In 2006, I joined the Junior Board of the Frieda C. Fox Foundation and began learning about what it meant to be a philanthropist. At the time, it was almost unheard of for young people to be engaged in this way, and I remember craving interactions with people my age doing similar work. There weren’t resources to connect with others, and it was very easy to feel alone and isolated in this field.
When Youth Philanthropy Connect held its first conference in 2011, there were 35 people in the room; this was a huge feat for that time, and a big step forward for knowledge sharing in youth philanthropy. We shared our grantmaking stories and our giving processes, and spoke to each other around larger causes, passions, and curiosities, but at the time we weren’t poised to have discussions about systemic change or widespread philanthropic education.
This fall, five years later, Youth Philanthropy Connect held a strategic planning retreat to discuss the future of youth philanthropy, how to grow this movement, and how to educate the next generation to create systemic change. These conversations ranged from the spectrum of demographic groups we must reach to ideas around how to expand youth philanthropy into state and national curricula. Back in 2011, I would never have believed that we could have these conversations. We now have the infrastructure, power, and data to prove the worth of youth engagement and begin spreading its message and success stories across the nation and the world.
A movement is defined as, “an organized effort to promote or attain an end.” Measuring this movement is difficult. How can you really attach numbers or data to something that is so fluid? So far YouthGiving.org has recorded over $15.8 million dollars allocated by youth grantmakers since 2001 and over 845 youth philanthropy programs worldwide; however we can’t only turn to the numbers of youth philanthropists or grant dollars given to assess this movement. We have to also look at the actions of individuals across the world who spread good will, fight against injustice, and lift young people up.