In Winnetka, Ill., Youth Weigh In on Foundation Decisions

On Sunday evenings in Winnetka, Illinois, the McKenna family gathers with McKenna Foundation Junior Board members to engage in a process that seldom involves youth: grant making.

The Junior Board, comprised of 19 young adults ages 13 to 18, discusses the pros and cons of different potential grantees, based on agreed-upon criteria. Next in the process, the group schedules a presentation meeting where the candidates for grants present to the board.

Junior Board members then have a follow-up meeting where each member states their case for the grantee that is their choice for funding. The board then chooses its grantees and, with due diligence from foundation staff and final approval from the founders, grants are made.

Allowance for Good, an Evanston, Ill.-based nonprofit, is the organization teaching communities like Winnetka how to engage their children in philanthropy.

In 2013, the McKenna Foundation began partnering with Allowance for Good to educate the next generation of philanthropists in the North Shore area of Winnetka, Illinois. With content created and led by Allowance for Good, including the Emerging Leaders in Philanthropy program, these young people learn about philanthropy and the grant making process.

Registered in 2000 by hedge fund manager William McKenna and his wife, Michelle, the McKenna Foundation is dedicated to William McKenna’s mother, Sharon McKenna, who died of breast cancer. The McKenna Foundation was formed in 1999 to honor her memory and her love of children, with the aim of advancing efforts that benefit youth.

With an initial investment of $250,000 in 2000, the McKenna Foundation set out to educate and train the next generation of philanthropists. The foundation is small, but it has a solid focus that is gaining traction.

Through the Allowance for Good process, kids learn lessons in philanthropy, nonprofit prospect research, grant applications, and nonprofit evaluation. Elizabeth Newton, founder and executive director of Allowance for Good, sees McKenna’s youth philanthropists building the skills that will make them “global change agents” for life.

“We are privileged to walk alongside the McKenna Junior Board as they unearth their philanthropic potential as individuals and as a collective,” Newton stated. “The motivation and thoughtfulness of the board to ignite change through philanthropic grant making places them beyond their years.”

Other Big News in Children and Youth Philanthropy:

  • What’s Rainn Wilson doing for girls in Haiti? Rainn Wilson, star of the hit comedy The Office, has a lot going on philanthropically. Turns out he and his wife, Holiday Reinhorn, started a nonprofit named Lide (meaning both “idea” and “leader” in Creole) dedicated to arts education of girls in rural Haiti. On an amazingly small budget of $150,000, Lide reaches about 500 girls a year.
  • Looks like Jerry Seinfeld and family had a run-in with the law while trying to do a fundraising Lemonade stand with his kids. The Lemonade Stand was raising money for Babybuggy, a charity founded by Jessica Seinfeld to provide clothing, gear, and services for low-income families, when it got shut down by East Hampton police for violating local laws against peddling goods. Babybuggy has gotten a slew of support in recent years with grants from American Express, Bank of America, Happy Elephant Foundation, Eisner Foundation, Letterman Foundation, Newman’s Own Foundation, the San Francisco Foundation, and, yes, even The Trump Foundation, with a $1000 gift in 2006.
  • Want less hurt in the world? You might want to tweet #NoMoreHurtingPeople, in support of a new campaign from the Martin Richard Foundation, launched to combat violence in all communities. Martin Richard was the 8-year-old tragically killed when the second of two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon in 2013. In partnership with Hasbro and generationOn, this campaign hopes to spread more messages of peace and kindness in the community.

Kiersten Marek is a clinical social worker in Rhode Island and writes the Eye on Philanthropy column for The Imprint

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