The Sillerman Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy

Youth Philanthropy

Students at Youth Philanthropy event

Broadly defined, youth philanthropy is the giving of time, talent, treasure and ties, by youth, for social good and social change. Youth grantmaking programs provide young people money and mentorship to directly fund nonprofit organizations. Done well, youth philanthropy helps young people develop useful, transferable skills, a sense of efficacy and connection, and a potentially long-lasting inclination for community engagement. The Sillerman Center is committed to engaging both youth and adult constituents in youth philanthropy. We aim to do this through publications, events, and presentations.

Briefs: Our Social Justice Funder Opportunity Briefs, “From Beneficiary to Active Agent: How Youth-Led Grantmaking Benefits Young People, Their Communities, and the Philanthropic Sector,” and "Community-Centric Youth Philanthropy: A Case Study of Greater Worcester Community Foundation's Youth for Community Improvement Program," explore youth philanthropy as a model with the potential to make grantmaking more democratic, inclusive, and responsive to the needs of underserved communities. "The State of Youth Philanthropy: 2020-2021" looks at the the direct and indirect effects of COVID-19 on youth philanthropy programs across the United States. This brief was completed in collaboration with Foundation for MetroWest. Youth Philanthropy is also a model that, if more widely supported and expanded, could contribute significantly to the preparation of sophisticated future grantmakers who share social justice values.

Infographics: Our Youth Philanthropy Infographic Series explores the importance of youth philanthropy broadly and takes a deeper dive into the areas of mental health, unemployment, and technology access as they affect young people's ability to engage in work such as youth philanthropy.

Why Youth Philanthropy Matters
Youth and Mental Health Challenges
Philanthropy Can Help Counteract the Harms of Youth Unemployment
The Link Between Technology Access and Engaged Youth Philanthropists

Articles: We have written several blog posts and op-eds on youth philanthropy.

Presentations: We give frequent presentations on youth philanthropy. Examples of such presentations include:

Additional Resources:

  • Learning to Give: provides materials and support for educators, youth leaders, nonprofits, and families to help youth develop generosity and agency for their ongoing roles in community. They also put together a timeline of the History of U.S. Philanthropy, focused youth empowerment and youth philanthropy.
  • Grow Youth Giving: provides a roadmap for those interested in starting their own youth philanthropy programs in an accessible, direct, and empowering manner. 
  • Teen Philanthropy Café: a series of readers created in partnership with Exponent Philanthropy to introduce teens to philanthropy, and inspire them toward giving with impact. These guides are helpful to facilitate peer discussions.

Northeast Youth Philanthropy Gatherings
From 2015-2017, The Sillerman Center, in partnership with local and national youth philanthropy conveners, hosted a series of three youth philanthropy gatherings. Key takeaways from these events are that networking, collaboration, and increased learning on social and racial justice and philanthropy are more important than ever. Photos from the 2017 gathering!

Project Team

Sheryl Seller ’11, MA’13, Project Director

Katherine Ponce, MS/MBA’21, Research Associate and Public Engagment Officer