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Teaching social justice to youth philanthropists

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Eric Rowles

Eric Rowles

Eric Rowles

The same grounds that sparked a civil rights movement marked the convening of a powerful cadre of adult advisors committed to engaging young people in social change through philanthropic giving.

On June 29, youth-philanthropy program advisors from Onslow, Pitt, Northampton, Nash, Edgecombe, Wake, Davidson, Guilford, Forsyth, Wilkes, Catawba, Burke, Rutherford, Cleveland, Mecklenburg and Jackson counties gathered at the International Civil Rights Museum in Greensboro for the 2010 Advisors Training Institute, hosted by the North Carolina Youth Giving Network and co-sponsored by American Express.

The Institute provided these adult advisors with additional planning tools to engage the over 400 young people that are actively involved in philanthropy through the North Carolina Youth Giving Network.

There are currently 20 sites for youth giving throughout the state, each with its own adult advisor that works directly with these young philanthropists to assess community needs and facilitate a youth-driven grantmaking process.

Since 2005, a total of more than $300,000 has been granted by over 800 young people throughout the state.

A key component of this year’s Institute was the expansion of tools to integrate a social-justice focus to youth philanthropic giving — from a community needs assessment module that identifies economic injustices, to a self-reflective inventory based upon the work of Leading To Change and the Anti-Defamation League.

Advisors were also given the opportunity to experience the catalytic voices of the civil rights movement through a powerful tour of the International Civil Rights Museum and the continued exploration of how to integrate the practice of equity and social justice into their work with young people.

Four of those advisers summarize their impressions of the Institute here:

Chris Fuller
-Communities in Schools of Rutherford County
-Advisor for Teens of Rutherford County Helping to Empower Students
“As an advisor with the NC Youth Giving Network, I have learned that teaching young people about philanthropy is a tremendous eye-opener for them. Often, teenagers are seen as being consumed by their own concern. However, when they are exposed to the principles and the power of philanthropy, the light comes on. They begin to realize not only that there are greater concerns in their own communities, but that through informed action, they can take part in addressing and solving those concerns. The sense of empowerment provided by this realization can be life-altering.”

Traci Poole
Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro
-Advisor for Guilford County Teen Grantmaking Council
“How do you modify the program to remain pertinent to returning members? These are the questions pinging around in my head as I descend into the bottom level of the International Civil Rights Museum. For the next four hours, I am the expert and the novice, the master and the apprentice. For four of the quickest hours I have experienced all month, I converse with other youth advisors. We laugh and get inspired. We plot and we plan. We become human sponges soaking up as many ideas, philosophies and support as we can to give to our kids later. Somewhere along the line, my toolkit has been restocked. My concerns have stopped pinging around in my head and the beginnings of an action plan have started.”

Kelly Lee
-North Carolina Community Foundation
-Advisor, Nash County Youth in Philanthropy (YIP) and Northampton County Youth of Extraordinary Spirits (YES)
“The Advisor Training Institute was amazing…the energy in the room was undeniable. I am excited for the upcoming year and the social justice element of the program. There is no doubt that young people across the state are embracing the power of giving. I am honored to be part of the team that is shaping these future leaders.”

Sally Learned
-United Way of Burke County
-Advisor, Burke County Teens in Action (TIA)
“I took away a renewed commitment to growing community support for youth philanthropy. Youth are doing great work across the state and it takes a community to support and raise up a new generation of informed philanthropists. I also took away a clear understanding that “youth” philanthropy and “adult” philanthropy may differ slightly in tools and vehicles, but in essence philanthropy is about capturing the highest energy and care that human beings can provide for their community and putting it on the ground in tangible form. Thank goodness for a new generation!”


Eric Rowles is president and CEO of Leading to Change, which coordinates the North Carolina Youth Giving Network. For more information, visit http://www.ncyouthgiving.org/.

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