Investing in young people and young professionals

I believe there is a movement to raise the level of philanthropy in our region. It includes the push to support, equip and enable young people—from cradle to career—with tools to be successful in all areas of their lives.

With the Quad Cities Community Foundation's greater mission in mind to continue to give people the right tools, at the right time of their life, so that they can have the greatest impact in their community, we want to continue to keep young people—and young professionals—in our work. It is critical that we bring young, determined leaders into the fold and fabric of our philanthropic work, as they will carry on the important responsibility of improving and supporting our communities in the years and decades to come.

Our just-announced $100,000 Transformation Grant and a $10,000 grant, both from our Community Impact Endowment, went to quality, local programs that support young people, and young professionals.

The $100,000 Transformation Grant to Women's Leadership Council will support Born Learning Academies and increase its sustainability by challenging the Council, part of the United Way of the Quad Cities, to add 80 new charter members 40 years and under within the next year. The donation for becoming a charter member is $2,500, but many young professionals are not able to make a donation at this level. With a 1:1 match from the Community Foundation, these young donors will be asked to donate $1,250, with the remaining $1,250 coming from the Transformation Grant.

As you may have read in the Quad City Times this month, Born Learning Academies focus on the very youngest in our communities—children on their way to kindergarten. By supporting a program that is focused on equipping families and schools with the educational tools to help preschoolers be successful, we are investing in tomorrow's leaders, one child at a time.

I am also excited to announce that the Young Professionals of the Quad Cities also received $10,000 in support from the Community Foundation. In line with the broader mission of the Q2030 Regional Action Plan to attract and retain young professionals to the region, this program prepares young professionals with the leadership skills they will need to lead in education, government and both non-profit and for-profit jobs.

These are not only wise investments in young people, but also it is important that the work is done now. Waiting to start the conversation about philanthropy until someone is an adult is short-sighted. I am reminded of a comment made by one of the Community Foundation's Teens for Tomorrow participants that gets to the heart of this idea. She had just completed her first year in the program and said she was invigorated by the grant-making process. She was pleasantly surprised that not only were high school students being called on to learn about the philanthropic process, but that they will play a leading role in making recommendations on grant decisions to our Community Foundation Board of Directors.

At the Community Foundation, we not only walk alongside these students as they meet with applicants face-to-face, tour local nonprofits and see firsthand the areas of need in our community, but we put money in their hands at the end of the process and allow them to influence the decision makers, and the change makers, in our community.

When we encourage our youth, not just with words of affirmation, but with actions that demonstrate how serious we are about needing their input, their energy, and their ideas, we are telling them loud and clear that we value them. At the Community Foundation, it is our hope that we continue this trend and that it is amplified in future grants, initiatives and program planning. The youth in our community, no matter how young, are a valuable asset. It is in our best interest to not only lift them up with our resources and time, but to actively promote every action that will shape them to be the leaders we will need for our 21st century workforce tomorrow