A wise society develops programs that encourage its youth to volunteer


If you subscribe to the view that the child is the father of the man, two recent developments in volunteering are worth noting.

Last November, nine local organizations, led by the Maryland Chapter of the National Society of Fund Raising Executives, sponsored a series of youth-in-philanthropy awards at their annual National Philanthropy Day celebrations.

The 1994 Outstanding Youth Volunteer Fund Raiser Awards were given to the Norwood Elementary School, the Merganthaler Vocational-Technical High School Hope Club, and to a middle school student with cystic fibrosis named Tyler Flick, whose courage and determination helped her to raise $2,700 to fight the disease.

What makes this type of awards event meaningful is that it serves as a motivational device for youth to serve our communities.

Not that any single event will accomplish that goal, but for youth volunteerism to succeed -- and that means more than just requiring them to serve by state educational law -- there needs to be a system to encourage and reward it institutionally. And that is where award programs come in.

The fund-raising society's program took place at Camden Yards, co-sponsored by the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers, Baltimore Community Foundation, Greater Baltimore Committee, Governor's Office on Volunteerism, Hands On Baltimore, Maryland Association of Nonprofit Organizations and the United Way of Central Maryland.

The combination of prestigious organization sponsorship and attractive setting does its part in helping youth volunteerism. The nominations process alone spurs interest and awareness.

In the same vein, the Baltimore Community Foundation has developed and funded a fascinating new program called Youth as Resources. This innovative program supports "volunteer projects designed and led by young people which address pressing community needs," according to Martha Holleman, project director for the Foundation.

The community foundation just awarded its first nine grants totaling more than $11,000, from an application pool of about 20 projects. The awards followed grant-writing training workshops

for potential applicants, which had to be offered three times to accommodate 76 people from 37 organizations.

Youth recipients ranged from performing arts troupes using teen theater to teach anti-drug messages to youth programs that create pairings with senior citizens. All are led by youth volunteers. So much for those who would write off today's youth.

The Baltimore Community Foundation's grants capitalize on ,X research that shows that small, mini-awards, similar to micro-loans made in developing nations, can go a long way to advance social and economic development programs. In this case, small sums to empower youth in a positive direction are another part of the larger system that must be developed to encourage youth to volunteer in their communities.

The data is clear to those who study philanthropy. Adults who volunteer tend to raise youth who volunteer. Counter-intuitively, people who volunteer for charitable work also give more money to charity than their nonvolunteering counterparts. A lot more.

A recent study by the Gallup Organization for Independent Sector showed that families which have no volunteers gave an average of $425 to charity last year. Those with at least one volunteer gave an average of $1,193.

With economic pressures on every American family nowadays, fewer people volunteered last year than in the preceding three years. That trend simply cannot continue if our society is to address the enormous social problems it faces.

A wise society teaches compassion and service to its youth. What Marylanders need to do is to continue to develop innovative, vigorous programs to encourage its youth to volunteer.

Organizations such as those that sponsor Youth in Philanthropy Day and the Baltimore Community Foundation's Youth as Resources program are wonderful ways to encourage our youth to serve.

Lester A. Picker is a philanthropy consultant. Write to him at The Brokerage, 34 Market Place, Suite 331, Baltimore, Md. 21202; (410) 783-5100

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