Here are several ways to prepare children and teens for foundation giving.
Invite them to board meetings
Make younger family members feel like part of the group by inviting them to see how the foundation works. Keep in mind that board meetings can be tedious for some kids, especially younger ones. They don’t necessarily have to sit through every minute of every meeting, but make them feel like they are a welcome part of the process. Let them get a sense of what philanthropy means to your family.
Take them on site visits
Many kids are excited to see the tangible results of their family’s philanthropy. This is often their favorite part! Site visits make philanthropy real and can pique their interest around involvement in the foundation.
Make it official
Have your board discuss and draft a junior board policy with goals, procedures, eligibility, and members’ rights and responsibilities. Have regular meetings of the junior board facilitated by an adult but run by the members. (It can help to have an active adult member of the foundation serve as an advisor to the junior board.) These efforts will familiarize the kids with the philanthropic process, groom them for future “big board” service, and show them just how important their involvement is to the board.
Keep in touch
In-person meetings are ideal, but if you can’t meet in person, use the phone or internet to connect the kids in your family. (If you aren’t sure where to start, ask them!) Also be sure to check periodically on how things are going. Do they have any questions? Are they having fun?
Keep it simple
The kids in your family will surprise you with their ability to grasp concepts, but it’s equally important that the process be accessible. Be sure to consider your foundation’s circumstances and the ages of the kids involved.
Allow them to make it their own
Give the kids a sense of ownership. Guide them through the process of participating, rather than telling them exactly what to do. Doing so will make them feel empowered, confident and capable, and give them valuable skills they’ll use as adult philanthropists.
Make it relatable
No matter your foundation’s focus, younger family members can make a personal connection to grantmaking in a number of ways—the most effective being to keep anyone involved! Ask the kids what issues interest them.
Make it fun
To maintain high involvement, keep it fun! If there are lots of kids in your family, encourage them to work together, collaborate, and share ideas. Have meetings at fun places like ice cream shops or follow meetings with family outings to museums or parks.