[ditty_news_ticker id="27897"] PHILANTHRO-PAIDEIA: TEACHING ALTRUISM TO YOUTH - Orthodox Christian Laity



Fr Frank Marangos

Source: OINOS Educational Consulting

by Frank Marangos, D.Min., Ed.D., FCEP

“There is a lad here, with five barley loaves, and two small fishes. But what are they among so many?”
John 6:9

Who will be the next generation of philanthropists? Where will they come from?  Will they emerge on their own, or will they be mentored into existence by charitable-minded parents? Like other aspects of human literacy, religious, nonprofit, and educational organizations have an obligation to help surface the next generation of philanthropists by providing strategic opportunities of philanthro-paideia that will nurture the language of altruism in the young.

The ancient Greek term “paideia” (παιδεία) refers to the “tutoring of the ideal citizen” (member of theπόλις). It involved both practical and subject-based instruction that focused upon the socialization of the young who would mature into intelligent, moral, cultured, and physically fit adults. In this fashion, the youth were “molded” into the ideal citizen who was “beautiful and good” (kalos kagathos). In Homer’s Iliad, King Peleus thus charged his son Achilles to acquire such “arete,” excellence in all things exquisite (knowledge, morality, bravery, contemplation, and strength).

Approached in this fashion, Philanthro-paideia (φιλανθρωπική εκπαίδευση), may be understood as “tutoring-in-altruism.” It is a methodology that entails helping the young become the next generation of “ideal” philanthropists who are willing and capable of making impactful, strategic decisions about the effective use of their resources towards charitable causes. Through the combination of hands-on experiences, insight into nonprofit operations, and understanding of social philanthropic impact, religious, nonprofit, and educational institutions can help acquire the empowering “arete” of charity, and thereby, transform the world.

The Old Testament is replete with examples of young leaders who reflected the transformative countenances of “arete.” David was a teenage shepherd whose courageous character and God-trusting nature championed Israel against Goliath (1 Sam 17). Although he was sold into slavery by his jealous older brothers, young Joseph exemplified moral fortitude by rebuffing the inappropriate advances of Potiphar’s unfaithful wife (Genesis 39). Together with the account of a “young maid” that boldly pioneered the healing-power of the prophet Elisha to her leprous master (2 Kings 5), Daniel and his three teen-age young friends who were thrown in a Babylonian furnace for refusing to worship their idols (Daniel 1), are examples of transformative leaders.

Although many youth-centered New Testament stories can also be highlighted, the altruistic “arete” of a “young lad” (Παιδαριον) that helped Jesus feed a multitude of people with five loaves of bread and three fish, is a valuable example of the philanthropic nature of the young (John 6:6). While the Feeding of the Five Thousand is a miracle story found in all four Gospels, it is significant that only Saint John informs his readers that the meager comestibles that precipitated the extraordinary meal were donated by a “young boy” (John 6:9).

The Feeding of the Five Thousand is a valuable pedagogical paradigm for nurturing the next generation of philanthropists.  The miraculous event would have certainly influenced the rest of the young lad’s philanthropic life. Consequently, the New Testament account encapsulates the primary goal of philanthro-paideia whose primary goal is the nurturing of altruistic-minded youth who are similarly inspired to share their time, talents, and resources for the benefit of others.

In her book, Teaching Your Kids to Care: How to Discover and Develop the Spirit of Charity in Your Children (1995), Deborah Spaide encourages parents not to shelter children from the world’s suffering. To do so, she insists, “is a disservice to them.” Alternatively, she suggests instructing them in philanthropy “before they become hardened,” because serving others will help children “discover their talents, hone their skills and begin to believe in themselves.”

Research confirms Spaide’s proposition that children are more likely to be kind and generous when they have at least one parent that humbly models philanthropic behavior. A study conducted by Ottoni-Wilhelm, professor of philanthropic studies at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, found that adolescents were 18% more likely to donate to a charitable organization if their parents had made similar donations in the past year. More significantly, if parents were donors and also talked about giving, their children were 33% more likely to become contributors themselves. Similarly, adolescents whose parent(s) were volunteers were 27% more likely to volunteer themselves, and 47% more likely to do so if their parent also talked with them about the value of generosity.

Numerous studies can be cited that substantiate Spaide and Wilhelm’s research data concerning the value of philanthro-paideia. In his article,Hyperagency and High-Tech Donors: A New Theory of the New Philanthropists (2003), Paul Schervish of the Boston College Social Welfare Research Institute asserts that, while philanthropy is an altruistic impulse, it is also a “learned behavior.” In their paper, The Intergenerational Transmission of Generosity (2008), Ottoni-Wilhelm et al. (2014) provide data that confirms Schervish’s assertion. According to the authors, there is a correlation between the generosity of parents and the charitable giving patterns of their adult children. Specifically, parents’ religious giving is positively associated with children’s secular giving. Like Spaide and Schervish, the authors suggest that young people are more likely to give and volunteer if they have been exposed to both conversations about philanthropy and role-modeling of philanthropic behaviors.

