For over 20 years, youth in every county of Michigan have had a centralized access point to philanthropy – this vehicle has been community foundations. Through a challenge grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, community foundations statewide raised funds to support permanently endowed funds to benefit youth in perpetuity. The unique aspect of these youth funds is that they are overseen by local youth. At CFSEM, our Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) is a permanent advisory committee to our board, and is made up of 20 high school and early-college young people from the seven-county region of southeast Michigan. The programs that have been funded through our youth leadership funds, directed by the YAC, not only focus on benefitting youth, but are programs that promote building youth as leaders. Recent grants are listed here. To learn more about the impact of youth philanthropy in Michigan, click here.
As I have written in a previous blog post, I was once part of my community foundation’s YAC and served in various roles throughout my time in high school. YAC was probably my favorite extra-curricular activity because of how different it was from every other group. We were able to make decisions on how funds were allocated to programs, and we also followed up and often volunteered with those organizations that were providing services to youth in the community. YAC was a space where it was clear that we – the youth – were identified and respected as the experts. We had a strong group of adult advisors, but their role was to guide us and help us understand the big picture of community philanthropy, the mechanics of grantmaking, and strategies for community engagement. Beyond that, it was our committee of young people who conducted site visits, reviewed applications, and even interviewed peers to serve on the YAC.
Fast forward to almost 15 years later, I am sometimes an observer in the CFSEM YAC meetings – and I’d have to say that the conversations that take place in that room are some of the most thoughtful, intentional, and critical that I experience. YAC members ask the toughest questions – whether it is of each other, of a potential grantee, or of the CFSEM staff. YACers are always prepared to challenge the status quo, and it is quite inspiring to witness. Too often young people are not given a platform to grow in their leadership, and when they are, that leadership growth may be stifled. YAC is a space that encourages personal and professional leadership growth, fosters a learning community and, above all, makes engaging in philanthropy fun and accessible.
Having experienced firsthand the impact of philanthropy on my life and the lives of those in my community, I can say that it is never too early to start getting involved! Feel free to reach out to us if you’re a young person (or know one) who might be interested in applying to serve on the YAC, or if you think your youth leadership project might be a good fit to apply for a grant. We accept applications to serve as a member of the YAC every Spring, and we accept applications to our youth leadership grants twice a year.
In addition to the grants that are made through our youth leadership funds, the Community Foundation supports youth related work year round through various grantmaking opportunities. One unique fund that specifically supports children and youth is the DADA Charitable Foundation Fund – a partnership with the Detroit Auto Dealers Association that began 17 years ago. The fund is supported by proceeds from the North American International Auto Show Charity Preview, and serves as an opportunity for the DADA to extend their impact on children and youth-serving organizations in southeast Michigan. In 2016, the dollars granted through this fund nearly doubled in size from previous years – this press release details the projects of the fifteen grantees that received a combined total of $534,000. To date, the DADA Charitable Foundation Fund has distributed more than $5 million through more than 160 grants to nonprofit organizations across various program areas, including human services, youth development/leadership, arts and culture, education, and more. Additionally, the DADA Charitable Foundation Fund has a growing endowment of $2.3 million.
The Community Foundation continues to remain committed to promoting youth engagement in philanthropy, as well growing our portfolio of grantmaking for youth in our region. Whether through YAC, DADA, or other funds at CFSEM, we continue to look for opportunities to engage youth and youth-serving organizations.