Young Philanthropy

No reason not to start young

To many people the idea of philanthropy conjures up an elite world of billionaire donors and professional fundraisers. Charity as a concept may sound less exclusive, but still suggest an elder generation with more disposable cash, or more time to spare in retirement.

So young philanthropy may seem a contradiction, or at least unusual, till we recall the word’s original meaning: love of humanity – a way of life with no reason not to start young.

I can vouch for the fact that charity isn’t just for those in need. Whether it takes the form of financial support or voluntary work, the donor can gain a lot too, though the full benefit may not be clear until later.

This must be particularly true of the young. A fundraising trek I did with my father in 2009, when I was ten, brought home to me that even small gifts to good causes can go a long way. Thanks to Suffolk Community Foundation, which manages the fund we raised, I have had the chance to see the work of local charities at first hand. And thanks to starting young, I have benefited in ways which have developed my interests and shaped my choice of career.

These positive outcomes cry out to be shared. In the hope of encouraging others, I tell the story of my first steps on this path in Fifty Miles with my Dad. Here’s a brief outline of how it became a path to a bigger journey.

The future

Given this experience, I’m a firm believer in the value of children engaging with charity as part of their schooling; and it’s no surprise that Community Foundations are working with schools on philanthropic educational programmes.

There’s nothing new, of course, in young people raising funds by sponsored walks, bike rides and similar challenges. But there is plenty of scope for parents, teachers and charities to help them gain all that the experience can offer. The chance for them to engage with local charity, learning about society’s needs, and how they can play a part in meeting them, is not just an education. It is also a route to something vital to our development and well-being: a sense of purpose.

It is a spur, as well, to learn various skills on the way. At the end of my fundraising walk in 2009 I stood on a chair to make my first speech. I have made many since, and with so much good that young philanthropy can do I’m ready to make many more. 

My first speech, standing on a chair to thank supporters at the end of my fifty-mile walk, and joking about the distance added by Dad’s geeky detours

Fifty Miles with my Dad, published by Sarnia House in April 2020, is available in bookshops (subject to coronavirus), with net proceeds in aid of the ‘Fifty Miles with my Dad’ Fund at Suffolk Community Foundation.*

*The ‘Fifty Miles with my Dad’ Fund is an endowment managed by Suffolk Community Foundation and established in 2009 by the fundraising walk described in the book of the same name. Grants are made from the income to charities and community groups supporting those with disability, the infirm and the vulnerable.