Grantmaking by and for young people has gone global: from the Mott Foundation

By Maggie Jaruzel Potter, Communications Officer, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation

  • YouthBank is by young people and for young people
  • Grantmaking programme challenges and teaches
  • Participants can come from different races, religious backgrounds, and social classes

Universally, youth leadership programmes typically seek to develop a set of skills — self-confidence, problem-solving, team-building, goal-setting, project-planning and decision-making and the like.

YouthBank, however, goes beyond that. It aims to equip young people with these same skills, plus the additional training and resources needed to be good grantmakers, says Vernon Ringland, YouthBank Coordinator at the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland (CFNI).

Vernon Ringland, YouthBank Coordinator, CFNIFor nearly two decades he’s been working with young people in many countries. In the past 10 years, Ringland has focused his time and energy on establishing YouthBank programmes worldwide.

He says many student leadership organizations emphasize discussions on important topics but YouthBank is different in one key way.

“Who actually puts money into young people’s hands and trusts them to do something good with it?” Ringland asked.

Worldwide, approximately 200 YouthBanks do. In the U.S., dozens of Youth Advisory Committees (YACs) do the same. These two young grantmakers programmes started in the early 1990s — first in the U.S., then in Europe a decade later after Ringland visited the Council of Michigan Foundations to learn more about YACs.

Today, YouthBank’s popularity is growing around the globe while improving the way people view teenagers and young adults, all of which is keeping Ringland busy responding to requests for consultations, training and materials from places as diverse as Mozambique in Africa, Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia, Egypt in the Middle East and Brazil in South America.

His expansion work is partially funded with a two-year, $200,000 C.S. Mott Foundation grant to CFNI, and it is done in partnership with many current and former Mott grantees. Among others, the organizations that fund YouthBanks are:

Additionally, the Global Fund for Community Foundations has funded YouthBank initiatives at small community foundations internationally to determine its effectiveness as a tool for civic participation.

With grantmaking at the core of YouthBank programmes, participants are taught both how to identify the needs of local young people and how to address them. Additionally, YouthBank participants actively fundraise to meet the financial matches if required by partner groups supporting the programme; partners often are other youth organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), community foundations, and public, private or corporate funders.

“YouthBank provides a pathway for young people to learn an enormous amount of practical skills,” Ringland said. “YouthBank helps young people speak out on issues that are important to them, so they are influencing local funders and decisionmakers, and also having an impact on the practices of local organizations.”

One such group, the Association for Community Relations (ARC), based in Cluj-Napoca, Romania’s second most populous city behind Bucharest. After learning how YouthBanks were changing lives and communities in Northern Ireland, ARC staff committed to developing the programme throughout Romania. The first was created in ARC’s hometown of Cluj in 2006; ARC now oversees YouthBanks in 11 cities, which are scattered throughout 10 of the country’s 41 counties, says Adina Ana Cristea, ARC’s YouthBank coordinator.

YouthBank Cluj, RomaniaCommunity foundations in Romania often host YouthBanks, but not always, she says, with youth associations sometimes playing that role. Regardless of the hosting group, they all seek participants who are diverse in age, location, and national background, such as Hungarians, Romas and Romanians. The intentional diversity provides opportunities for young people from different backgrounds to interact, including those from groups that have had longstanding prejudices and conflicts, says Cristea, adding “we have seen many breakthroughs.”

For her, working with YouthBank students is invigorating.

“These are high-calibre, beautiful young people with a unique DNA,” she said. “All young people have potential, but those in YouthBank allow it to be shaped, and sometimes under pressure, especially when a project doesn’t turn out the way they had planned.”

Ioana Stupariu, a founding member of the Cluj YouthBank, attends law school full time but gladly volunteers her free time to train YouthBank advisers and participants.

It’s her “moral responsibility” to give back, she says. Stupariu says joining the YouthBank committee in ninth grade was one of the most important decisions she ever made. She stayed in the programme until her high school graduation, and during that time she learned how to be responsible and respectful of others’ opinions.

She remembers surveying the community to determine what the needs of young people were — and then holding fundraisers to meet those needs by awarding grants ranging in size from $300 to $1,000, she says. Among the projects for which Stupariu’s YouthBank committee awarded grants were concerts that pulled the community together, services for young people with disabilities and shows for young artists to display their work.

“YouthBank is a part of who I am,” Stupariu said. “It taught me how to be flexible; how to adapt to different kinds of situations and different kinds of people. I totally believe in the programme.”

Read more about Mott-funded programmes that are helping to develop the next generation of leaders in the U.S. and around the world.

Watch our webinar on community foundations engaging youth in Brazil and Slovakia

30 participants from all over the globe joined our most recent webinar on community foundations and youth civic engagement which is now available here on our website.

