My Philanthropy Journey Continues: Reflections on the Youth Philanthropy Connect Conference

I first became interested in philanthropy and grant making through Professor David Campbell’s Philanthropy and Civil Society course, which I took during the spring semester of my freshman year. I left the course with a passion for philanthropy but no true “next step” in applying the concepts and critical thinking skills I had learned. Volunteering at a local non-profit and attending several MPA information sessions confirmed my interest in making a career out of philanthropy, but I found myself, a year later, still with absolutely no idea how to make that happen. Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity to attend the Youth Philanthropy Connect Northeast Regional Conference on June 14th. Alongside my fellow Philanthropy and Civil Society alum, Nick Doran, I headed to the Centre for Social Innovation in New York City with the hope that I would connect with other young people and adults who could provide me with a “next step.”

Upon my arrival, I was immediately impressed by the energy of the other conference attendees. I knew that I was surrounded by a truly special group of people, united by the common goal of promoting youth philanthropy in our region. The day’s program offered sessions for both young people and adults, with the adult sessions focusing on increasing youth civic engagement in our communities.

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The conference itself was not very large, with maybe 50 to 60 people (young people and adults) in attendance.  However, this made it much easier to get to know the people that we would be spending our day with.  Most of the program, including presentations on philanthropy models from some of the foundations and programs represented at the conference, and a presentation on philanthropy in New York City, included all attendees.  However, there were breakaway sessions in which we could choose what small group discussions we wanted to take part in.  I chose to attend a workshop about the relationship between social justice and philanthropy, in which we discussed the importance of supporting organizations that get to the root of social issues, rather than simply providing temporary solutions. Additionally, I participated in a discussion about careers and futures in philanthropy where I learned that there is not one set path that will lead me to a successful career in philanthropy. Listening to the life stories of various philanthropic leaders inspired me to identify the causes I care about and to decide how I want to become involved with those causes.

The most beneficial aspect of the conference for me was definitely the smaller discussion groups.  These groups allowed me to network not only with impressive figures in the field of philanthropy, but also with inspiring youth philanthropists.  Some of the young people had started their own nonprofits, while others, like Nick and I, had participated in grant making courses at their own schools.  One of the adults who was running the conference had actually participated in a course funded by the Learning by Giving Foundation during her time at Tufts University, so it was interesting to compare our experiences!

We ended our day by giving away microgrants based on research we had done and grant proposals we had received and reviewed prior to attending the conference.  We went through a process similar to that used in the Philanthropy and Civil Society course, although this process moved much faster than our class’ did.  It was exciting to hear how other young people had approached a process like this in the past, and I enjoyed working with them to come to a consensus.  We ended up giving $2,500 to The Possibility Project, a youth-led program that puts on musicals inspired by the teens’ own life stories, and $2,500 to Youth Communication’s Intensive Summer Writing Program, which provides workshops to inner-city youth and allows them to share their stories and develop critical writing skills.

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Overall, I found the conference to be an excellent way for me to rediscover my passion for philanthropy and to connect with other youth philanthropists who share my passion!  Although I still do not know exactly what my future in philanthropy holds, I now know that I am a part of a larger network of young change-makers, and that my “next step” is to stay connected with these leaders so we can work together to change the future of philanthropy.

Martha Engle

Binghamton University, Class of 2017

B.A. Psychology and B.A. French Language and Linguistics