According to the National Center for Family Philanthropy’s 2015 Trends in Family Philanthropy Study, nearly 56% of family foundations engage younger family members. More than 40% say they expect to add to or increase the number of younger-generation family members on their boards in the near future. The most common methods of engaging younger generations include allowing them to sit on the foundation board and participate in group discussions of core values. According to the Study, regardless of age or size, family foundations that are engaging the young strongly believe that the next generation will bring new ideas and vibrancy to their institution.

In her book, Teaching Philanthropy to Children(2002), Patricia O. Bjorhovde finds that the value of philanthropy and the actions of giving and serving are the consequences of three primary types of learning: (1) modeling, which involves seeing and hearing, (2) cognitive learning, which combines thinking and discussing, and (3) experiential engagement, which involves doing. Since altruistic behaviors can be learned and taught at all ages, from infancy onward throughout life, philanthro-paideia should include all three of Bjorhovde’s instructional tactics of modeling, cognitive learning, and experiential engagement in all youth-centered contexts.

Data from the 2010 report entitled, Today’s Children, Tomorrow’s Philanthropists, Talk About Giving, an initiative developed by the Central Carolina Community Foundation to encourage multi-generational conversation about philanthropy, concludes that the home environment has an enormous impact on the development of future donors. According to the report, 71% of children with philanthropic parents go on to be philanthropic themselves while only 47% of children who have parents that don’t give go on to be philanthropists.

While the home is the best setting for learning caring and empathy in relationships, the school environment is valuable for integrating service-learning opportunities and voluntarism. The classroom may also be used to provide explicit instruction about philanthropy and its role and benefit in society. Alternatively, religious communities provide opportunities for engaging in acts of giving and serving in a safe and structured environment and with clear linkage to the religious teachings and stories of the faith. Finally, community-based service and nonprofit organizations may arrange valuable programs and initiatives that are designed to nurture an affinity for philanthropic service in the young.

The 2015 Scanning the Landscape of Youth Philanthropy Report, published by the Foundation Center, the leading source of information about philanthropy worldwide, indicates that there are more than 830 youth philanthropy programs worldwide. Since 2001, over $14 million in grants has been distributed by these programs to youth.  By developing programs and strategically advancing initiatives that promote philanthro-paideia, religious, education, and nonprofit organizations can help the nation’s young discover the joy and transformative power of altruism. Consequently, apart from including information concerning history, culture, and values, philanthro-paideia should include literacy of effective models of charitable giving that have high-impact, low-overhead, and are focused on root causes.

But what is the best approach to inspire the next generation of such philanthropists? While a careful review of existing initiatives provides a list of effective strategies that give youth an opportunity to (1) genuinely engage in philanthropy, (2) form meaningful connections with non-profit organizations and professionals, (3) take on real responsibility, and (4) develop useful life-skills and competencies, three distinctive models of philanthro-paideia stand out: (1) Youth Pods, (2) Giving Circles, and (3) Next-Gen Donor Programs.

Youth Pods

The Dekko Foundation is noted as the creator of Youth Pods, groups of young people who are interested in bringing about positive community change.  Located in Indiana, the foundation’s grantmaking program aims to equip young people with the skills, knowledge, and character they need to be self-sufficient in adulthood. A key component of the curriculum includes youth philanthropy. Each Youth Pod operates like a mini-foundation, with $15,000 in grant money provided by the Foundation plus $2,500 for expenses.

There are currently thirteen Youth Pods in four states, Indiana, Iowa, Alabama, and Minnesota. According to Foundation’s founder, Chet Dekko, since 1994, when the first Youth Pod was inaugurated, more than 800 teens have participated. The benefits for youth are reflected in a recent survey of Youth Pod alumni conducted by the Foundation. Of the respondents, 80% said they gained important skills such as decision making, leadership, communication, financial responsibility, awareness of the nonprofit sector and knowledge of formal philanthropy.

Giving Circles

According to The Center of Philanthropy at Indiana University, a Giving Circle is a philanthropic vehicle in which individual donors pool their money and other resources and together decide where to give them away. Particularly attractive to younger people, minorities, and women, nearly half of all Giving Circle participants are under the age of forty. Similar to Youth Pods, Giving Circles include social, educational, and engagement components that aim to connect participants to the local community while increasing their understanding of philanthropy and societal issues.

The Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers, describes Giving Circles as groups of individuals who decide to pool their money, and sometimes their talents, to make a bigger difference in a local, national or international cause. According to a two-year study to better understand the current scope, scale, and significance of collective giving in the U.S., funded by the Gates and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundations, “Giving Circles and other forms of collective giving are changing the face of community philanthropy across the United States.” More specifically, the 2017 report entitled, The State of Giving Circles Today, estimates that, since their inception in 2007, Giving Circles have given $1.29 billion combined across their lifespans to philanthropic organizations.

Giving Circles provide social networks, leadership development, peer support, and collaborative learning among its members. According to the National Giving Circle Network, apart from affording a creative and simple vehicle for youth and families to learn about and engage in philanthropy, Giving Circles provide (1) youth with knowledge and skills, (2) enable inter-generational partnerships, (3) encourage equal participation from all participants, (4) build a culture of shared learning and collaboration, (4) share the responsibility of reviewing and discussing grant applications, (5) promote collaborative decision making, (6) create engagement with community, and (7) depict philanthropy as Fun and Simple.

