By Todd Cohen
A Michigan initiative to help young people learn about philanthropy is being expanded throughout the U.S.
Launched four years ago by the Council of Michigan Foundations and funded with $5 million from a handful of foundations, Learning to Give has developed nearly 500 lesson plans that have been built into teaching plans and requirements for Michigan students in kindergarten through high school studying history, geography, government and economics.
Those lesson plans are available for free to teachers anywhere at the Web site of Learning to Give.
Now, Learning to Give has teamed up with Independent Sector, a coalition of national nonprofits, to expand the program to 90,000 public school sand 25,000 private schools serving 54 million K-12 students.
Learning to Give, which is raising money for the expansion, plans to introduce the program initially in nine states through partnerships with universities that offer graduate programs both in philanthropy and education, says Kathy Agard of the Council of Michigan Foundations, who directs the project.
Learning to Give grew out of an effort that the Michigan Council launched 12 years ago with funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in Battle Creek, Mich., to expand philanthropy throughout the state and to get young people involved in philanthropy.
Supported with $65 million from Kellogg, that effort has boosted the number of community foundations in the state to 65 from 30, along with 34 affiliates.
Every one of those foundations and affiliates has a youth grantmaking committee consisting of students in eighth grade through 12th grade.
Those committees, in turn, prompted the council to launch its effort to improve the teaching of philanthropy.
“We knew we needed to prepare young people to become grantmakers because they were handling a substantial amount of money,” says Agard. “As we worked with young people, we realized how little they knew about the nonprofit sector.”