Stories of Young Philanthropists
by Sarah Hopper
Founder & Principal Advisor, Sound Philanthropy, LLC
The other day my son came to me with his ideas for the Share money that he had set aside. He divides his allowance into “Spend, Save and Share,” and every year around the holidays, he makes a donation with his Share money. In years past, I presented ideas to him and we decided together where the gift would go. Once he bought food for the local food bank; last year he purchased toys for kids at Seattle Children’s Hospital. This year, however, he came to me with a plan: he decided to split the donation between the West Sound Wildlife Shelter and the Bainbridge Community Foundation. Eight years old and he no longer needs a philanthropic advisor! I couldn’t be prouder!
In my work with families, inspiring and empowering young philanthropists is often the best part—as a philanthropic advisor and a mother. Over the years, I have had the pleasure of working with groups of young siblings and cousins, helping to create philanthropy programs that are age‐appropriate and fun, and that are designed to open their minds to a world that is bigger than the one that often tends to revolve around them.
For example, I recently worked with a family foundation—one of my favorite long-time clients—to accomplish something wonderful: inspiring their third generation family members (ages 10-35) to participate—happily!—in the family’s philanthropy.
I’ve worked with this group of young people for three years, introducing them to the numerous rewards of philanthropy as well as encouraging their teamwork and shared sense of purpose. This year, on their own initiative they chose to focus on something they all found meaningful: grants for secondary education for girls in Guatemala, where the dropout rate can exceed 78% before completing primary school.
Global giving was new territory for both the youths and for the family foundation. With help from Sound Philanthropy, this group of courageous young people transformed their thinking and discovered a new level of sophistication as grantmakers. They stepped out of their comfort zone, worked hard to learn about the issues, participated in “Skype site visits,” and found great success in their decision‐making process. Their leadership and initiative inspired the Board of the family foundation to embark on a global giving cycle for the following year. In the words of a second‐generation family member: “Well done guys! We’re all very proud of the work that you’ve done; the due diligence and time that you’ve applied to this is evident. A lot of families would be envious!”
There are so many benefits to engaging the next generation in philanthropy; it may surprise you to learn that those benefits extend to the entire family. On several occasions, my work with the younger generations has caused the older generations to reflect on their purpose and practice at a deeper level, and our work together becomes more profound and meaningful as a result.