Youth attend grantmaking summit

By Leslie Williams

GREENSBORO, N.C. — A handful of community foundations across North Carolina are working to prepare young people for a lifetime of giving.

But first they have to prepare them for giving in the present.

On Oct. 21, more than 100 high school students from programs at six community foundations convened for the inaugural Youth Grantmakers Summit in Greensboro.

The summit brought attendees together for training on fundraising strategies, community assessment methods and techniques for facilitating organizational meetings.

“The benefit is that these young people really put their flag in the sand to say, ‘We are young people in North Carolina and we are here now. We’re not just the givers tomorrow; we’re the heroes of today,’” says Eric Rowles, a consultant to community foundations with fledgling youth-grantmaking programs.

The new skills young people acquired at the summit will be put to use over the coming months as they decide how to allocate funds ranging from $3,000 to $10,000, all of which total almost $50,000.

“It was really awesome for them to all come together and learn from each other,” says Cecelia Thompson, special projects assistant at the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro, one of the funders sponsoring a youth-giving program.

Graham Sheridan, a senior at Grimsley High School in Greensboro, says that was the most fascinating part of the summit, and that interacting with youth from other areas helped him gain new ideas on how to allocate grant money.

Sheridan is a first-time participant in the program, which is funded by the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro, and he serves on the Greensboro Youth Council, which received a grant from the foundation’s youth grantmaking program last year.

The summit also included the Community Foundation of Gaston County; Community Foundation of Davie County; Foundation for the Carolinas in Charlotte; North Carolina Community Foundation, which is coordinating a program in Vance County; and The Winston-Salem Foundation.

The six programs were started with the help of the California-based Youth Leadership Institute, a national youth philanthropy organization, and NCGives, a group working to increase giving among women, minorities and young people in the state.

The current grant cycle will be the first ever for the programs operated by the Gaston County foundation and the North Carolina Community Foundation. The other four programs, which awarded a total of nearly $30,000 last year, are in their second year of operation.

Thompson says that, as members of a second-year program, the participants from Guilford County were in the position to gain a fresh perspective on what they are trying to accomplish.

“It was definitely a growing experience,” she says, “realizing they are a part of something bigger than their home community.”

Rowles says organizers intend for the summit to be the first in a line of annual events.

“We see this as getting bigger and even more powerful in years to come,” he says.

Rowles says NCGives and its partners are continuing to look for ways bring more community foundations on board with youth grantmaking programs in North Carolina.

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