The webinar features the work of two community foundations – one in Slovakia and the other in Brazil – which are working with young people in their communities. Anderson Giovani da Silva from the Florianopolis-based community foundation ICom (Instituto Comunitaria Florianoplis) in Brazil shares a new initiative which engages young people from all walks of life to engage in their communities through social media and online platforms. Lubica Lachka from the Nitra Community Foundation, Slovakia, discusses their ‘Young Nitra Philanthropists’ programme, which puts young people in charge of their own grant programmes and encourages youth giving for various civic activities.

Palestine, Russia & South Africa: community foundations on film

Watch Nora Murad’s interview with Executive Director of Dalia Association, a Palestinian community foundation. In Nora’s words, “I recorded this short video with Saeeda Mousa, Executive Director of Dalia Association. In it, she talks about the amazing potential return on investment in the Palestinian community, but it’s not the type of investment that you might be thinking of!”

From Russia, a short, haunting and heart-warming film about a small and desolate community in Russia’s remote Primorski Krai which tells what happened when a Russian sailing frigate called “Hope” came to town.  And how the local community foundation, which serves Plastun’s 5,000 residents and is a partner of the GFCF, has also played its role in working to restore hope in a community where it has been long-lost… (in English, with Russian sub-titles)

And from South Africa Watch the final episode in the story of a partnership between the West Coast Community Foundation (South Africa), the Community Foundation for West Flanders (Belgium) and MyMachine (Belgium) and supported by the GFCF.

De Slotshow – The Unveiling from MyMachine on Vimeo.


From Russia, a short, haunting and heart-warming film about a small and desolate community in Russia’s remote Primorski Krai which tells what happened when a Russian sailing frigate called “Hope” came to town.  And how the local community foundation (which serves Plastun’s 5,000 residents) has also played its role in working to restore hope in a community where it has been long-lost… (in English, with Russian sub-titles)

Latest grants in South Asia and new grantee profiles now available on our website!

We’re pleased to announce two new grants to current partners in South Asia. The first is a grant for $11,000 and is a continuation of the GFCF’s support for institutional development of Tewa, the Nepal Women’s Fund.  Tewa was established in 1996 as an alternative development model aimed at overcoming aid dependency in Nepal and the distortions that international aid also brought about in shaping local civic society and its institutions. Tewa is a unique example of community philanthropy Nepal. Over the last 15 years, it has mobilized contributions from 3,000 Nepali donors and until today it has adhered to a principle that only local money be used for grantmaking.

The second grant is also an extension of GFCF support to iPartner. and Indian and UK-based organization which seeks to increase the flow of phianthropic resources to grassroots issues in India. This $20,000 grant will increase the impact of iPartner’s work at a local level in India, attracting a range of local donor investments to support the sustainable development of small, grass roots organisations, while developing iPartner’s understanding of local donor motivations and overall fundraising.

Take a look at the five new grantee profiles on our website which include partners from Vietnam, Costa Rica, India and Zimbabwe




Promoting Bedouin participation in Egypt: new paper examines the role of the Community Foundation for South Sinai

A new paper by Hilary Gilbert and Mohammed Khedr al Jebaali examines the role that one NGO – a community foundation – has been able to play in promoting civic participation by Bedu, a structurally marginalized minority in Egypt, in the wake of the 2011 ‘Lotus Revolution’.

Gilbert and al Jebaali (respectively board chair and programme coordinator of the community foundation) tell the story of the Community Foundation for South Sinai (Al mo’assessa‑t‑al ahliya lijanoub sina), which was established in 2006 as a mechanism for promoting local, small‑scale development among Bedouin communities in Egypt’s South Sinai.

Although the Community Foundation for South Sinai (featured here on the GFCF website) was established with serious and long term aspirations its initial ambitions were, like its funding base, modest: early activities included economic development projects such as olive oil production. However, in January 2011 when Egypt’s massive people‑led revolution swept across the country the foundation – encouraged by local community leaders – saw an unprecedented opportunity to harness this newfound democratic momentum in Egypt’s South Sinai.

Importantly for the global community philanthropy field, the report demonstrates the value of an evidence-based approach to practice, with the foundation’s activities and spending priorities emerging from research and constant contact with community members. As Egypt’s democratic transition enters a period of uncertainty, the mo’assessa continues to grow slowly but deliberately. The authors use a natural simile that accords well with the outlook of the communities with which the foundation works: “we say we have planted a seed, and are watering it slowly so it puts down strong roots. We expect it to grow in time – insha’allah! – into a shady tree that will outlive its founders and support many people.”

Read the paper

“The Value of Community Philanthropy” now available in Russian

In 2011, the Aga Khan Foundation USA and the Mott Foundation conducted a series of collaborative consultations in North America, Africa and Asia to explore how community philanthropy can help build local capacity. The results of these consultations demonstrate the importance of foundations and development agencies partnering with local communities to achieve lasting development outcomes.

The report, authored by Barry Knight, CENTRIS Consultant and Facilitator, offers a definition of community philanthropy for practitioners and identifies key priorities for building the capacity of the field of community philanthropy. The report has now been translated by CAF Russia and is now available on the GFCF website.