest" between the participants on giving away money with some abandon, think of how it diminishes the importance of charitable giving. I am proud that the young people of the YGC are learning that giving away money is truly a serious responsibility and one that requires due diligence! Giving away money is not easy, nor should it be even when deciding on charitable gifts out of your own resources. It takes thought and an idea of what you would like to have happen with your gift. Here's to our Youth Grant Committee and the leadership demonstrated through the years!