Two High School Giving Circles funded by two donors in 2018 have concluded their meetings by each recommending $10,000 in grants. On 10 consecutive Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, the trophy bowl of chocolates in the Community Foundation entrance was raided as the members of the High School Giving Circles entered for their meetings. The students’ enthusiasm for philanthropy energized CFWN staff as we shared our office with them each week.
Nonprofit professional, Karen Senger, expertly led the Circles with a curriculum that included discussion about the differences between rescue (band-aid) and transformational philanthropy. Students researched community needs and prioritized their charitable interests. The meeting conversations varied, but Karen kept the groups focused on the philanthropic topic of the day.
The Circles invited their chosen nonprofit executives in for interviews in order to learn more about their programs, funding priorities, and work in our community. More than one seasoned executive told staff that they were surprisingly nervous to be making their pitch for their grant proposal to the Circles and that the students asked thoughtful and hard-hitting questions. Joseph Galata, Executive Director of the Association of Foster Families said, “What impressed me the most about the students was the intelligence behind their questions. They asked about earmarking grants, administrative overhead, and program impact. The Circles knew what they wanted to accomplish.”
Karen Senger felt that the students were interested in causes and projects they had heard about outside of the Giving Circle meetings, especially those that were relevant to themselves or their contemporaries. She said, “A take away for nonprofit organizations is to continue to build awareness about their causes and programs and be sure they’re reaching youth.”
Community Engagement and Stewardship staff asked the students to evaluate their experiences to help measure the impact the Giving Circles have on our community and to ensure the program is effective. Two students were especially revealing about how participating in the Circle affected them.
When asked about Youth Homelessness William Lu said, “That could be me, if I were not so privileged in all aspects of my life. They have to deal with all of that and all I have to do is focus on my studies.” “I am going to see if I can convince more people to donate to these causes.”
When asked about Interviewing the nonprofits Annabelle Choi said, “It was almost surreal.” “I feel like I could be doing more, especially now that I see all these incredible people, I was really impressed by the people at all the organizations. I would like to be more like them.”
We hope the donors who funded the High School Giving Circles are as impressed with the Circles’ grants as we are.
Applications for 2019 High School Giving Circle members will be available at regional high schools and on our website in early September 2019.