Later this month, Social Venture Partners Waterloo Region (SVP) will put the call out for applicants for a new grant program that will take a few people by surprise. Proposals will be reviewed, short-listed and discussed. And when the finalist charities host SVP for site visits, they’ll be opening the door to an SVP group of thirteen to eighteen-year-olds.
The kids are part of SVP Teens, a new youth-led program that gets young people involved in hands-on fundraising and grant-making, helping to support their desire to give and get involved in their local community.
SVP itself goes beyond traditional philanthropy by donating talent, time and funds to amplify the impact it has on each vetted charity in which it invests. The largest network of engaged donors in the world with more than 2,900 partners in more than 30 cities globally (including three other Canadian cities: Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver), SVP has collectively given more than $46 million (USD) in grants and hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours.
“I’m proud of my kids and their friends for what they are doing with SVP Teens,” said Tim Martin, SVP partner, dad to two teens involved in the program, and SVP Teens advisor. “This isn’t a traditional teen fundraising group. Similar to SVP’s model of giving time, talent and dollars, these teens are figuring out the best way they can make our region a better place to live – from deciding on the issues that are important to them to the nonprofits they will partner and invest in,” he added. “Through SVP Teens, they are also learning valuable skills such as planning, organization, time and financial management, research and leadership which will help them in school, future careers and life.”
The SVP Teens program is modeled after similar programs across SVP’s network. The teens decide on an area of granting focus, they raise their own funds, research the issue area they have selected, solicit and evaluate grant applications from local charities, conduct site visits, and make annual grants valued at thousands of dollars.
Once a grant is made, the expectation is that the teens volunteer with the chosen organization, seeing first-hand the impact of their community investment. It’s a process that’s very similar to the one many of their parents participate in through SVP’s main philanthropic development and grant making activities.
In Waterloo, the program’s first cohort includes more than 10 high school students and serves to prepare and empower them to address the problems facing their community.
“It’s exciting to see these teens working together, discussing what they care about, learning, and planning how they will raise the money that they will decide how to give away,” said Jennifer King, Executive Director of SVP in Waterloo Region. “Teens care about the world they live in – take a look at the success of Me to We as just one example on what kids can do. What SVP Teens does is bring issues closer to home. And it doesn’t just ask teens to raise money – it teaches them how to be in the driver’s seat, how to evaluate and work as a group to make tough decisions.”
There is no application process to be an SVP teen – just an expectation that members are thoughtful, hardworking, responsible, open to others’ ideas and confident in their own, and interested in learning from the teens and adults they meet through the program.
“My parents are SVP partners and have always instilled in me the importance of giving back to our community, so when the opportunity came up to help start a teen philanthropy group I was interested in being a part of it,” said Matthew Caputo, SVP Teens Chair and a local high school student.
Caputo and his fellow teens are guided by an SVP partner and the SVP Executive Director, however, the youth conduct their own meetings, maintain minutes, and follow-up with other committee members, with adults providing support resources as needed. The teens have already planned and executed their first fundraiser (a playful take on the traditional kids’ lemonade stand), met with and learned from a young advocate about the foster care system, and met with media to talk about their program.
Their goal is to raise at least $2,000 this year, which will be matched by SVP to give the selected non-profit close to a $5,000 grant. But the payoff will be far greater, for the teens and for the successful organization; these teens will have helped launch a lasting philanthropy program built for kids, by kids, and the organization will have begun to build a relationship with the future leaders of Waterloo Region.
For more info, please visit Social Venture Partners Waterloo Region.
Andrea Bocking is the Director of Marketing for Social Venture Partners Waterloo Region and has a background in high tech marketing with companies such as BlackBerry and Cisco Systems. She holds a MBA from Queen’s University and an Honours Bachelor of Business Administration from Wilfrid Laurier University.