By Mark Larimer, Foundant Technologies
In the fall of 2015, after three years sponsoring Youth Philanthropy Connect (YPC) during events across the country, Foundant brought the youth philanthropy movement home to Bozeman, Montana. A partnership with our local Bozeman Area Community Foundation (BACF) and Bozeman Youth Initiative (BYI) allowed us to offer a grantmaking program to local youth ages 13–18, the Youth Giving Project. Foundant supported the program financially, BACF offered expertise and community connections, and BYI added youth development experience to the mix.
Part of our goal in starting the Youth Giving Project was to use the knowledge we’d gained from our work with YPC to jump-start our own project, while also keeping our eyes on lessons we learned along the way that we could then share with others.
Ask your community
Asking questions is the first, and probably most important, step we took in creating our program. Asking questions offers not only the opportunity to establish need but also opens doors you might not have known were there. Talking with constituents of your program and your potential grants can shed light on needs, confirm (or, in some cases, debunk) your assumptions of what the community will support, and ultimately save you time on adjustments or corrections later on. This initial outreach is also your first step in creating partnerships that can help with your ongoing effort and offer the expertise you might need as you move forward.
In reaching out to our local Bozeman Area Community Foundation and Bozeman Youth Initiative, we gained the support and connections needed to move forward. Could we have done this on our own? Maybe. But not only would we have been “flying blind” when it came to finding community supporters and youth who would be a good fit, we also would have been creating a silo of information and resources in our own community. Basically, it comes down to the old adage: There’s no “I” in TEAM.
Collaborate with others
From our experience with both YPC and our local project, any time you can collaborate when working with youth grantmaking programs, the better. We now have double the resources—time, talents, treasures, and ties—to impact the youth within our program, and decrease the work for individuals. Instead of “competing” with local organizations, we are collaborating.
On a broader level, simply visiting YouthGiving.org is an important first step. There are numerous program schedules and agendas you can leverage for your own program, as well as successful lessons and activities that already exist. By researching beyond your immediate location and network, you can avoid reinventing the wheel and approach potential partners and participants locally with an arsenal of resources and information.
We knew that simply getting a year of youth giving under our belts wasn’t enough. We needed to keep the wheels in motion and understand what it would take for our program to sustain. Once again, we asked questions. What did our participants like best, or least? How could we improve the experience and create even more impact? Our youth stated they would prefer to meet more frequently next time around, so we’re restructuring our schedule to accommodate an even more involved group for our second year.
I’ve realized that the adult role in youth philanthropy is simply to be comfortable stepping back and allowing the youth to take ownership. This gives them the ability to grow into the role and make the decisions they want to make. Even though they may not do it exactly the way an adult would, I promise they won’t let you down.
~ Sammie Holzwarth, Foundant Product Implementation Engineer and Exponent Philanthropy Next Gen Fellow
Our 2016-2017 applications just came in, and we’re looking forward to another amazing group of local youth joining us in our second year of this exciting journey. We’ll continue to look for both ways to improve our program, as well as ways to share our experiences with our philanthropic community.
To learn more about how you can get started with your own youth giving program, visit YouthGiving.org.
Mark Larimer leads the Client Services and Marketing teams at Foundant Technologies. Foundant is an Outside Magazine Best Company to Work For and an Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Privately Held Company providing grants management solutions to over 850 grantmakers of all types and sizes. Mark’s high-tech career includes time with Extended Systems (acquired by Sybase) and RightNow Technologies (acquired by Oracle) prior to becoming a founding partner of Foundant in 2006.