Evolving Projects

Comprehensive platform illuminates next generation philanthropy leadership

With the biggest intergenerational transfer of wealth upon us, it’s important to look to the next generation of leaders and question how they give and what they care about. As we discovered, there’s a large movement of youth grantmakers giving back to their communities, and our research shows that this is not a fluff story. Youth are driving significant dollars ($17M+ over the last decade) using strategic approaches to philanthropy.

One of the most widely scaled and growing approaches to participatory grantmaking, youth grantmaking programs, directly engage young people in making funding decisions. There are currently over 845 programs around the world hosted by private foundations, community foundations, nonprofit organizations, religious institutions, and public and private schools embracing this strategy.

Through our Knowledge Services team, we create portals that combine multiple resources, including data visualization tools, news, and original research, to illuminate critical topics in philanthropy in a comprehensive and cohesive way. “Landscape” projects like YouthGiving.org are dynamically designed to make it easy for donors to scan the landscape to reveal opportunities, needs, and gaps and see how their past, current, and future efforts fit into the broader field. YouthGiving.org represented a unique audience and nexus of interest in the evolving philanthropy sector, garnering widespread interest and attention. The project was funded by five different types of foundations and led by a 23-person international and multi-generational advisory committee.

This project shines a spotlight on the impact our future leaders of the sector—and the world—are having now. We have taken lessons from how young people approach all aspects of the grantmaking process, from crafting RFPs to conducting a needs assessment to reaching consensus to sharing funding decisions, and are integrating these lessons into broader sector-wide knowledge sharing. And, we are starting to see how youth in programs around the world are getting to the root of longstanding issues—from peacebuilding in Ukraine to domestic violence in New York to police violence in California—through new solutions. And, adults play a key role too; they have to truly shift power to young people. For Khayriyyah MuhammadSmith, a 22 year old with five years of grantmaking experience,

“One really important component of my youth grantmaking time were the adults who supported us. I was very fortunate to have an advisor who did her very best to let us truly take ownership over the different tasks throughout the grantmaking process. Often as a young person trying to make change, it can be difficult to get adults to hear you, but because of dedicated adult advocates and advisors, I was always reminded that my opinion and thoughts were valuable and important to making sustainable change.”

A fun surprise of this work: Our Foundation Center home communities have a significant amount of activity and interest on this topic. Successful events in our Cleveland, New York, and San Francisco locations attracted foundations and organizations currently engaging young people in grantmaking (both adults and young people themselves), and also those simply interested exploring this movement. The broad interest extended to major publications including Barron’s, the New York Times, and Inside Philanthropy.