The aims for a youth philanthropy board are great: learn about the grantmaking process, perform due diligence and grant funds appropriately, go through the process seriously and with intentionality, and take on responsibilities surrounding money that are historically reserved for a few, select adults in our community. Yes, the task is large and the weight of this responsibility is important for young people to understand, but this type of learning does not need to be dry, inactive or (dare I say it) boring! Here at the Jewish Teen Funders Network, we recognize that young people have the capacity to be changemakers and have the energy to make this process active and alive! So, whether your group is creating its mission statement, or going through piles of paperwork, here are some easy ways to ensure that your sessions are teen-friendly and energized:
- Opening ritual
As we used to say at summer camp: “do it once and it’s tradition.” Create traditions for your group by having a repeated action or activity at the start of every session. This could be a game, or a sharing exercise, or something weird and unique. One group I know would set up a “top ten” topic at the start of each meeting and each participant would offer humorous items to the “top ten” list throughout the session. These little moments of community building foster a bond between the participants, can serve as an icebreaker, and create a known pattern that can be both comforting and enjoyable to the participants.
- Flex those theater muscles
Role-playing is an excellent way for participants to experience a situation from someone else’s point of view, or to practice interactions before the real thing. Before a site visit, you can hand out different roles for your group to play out in improvised skits: the youth board group leader, the non-profit representative, the service-user, a difficult treasurer, etc. Going through these motions beforehand can help participants prepare, build confidence, and also observe each other in action. Those not involved in the improvisation scene can “freeze” the action, offer advice, or throw in “curve ball scenarios” as the skit progresses. You can even expand the game so that each character has to say certain lines during the skit (some can be relevant to the scene, some can just be silly!). Keeping it light-hearted, yet relevant, will make for an enjoyable and useful activity.
- Change it up
As a species, humans do not have a very long attention span! According to research, older children and adults only have up to 20 minutes of attention for a particular task. Has your group been sitting still for more than 20 minutes? Try incorporating movement into your session planning – maybe switching seats or locations around the room. Do your participants need a change of pace? Try breaking up activities with short, relevant ice-breaker games.
- Have a party
Doing something that requires lots of reading and paperwork? Have you received a huge pile of grant proposals that just have to be read? Turn it into a party! Decide how the proposals are to be read and divided amongst the group and then create a relaxed atmosphere for the participants to tackle it! Try playing music, or having different snacks at each table next to the proposals, maybe even lay out beanbags and cushions so the participants can relax into their reading. Sometimes there is a large job that just has to be completed so why not incorporate some smiles into the task!
Work with our youth philanthropy boards is hands-on and real. The money we donate, the communities we help, the friendships we foster, the impact we make – all real! Let’s inject some energy into all the elements that go into our philanthropy process and show all philanthropists of this world how to do it teen style!
November 17, 2016
Hear from Other Experts
- Young Americans Optimistic About Creating Change, Survey Finds
- Memo to Foundation CEOs: Get a Youth Council
- Youth Want to Learn About Social Activism in Schools