Giving Beneficiaries a Voice: Youth Giving and Grantmaking


Michael Alberg-Seberich


Youth Philanthropy is the key to raising future philanthropists and inspiring them to become active citizens. Young people have time, knowhow, and creativity to give, as well as financial funds, particularly when they become grantmakers. In the 1990s the Kellogg Foundation pioneered establishing youth giving committees in numerous Michigan community foundations.  At the 7th Forum on the Promotion of Civic Engagement of the Körber Foundation and the Association of German Foundations, at the end of January 2016 in Hamburg, you got a sense of how this field is evolving in Germany.

For Kaussar Saberi, her membership in the girls giving committee of filia – die Frauenstiftung has been crucial to her own empowerment. The work on grants for girls’ projects all over Germany has helped her to define her own opinions and also to take an important role within the foundation. Koussar and her peers are working on a strategy paper that they want to present to the foundation board soon, and when Koussar talked about these experiences you could hear the pride in her voice.

Friedo Hehrmann and Florian Wendt are two young men that took on the role of advisors for a large project on civic youth participation to the Bertelsmann Foundation. They were part of an advisory group that supported Sigrid Meinhold-Henschel and her team for several years on this initiative. The Bertelsmann Foundation team praised the new perspective their youth advisors contributed to the strategic direction of the project throughout the conference.

Marit Nieschalk and Claudia Grüneberg from the Kreuzberger Kinderstiftung shared their experiences of working in a private foundation and setting up a youth giving committee. Their youth committee was responsible for 45 grants in 2015 to the value of 44.800 €. The foundation believes so strongly in youth philanthropy that they have just awarded the youth led organization Jugend rettet a major grant, which they plan to use to fund the purchase of a safe ship for refugees travelling to the Mediterranean.

The forum in Hamburg also hosted several youth led organizations that raise their own money, such as Schüler helfen leben that raises more than 1 million € every year through a nationwide social day.

Children for a better World presented on its training program for foundations that wish to involve children and young people in their grantmaking, and answered practical questions from the skeptics in the audience.

Why do I describe all this in such detail? Well, a couple of years ago not many people considered youth giving and youth participation in grantmaking organizations important in Germany. As the forum in Hamburg showed, this is changing through a growing practice and we know Germany is not alone in this. The Foundation Center’s Youth Giving project documents right now the international scope of the movement. This growing trend is crucial to the future of philanthropy all around the world, because youth giving will be an important source of the next generation of the social entrepreneurs, engaged citizens and donors we need everywhere.

Michael Alberg-Seberich is a managing partner at Active Phialnthropy.

Tagged in: Youth philanthropy

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