A world in which young people are empowered with the support, skills, and resources required to shape the future they will inherit.
Change the way youth philanthropy is taught and practiced by making it accessible, direct, and common.
My Journey in Youth Philanthropy
In late 2020 my mother, Nadine Van Stone, lost her battle with aggressive brain cancer. Nadine had dedicated her life to the things she believed in most, and to always leaving things better than she found them. In a lifelong career in nonprofits working on food and housing equality she touched countless lives for the better. And as a leader she inspired many more to go on and improve their communities in the ways that mattered most to them. As I watched the accolades, remembrances, and condolences pour in following her passing I began asking myself what had I learned from her? And what was I doing to honor and share those lessons? I believe the greatest value of her life’s work is not in the programs, shelters, and lives her efforts directly impacted. I believe it is in the knowledge, compassion, and drive to make the world a better place she instilled in so many.
From those contemplations came an idea. A simple structure that could both have societal impact and impart some of the skills and values Nadine had given to me and so many others. In 2020, using a Donor Advised Fund (DAF), I set up a small youth grant making program for the children in my extended family. Each child over age 10 is given a grant and 2 months to research a nonprofit of their choice. If they choose to use the grant and submit a short essay on their chosen organization a donation is made from the DAF in their name to that organization. Each year that they participate their grant increases thereby incentivizing ongoing participation and building habits around thinking about and being involved in nonprofits.
When I started this pilot I had three goals in mind.
Teach the next generation of my family about the impact and value nonprofits have on society.
Teach them about how to research nonprofit organizations and understand how their donations have an impact.
Empower the next generation to have an impact on causes within society that they care about.
These goals were in addition to the direct benefit of the philanthropic activity itself. The program has also yielded surprising and inspiring insights into who these youth are becoming. And serves as a powerful reminder of what they are capable of achieving. From my teenage cousin sharing his lost time with his grandfather, who died of Alzheimer’s. How he mourns the loss of a man he never got to know and how this leaves him thinking about and empathizing with those who suffer either directly or as someone losing a loved one. Or another cousin who has participated since I started the program and consistently chooses organizations that serve the underprivileged in society. Her essays, like this one, are always inspiring to me in the way they reflect on the state of the world, her place in it, and how she can make it better. Though young, these individuals and all those who have participated have consistently shown a passion for and awareness of the challenges the world they stand to inherit faces. And when given the opportunity they continue to inspire.
I come back to the legacy Nadine left me with and what I’m doing with that memory. As one participant wrote in her essay, our youth are the future. It is their world, their society we are currently the stewards of. I choose to honor both Nadine’s memory and this truth by doing what I can to empower the youth of my family to do good with that future. Sometimes the greatest impacts are like seeds on the wind, far flung and hard to see, but set enough free and amazing things will grow. I have put this together and am sharing the template of my program so that, if inclined, others may find value in spreading their own seeds.