Because children are young and inexperienced in the ways of the world, we might be tempted to discount their opinions and contributions. But Jesus said, “[T]he kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14). The innocence and joy that children bring to their pursuits often serve as powerful examples to cynical, world-weary adults. In recent years charitable organizations have begun to appreciate young people’s sincere hearts and potential for playing a vital role in American philanthropy. Below are articles and papers that examine the increasing number of teens and adolescents who are gaining new responsibilities in philanthropic organizations—from volunteering in hands-on projects to raising funds and even sitting on grant-making boards. By allowing children to develop an interest in philanthropy while they are young, many hope that this interest will carry over into adulthood, bringing with it a new, very significant generation of givers.
Generation Y’s Goal? Wealth and Fame: Ask Young People about Their Generation’s Top Life Goals and the Answer Is Clear and Resounding: They Want to Be Rich and Famous
Sharon Jayson. USA Today, January 10, 2007.
What is the dream of many 18-to-25-year-old Americans today? This cover story reports that an overwhelming 81 percent say that “getting rich” is their main goal in life. In a culture that celebrates the luxurious lifestyles of the rich and famous through mass media, this is not surprising. Behind this desire for wealth, however, lies an identity crisis. As one professor of media and popular culture observes, “The way to distinguish ourselves is by our stuff.” In the words of one college student, “Being poor and being a person of color and not wanting to fit the stereotype, my first year I bought things. I bought a lot of clothes and stuff for my room, and I bought my laptop. If my friends wanted to go out, I’d go out and spend on food when I knew I didn't have the money.” Many young Americans believe that we are only as valuable as the materials we possess. The bleak picture in this article of young Americans obsessed with material possessions underscores the church’s urgency to “be in the world, but not of the world,” as Scripture commands; identifying with our material belongings hinders us from being generous givers while identifying with Christ enables us to be cultural transformers.
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Young People’s Role in Charities Is Growing
Robert Franklin. Minneapolis-St. Paul (Minn.) Star Tribune, July 28, 2004.
Sarah Andersen, chairwoman of the Minnesota-based Hugh J. Andersen Foundation, says that when it comes to young people involved in philanthropy, they “can do a lot more than baking cookies, setting up chairs and handing out programs.” Andersen started the New Generation Fund for family children ages 6 to 21 to run. The first year, the children gave $1,000 to three organizations. The second year, the children gave $50,000 to 15 organizations. In its third year, the children hope to give more than $100,000. Children can be taught to do almost anything in philanthropy—from reviewing grant proposals, to raising money and volunteering for hands-on projects. Recognizing the untapped potential of their youth, the state’s Charities Review Council has begun implementing youth philanthropy curriculum in two junior high schools. The goal is to present even more children with a healthy sense of what philanthropy is, why it is important, and how they, as children, can be involved.
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Connecting With Generation Y: Sensing a Big Opportunity, Many Charities Look for Ways to Entice the Newest Wave of Potential Donors
Elizabeth Greene. The Chronicle of Philanthropy, July 24, 2003.
Sensing a big opportunity, many charities are looking for ways to entice the newest wave of potential givers. While many nonprofit organizations discount Generation Y as being too young to make a dent in their coffers, others see a big opportunity. At more than 70 million Americans, Generation Y is bigger than Generation X and comparable in size to the baby-boom generation. Although Generation Y seems more difficult to reach than previous generations, some of this may be accounted for by the massive difference between them and their parents. Young givers have different propensities and interests from their parents, and when they are reached, they also can make significant contributions to nonprofit works.
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Charity's Youth Movement: Children and Teenagers Take on Nonprofit Leadership Roles
Domenica Marchetti. The Chronicle of Philanthropy, January 9, 2003.
Teenagers are becoming vital players in the nonprofit world by starting their own charities, sitting on grant-making boards, raising money, volunteering, and leading efforts to solve problems in their neighborhoods, schools and beyond. Nonprofit leaders say the number of kids doing charity work today—and the extent of their philanthropic commitments—reflects the payoff of nearly two decades of work by nonprofit and government leaders to increase teenage involvement.
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Changing the Face of Giving: An Assessment of Youth Philanthropy
Matt Rosen. Youth Leadership Institute and the James Irvine Foundation.
Youth philanthropy is spreading. Occurring in more than 250 programs across the nation, the practice of giving young people a voice and role in grant-making is evolving from sporadic experiment to emerging movement. This extensive 50-page report, commissioned by the James Irvine Foundation and written by the Youth Leadership Institute, gives summaries and detailed analysis as it examines youth philanthropy and recommends future directions for the field.
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High-School Senior and Peers Are a Growing Force for Philanthropy
Debra E. Blum. The Chronicle of Philanthropy, January 13, 2000.
Charities are beginning to look to the younger generation of teenagers as a vital force in the philanthropic world as emerging programs in philanthropy around the country seek to get young people more involved—as decision makers, fund raisers or key volunteers. But even as more charities reach out to young people, the growing appeal of philanthropy may be coming from the kids themselves. Observers note that kids today are more knowledgeable about social issues than in the past—in part because so much information is available on the Internet—and thus are more motivated to become involved. Community-service requirements and school classes that teach youngsters about civic involvement and volunteerism also may be boosting interest in charitable work. In addition more young people simply may be acting on their natural tendencies to try things in new ways and to follow the example of peers.
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Youth Service Fuels Charity: Adults Give More Time and Money If They Volunteered as Youngsters, Report Says
Philanthropy Journal, November 20, 2002.
As stated in a report by Independent Sector and Youth Service America, youth is a driving force in American philanthropy. Americans who volunteer when young are more generous adult donors and volunteers than are those who don’t volunteer when young. “The clear message of Independent Sector’s research is that the future of individual nonprofit organizations, the volunteer sector and society as a whole depends on young people finding meaningful opportunities to serve,” says Silvia Golembek, vice president for programs at Youth Service America. “If adults who volunteered as children contribute more of their time and money to charitable organizations than those who did not have service experience in childhood, then plainly an investment in today’s youth volunteers is an investment in the future.”
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