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High School Giving Circle a Hallmark of the Community Foundation

High School Giving Circle began as an experiment and is now a hallmark of the Community Foundation

Where would you grant $10,000 to help our community?

The first High School Giving Circle began in 2004, made up of Community Foundation's Board members' children. Parents wanted to share the experience of philanthropy and hoped it would affect their teens in a positive and long-lasting way. Each family contributed money to be granted and a facilitator was chosen. We waited and watched, eager to see what grants the Circle would recommend.  It was a surprise when the students eventually recommended devoting their entire grant budget to help pave the 1-mile path along I-80 near Verdi for the Tahoe-Pyramid Bikeway. They supported the Bikeway when it was miles and miles from completion because they could envision that it would help the environment through promoting bicycles, give people of all ages a healthy recreational opportunity, and build community pride. The Circle was judged a success. So much so that a Community Foundation fundholder contributes annually to give the High School Giving Circle an annual grant budget of $10,000. Involving more than 200 students since 2004, it attracts students from diverse high schools with a broad range of interests and passions.  During their after-school meetings, they delve into their charitable interests, learn about local needs and discuss philosophical issues in charitable giving. The group responsibility is a valuable experience for the students that sometimes challenge their assumptions. A student discussing a grant to help foster youth may say something that is contradicted by a Circle member with, "When I was in a foster home, I really needed …"  Heads turn, ears and minds open, and a discussion ensues. Midway through the program, with their priorities narrowed down, the Circle invites chosen nonprofit directors to give a 10-minute grant pitch. Seasoned directors have told Community Foundation staff that the kids ask tough questions about evaluation, program expenses, and impact.  Once the pitches conclude, they meet to decide by consensus how to divide their $10,000 grant budget. What seemed like an enormous amount of money at the first meeting is carefully allotted and divided to accomplish their giving goals. Circle members have listed this life experience as a pivotal one. "It made me more optimistic." "I want to volunteer for the groups we supported." "Eventually I can become a board member for an organization and continue the decision-making process."   We are beyond grateful to our donor for believing in the wisdom and compassion of our community's young people. Applications for the 2018 Giving Circle will be available on in summer 2018. Cost and academic GPA are not criteria for membership. For more information call 775-333-5499/

*Members of the 2017 High School Giving Circle