Youth Perspectives in Philanthropy: A Series

Happy Earth Day! In case you weren’t aware, every year on April 22nd, the world gets together to celebrate the Earth through various campaigns and activities aimed at preserving and conserving the Earth’s resources. You can visit the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website for learning about “Green Tips,” how to take action, and to watch videos.

Today is also the kick-off for our new blog series entitled, Youth Perspectives in Philanthropy. One of the components of the series will showcase the ideas and actions of teens and young adults who are involved with the Jewish Youth Philanthropy Institute (JYPI), a program that encourages youth philanthropy and civic engagement. Leah Siskin, a program director of the JYPI program and alumna of Penn’s School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2), is organizing a group of teens to participate in our series.

Our first guest blogger is Erica Cafritz, an undergraduate student in the Penn School of Arts & Sciences (SAS) and research assistant here at the Center for High Impact Philanthropy. She is also an alumna of the JYPI program. When asked, “What does philanthropy mean to you?,” Erica had this to say:

I have been involved in philanthropy since I was young. Every year, my parents would discuss with my sister, my brother, and me, which organizations and foundations we wanted to give our money to. Collectively, my siblings and I would pull together a fraction of our money from our allowances. Our parents would then contribute their money to our cumulate pot. We would each get to pick one organization that interested us, and then we would discuss the amount of money that would be allotted. Through this process, I gained an appreciation for philanthropy, but more importantly, the concept of philanthropy became a part of me.

In high school, I became a member of the Jewish Youth Philanthropy Institute (JYPI), which expanded my view on philanthropic giving. This organization is made up entirely of teens, who give a specified amount of money each year, which JYPI then matches. The youth are in total control. We research organizations, analyze the grant proposals, decide which organizations should receive funds, and which projects those organizations should use our funds for. We are in charge every step of the way, ensuring that our money is used for the exact purpose that we intended. Through JYPI, I acquired a burning desire to know exactly where my money was going and the impact that it would have. I was no longer a helpless child giving my allowance to an organization, but I was telling that organization what to do with my money so that I could enact change.

Stay tuned as Erica and other guest bloggers of the JYPI offer their perspectives and share their knowledge on organizations that cultivate the teen philanthropists of today, tomorrow, and beyond. If you have information to share on this topic, please feel free to comment below or send an email to