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An interview with Former YIP Chair, Pat Bjorhovde

Teaching Philanthropy: Focus on Youth
By Tom Watson, Today's Fundraiser

An interview with Patrocia O. Bjorhovde, CFRE, former Chair of AFP's Youth in Philanthropy Task Force; by Tom Watson, writer for Today's Fundraiser.

Pat served as Chair of the Youth in Philanthropy Task Force of the AFP in 2003 and 2004, and she was editor for the Summer 2002 issue of New Directions in Philanthropic Fundraising, 'Creating Tomorrow's Philanthropists: Curriculum Development for Youth.' Today's Fundraiser interviewed Pat in 2003:

TF: Pat, you're speaking on "Growing New Philanthropists: How to Create Dynamic Youth in Philanthropy Programs." Why is this so important to the nonprofit sector?

BJORHOVDE: Philanthropy is the foundation of the nonprofit sector, and the nonprofit sector is a critical part of our society. If we want to maintain our society, then philanthropy must remain strong. That means we need philanthropists, individuals like you and me, who give their time, their skills and their money, in any amount, for the benefit of all of us. But unfortunately, philanthropists aren't born -- they are made. If we want to ensure future generations of volunteers and donors, we must teach our children how to be philanthropic and why it is so important that they be philanthropic. This topic is about how to build effective programs to teach philanthropy.

TF: Can you give an example or two of such a dynamic program?

BJORHOVDE: There are a number of programs that are doing remarkable work in teaching young people about philanthropy and giving them hands-on experiences in giving and serving. The Michigan Council on Foundation's large-scale program, Learning to Give, is creating curricula and training teachers in grades K-12 how to incorporate lessons on philanthropy, from history to practice, into the core public school curriculum in Michigan and a growing number of other states.

The AFP New Jersey Chapter has developed a state-wide program embraced by the New Jersey Department of Education. AFP members provide training and support for teachers in grades K-8, who then teach philanthropy in their classrooms and develop philanthropy projects in their communities for hands-on learning.

In Indiana, Community Partnerships with Youth, Inc. is working with many out-of-school youth-serving organizations, providing the resources for young people to learn about and practice philanthropy. I'm very pleased that the leaders of each of these organizations will be joining me on a panel to share their knowledge and experience with attendees at the conference.

TF: Can national organizations take advantage of the youth factor -- and how?

BJORHOVDE: National organizations have to take the lead in making a commitment to involve young people in their philanthropic work. Once the commitment has been made, they must develop specific programs and resources that can be delivered to state or local chapters, and embark on an ongoing effort to encourage local chapters to involve youth as volunteers in their programs, as donors and fundraisers, and as participants in their governance.

TF: On the local level, what's the best way to get young people involved?

BJORHOVDE: First of all, young people have to learn about philanthropy and its critical role in our communities and our society. That means getting the subject of philanthropy into the schools, into after-school programs, youth-serving organizations and even religious classes. Then young people have to be given opportunities to take on their own projects and experience what it means to make a difference. And finally, young people have to be invited to help. That sounds simple, but in reality, not enough organizations reach out to youth to involve them in their philanthropic work. It's a big task, but it is very important to our future and we have to find a way to make it happen.

TF: (The late) Fred Rogers, the best-known kids television host in history, told onPhilanthropy.com in an interview that involving children in philanthropy shouldn't be about creating an "us and them" scenario -- that is, just asking kids to help those less fortunate. His point was that everyone is needy in life, and that if children really understand that, philanthropy will be prominent in their lives. What's your reaction to that viewpoint?

BJORHOVDE: Essentially, I agree with his statement that everyone needs help at some point, implying that all of us are "needy" from time to time. However, I believe the concept of philanthropy is much broader than only helping others in need. Children must be taught that contributions of money, goods, time or services not only provide food for the hungry, aid to the homeless and care for the ill, but also make possible advances in healthcare, opportunities in education and the arts and the preservation of our natural environment.

When children understand how important philanthropy is to their own lives and the lives of all of us, and have the opportunity to experience giving and serving themselves, then philanthropy will become prominent in their lives.



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