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Interview with Former YIP Chair Katherine Falk

An interview with Katherine Falk, CFRE, former Chair of AFP’s Youth in Philanthropy Task Force.

Q. Why are Youth in Philanthropy (YIP) programs so important?

A. They assure that values will be transmitted to our young people so that they can continue the philanthropic tradition in our country that makes our democratic society strong. We involve, educate and prepare leaders who will lead our government, corporations and philanthropic sector, and our economy.

Q. What do you hope youth gain by participating in philanthropy?

A. There are four things:
  1. Awareness of, and compassion for, the condition of other living beings
  2. A sense of responsibility for the common good
  3. The joy of knowing that they can make a difference in the lives of others
  4. Recognition of their own potential and power to make a difference, even as young as they are and that one doesn’t have to have a million dollars to give away to be a philanthropist; that it is about giving time, talent and treasure for the common good
Q. What are some key guidelines or tips for a chapter/member who is interested in setting up a youth program in their area?

A. Plan carefully. Consider several variables, including what is out there already. Check out the Youth in Philanthropy section of the AFP website—the Resource Guide—created by AFP’s YIP Task Force. It outlines the types of AFP YIP chapter programs that are already in existence. See which ones seem to fit with your chapter’s capabilities and interests and how many AFP member volunteers will dedicate themselves to the cause. Bring them in early on so they have ownership. Make sure the chapter’s leaders are in favor of the effort and involved. Figure out financial needs and from where the money will come.
Q. What makes a successful youth program?

A. For us, it has been about partnerships with AFP members, their organizations, our funders, educators and the New Jersey Department of Education all working together. The partnerships are full circle in the philanthropic sector, with businesses and government working together to help children learn about and develop philanthropy as an important part of life early on. Our corporate donors give on all levels. They provide space for us to train our volunteers and the elementary school teachers. They give financial support. They offer ideas, perspective and introductions to others. They come to our teacher orientation sessions and speak to the teachers. They visit classrooms and share insights with the students.

Q. How do you know it is successful?

A. The youth do wonderful projects and feel good about their accomplishments and themselves. The recipients of the nonprofits they serve are grateful for the gifts of time, talent and treasure they provide. They let us know how good it feels for them to be able to give because often young people don’t know they have the potential and power. AFP members are energized after they meet and help educate the youth. Their organizations benefit from this young army of volunteers and donors. There is a trickle up affect as well for parents and especially educators, who themselves are educated about philanthropy and how it extends beyond acts of kindness.

Q. If there was one message you would like to leave youth about philanthropy, what would it be?

A. Even as young as you are, and even if you don’t have lots of money to give away, you can make a difference in your own community and beyond by becoming civically engaged. It will add immeasurably to your own life.

Q. Is there anything that fundraisers may not realize when dealing with youth in philanthropy?
A. First, that youth are a viable volunteer and donor constituency that requires consideration like any other. If we reach out and communicate in ways that will be meaningful to them, and to which they can respond, they can achieve incredible results. Second, in some cases, fundraisers may need to invest time to nurture the youth and the projects, but, as with any education/cultivation process, this is planting seeds that will sprout, evolve and bloom over and over again.

An important fact is that youth want to be engaged in meaningful ways. They want to help and do good.

People are being exposed to philanthropy at younger and younger ages in the schools and through community youth groups. It is especially exciting for kids who are often on the receiving end, to have the opportunity to give back. Just as volunteers and donors often find they receive more than they give, in good feelings, fundraisers are often amazed by the unexpected payback when they nurture youth—in dollars, nonprofit recipient satisfaction and volunteer results and good feelings all around.

The landscape of giving is changing and diversifying with venture philanthropy and, in our web-based world of today, youth that have grown up with computers are an increasingly educated and sophisticated online philanthropic constituency. Youth, in general, with all the curricula out there targeted to philanthropy, are more informed and want to have a say for the organizations they support.

Q. What most alarms you (if anything) about philanthropy and today’s youth?

A. Twelve years ago, we were alarmed that values were not being transmitted to youth and we were concerned about the future of our democratic society. Even 5 years ago we were concerned about whether young people would carry on America’s philanthropic tradition, especially during this time of tremendous transfer of intergenerational wealth. There is a strong youth philanthropy Movement (with a capital “M”) in our country today, and there has been an upward swing. If anything, I am alarmed by colleagues who are unwilling to consider youth as a resource worth consideration and nurturing.

Q. Do fundraisers need to handle and steward today’s youth differently than they do an older donor? If so, how?
A. Yes and no. They need to communicate at age-appropriate levels and handle and steward today’s youth in ways that will be meaningful to them and help them feel engaged and valued. That is true for any donor constituency. The new AFP collegiate chapters, for example, are offering pizza at their orientation and training parties, I believe. Older donors might be offered different fare, so there are nuances. But the bottom line is that everyone wants to feel valued for their efforts, and while the stewardship checklist in general might be constant for every donor group, the details, the stewardship, need to be tailored. If I were to pick one area in the K–12 arena, it would be to pay special attention to written and verbal communication; to keep language simple and ideas concrete rather than abstract.
Q. What made the New Jersey Chapter’s YIP program so successful?

A. Tenacity and dedication by Youth In Philanthropy committee members; creative approaches to how to most effectively reach educators; the support of enlightened donors who provide their time, talent and treasure; and AFP volunteers willing to travel across the state and implement the new ideas developed every year.
Q. How has the chapter’s involvement contributed to the success of the program?

A. Chapter members comprise the YIP Committee, serve as presenters at our Teacher Orientation sessions, speak in classrooms and visit schools to recognize student efforts at the end of the school year. Our 10th Anniversary, chaired by the original founder of our New Jersey Chapter, past chapter president Margaret J. McLean, CFRE, was powered by New Jersey Chapter members and Bank of America; ETHICON, a Johnson & Johnson company; and Johnson & Johnson. The New Jersey Chapter makes an annual financial contribution to the program and supports the effort on numerous levels.
Q. What does your chapter hope to gain with the program?

A. An educated generation of volunteers, donors and fundraisers.
Q. Does your chapter have any future plans to expand or build upon its YIP program?

A. We are considering some new possibilities for how we organize the program and the ways we reach out regionally in New Jersey. We are looking at how we can help students understand that they are part of something bigger than their own class, school or even community, and that they are part of a growing Movement that extends across our country in every state and to other nations and continents, too.

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