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AFP Southern Arizona Chapter Youth in Philanthropy: Seventh Grade Success Story

July 20, 2016

By Lori Riegel, MJEd

(Two weeks ago, the Youth in Philanthropy (YIP) challenged members and chapters to start YIP activities on the local level. Below is a success story from the AFP Southern Arizona chapter we hope will inspire members and chapters to begin their own programs.) 

Ask a typical twelve or thirteen year old how he or she would like to spend a Sunday morning, and you will probably hear a variety of answers, such as sleeping, hanging out with friends or playing Pokemon Go.  The answer would most likely not include spending time in a classroom learning about philanthropy at Sunday school in a synagogue.

But this was the setting for the AFP Southern Arizona Chapter Youth in Philanthropy committee’s Spring 2016 project: working with the 7th grade class at Temple Emanu-El’s Kurn Religious School.  While we were enthusiastic about working with this group and rolling out our new streamlined YIP curriculum, it was apparent from our first visit that the part-time nature of the group we were working with, as well as the ages involved would both be challenges that we hadn’t necessarily considered ahead of time.

The YIP committee chose to work with a class from Temple Emanu-El due to the congregation’s stellar reputation for philanthropy and social action in Tucson.  In fact, our chapter had selected an active member of Temple Emanu-El for the National Philanthropy Day Volunteer Philanthropist Award shortly before we began working with the students.

Our goal in revamping the YIP curriculum was to make the students less dependent on committee members for their fundraising activities, in addition to moving the program away from the idea of fundraising. We wanted the program, and the students, to feel closer to the idea of fund development, which more closely matches what we do as development professionals. 

The new curriculum is designed around four sessions. Each session covers specific concepts, including helping students define what philanthropy means to them; selecting a cause they would like to raise funds for; developing a case for support; identifying who is in their circles to deliver their case for support to; and a granting process once funds are collected.  We held sessions with the 7th grade class once per month, for four months.  In between each session, the students delivered their case for support to friends, family members, teachers, coaches and other people in their lives, collecting funds for their selected cause of cancer research. 

A key step in this process was practicing delivery of the case for support.  Students practiced in small groups, then in front of the entire class, with feedback given by their peers.  We then went around the congregation, which is typically bustling with activity on a Sunday morning.  Students delivered their case for support to other parents, members of the congregation, and staff members around the building, in preparation for doing so out in the “real world.”

The AFP Southern Arizona Chapter agreed to match funds raised by students, up to $1,000.  The 7th grade students raised $1,036, with matching funds totaling $2,036, presented to the American Cancer Society. 

Although we definitely consider this pilot project a success, we learned a few lessons for next time as well. We’ll schedule the sessions with students closer together, instead of spacing them so far apart.  Perhaps compressing the sessions over two months instead of four would have worked a bit better. But that’s part of the learning process, and the chapter is already looking forward to our next YIP project.

Lori A. Riegel, MJEd, is the development director, southern Arizona, for the Arizona's Children Association in Tucson. She serves as the youth in philanthropy chair for the AFP, Arizona Southern Chapter. 

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