In her book, Giving Circles: Philanthropy, Voluntary Association, Democracy (2009), Angela Eikenberry describes Giving Circles “as the most democratic of philanthropic mechanisms, working to meet social needs and solve community problems, while enhancing the civic education and participation of their members.” Eikenberry, outlines the following five characteristics of Giving Circles:

  1. Members of giving circles seem to donate more than other types of donors. Plus, the more engaged they are in the process of determining what groups to give to and how much, the more they give. People who were more engaged, for longer, and who belonged to multiple giving circles all gave more than the typical donor.
  2. Giving Circle members give more strategically. They do more research, are more willing to fund the operating expenses of charities, and consider issues of class, gender, race, and culture when making giving decisions.
  3. Compared to givers not in a giving circle, members gave more often to groups that support women and ethnic and minority groups. They also favored the arts, culture, the environment, neighborhood development, advocacy, and international aid. Their giving was less “traditional” than usual for donors.
  4. The more engaged people are in a giving circle, the more they express civic responsibility. They become involved in community issues and in changing government policies.
  5. Giving Circle members have a more positive view of how philanthropy can affect the health of communities and about the role of government in making a difference. They felt more empowered to make a change themselves.

According to Levi Thiele, Angela Eikenberry, Jason Metton, and Michele Millard, a review of the youth philanthropy literature shows that Giving Circles can serve as effective “channeling mechanisms” for giving the young an opportunity to make a difference in their community and the chance to learn valuable skills and life lessons. In their 2011 research study entitled, Educating and Empowering Youth through Philanthropy, the authors conclude that participating in youth Giving Circles appears to provide learning and educational opportunities that can be applied as job skills when the participants reach adulthood. An important subsequent finding of their study indicates that Giving Circles “had an especially significant effect on the identity formation of youth participants who saw themselves as leaders and philanthropists.”

Next-Gen Donors

In the coming decades, over $40 trillion will change hands. While a large portion of this wealth will be designated for charitable giving, the people who will inherit this wealth and direct the charitable giving are called “Next-Gen Donors.” According to the 2013 report, Respecting Legacy, Revolutionizing Philanthropy, issued by the Johnson Center at Grand Valley State University, these young donors will “have tremendous influence on the direction and support of efforts to improve local communities and solve global problems.” According to the report, these donors will, additionally, “face immense, complex social problems in their lifetimes, requiring them to be both generous and smart in their giving.”

The following four key findings about Next-Gen Donors should be referenced when developing strategies for their philanthropic edification.

  1. Driven by Values, Not Valuables. Next-Gen Donors are mindful of their family’s charitable legacy and want to connect with the needs of the day. They are driven by a deep sense of responsibility and values, and acknowledge their place as a privilege. They were influenced by parents (89%), grandparents (63%), close friends (56%) and peers (47%) in their approach to philanthropy; and for most, a philanthropic mindset was instilled early on in life.
  2. Impact is First. Next-Gen Donors want to be “strategic.” They want to add to their philanthropic toolbox, enhance what has been done in the past, and develop new philanthropic strategies. There are five key strategies mentioned: (1) conducting due diligence through research; (2) determining philanthropic goals and then searching for a fit; (3) funding root causes that promote systemic solutions; (4) wanting to see measurable impact and change from an organization before funding is received; and, (5) recommending the cause to others in their network.
  3. Time, Talent, Treasure and Ties. Next-Gen Donors want to be personally engaged and linked in. These donors “want to listen and offer their own professional or personal talents, all in order to solve problems together with those whom they support.” Mutually reinforcing philanthropic connections are central to Next-Gen Donor activities.
  4. Crafting a Philanthropic Identity. The Next-Gen Donor generation does not want to wait until the sunset of their lives to be philanthropic. In addition to wanting to do more than write a check, “they are eager to be taken seriously.” They are likely to use a variety of philanthropic vehicles, including Giving Circles, Pooled, and Donor-Advised Funds.

I once overheard an outlandish response from a religious leader who was asked about his church’s development program. When challenged to provide more financial transparency concerning stewardship collections, the leader stated that since he did not inquire how the donors “made their money,” it was “his business alone” to know how their contributions were ultimately used.  One can only imagine and lament the harmful long-term impact that such a distorted posture of “stewarding” time, talents, and resources would have on current as well as Next-Gen donors.

Instead of expressing such a misguided understanding of philanthropic arete, religious, nonprofit, and educational organizations would be wise to alternatively utilize insights gleaned from Holy Scripture, careful research, and fundraising professionals to design the curricula that will be used to strategically advance best-practice programs of philanthro-paideia. Only in such a fashion can our nation help inspire the emergence of the next generation of “ideal” philanthropists.

In the end, the instruction of Saint Paul to Timothy, his young mentee, would be far more appropriate than the aforementioned perspective of the blinkered religious leader. “Let no one despise your youth,” the apostle advised. “Instead, you should be an example to the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity (1 Timothy 4:12). Regardless of age, the ideal citizen should exemplify the “arete” of such mature philanthropic literacy.


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