family giving

Making a Difference through Golf

By: Matthew
Matthew is a participant in Allowance for Good's 2015 Emerging Leaders in Philanthropy class in the Elmhurst location

AfG's Emerging Leaders in Philanthropy Elmurst students.
For the past seven years I have been involved with an organization called Revelation Golf. This group was founded by two women, one of whom is a trained physical therapist and the other of whom is a former professional golfer and golf coach. They started this group to help people with physical disabilities learn the game of golf. This includes children with physical limitations (like myself) as well as veterans who have been injured. In most cases the people with whom they work are not able to play sports the way that able-bodied people do but golf is something that many people can figure out how to do. Because of the background of the two women (therapy and golf) they can usually figure out a way to teach their participants how to work around their limitations and hit the golf ball pretty well.

The two women who run the organization are an inspiration to me. They both could've made a lot more money doing what they were trained to do (therapy and golf coaching) but have chosen to sacrifice their own self-interest in order to help others. The obvious joy on their faces when their participants do well on the golf course is great to see. They both took a big risk in their lives by deciding to do what they were passionate about but I think they're glad that they made the choice that they did.

In the past, I've helped this organization by volunteering at their annual golf outings, being featured in their promotional literature and videos, and giving speeches at various events.  Also, my mom is on the board of directors and both my mom and dad have been involved in helping to organize the annual golf outing fundraiser. Over the years it's been interesting to see how the organization has changed and it's been wonderful to see how many hundreds of people have been helped.

After all these years, it really feels like the women who run this organization have become part of our family and I think they would say that we're part of their family as well. Going forward I hope to be able to stay involved with them in whatever capacity they need me. Teaching disabled people to play golf may seem like a small, somewhat unimportant thing, but I can attest to the fact that it makes a big difference by allowing people to be able to do something outside with their friends and family and by helping people become more active in their community. It’s also a lot of fun! They truly are an inspiration and I hope to stay involved so that we can continue helping people with disabilities to play the great game of golf and more importantly to learn that that their physical limitations should not prevent them from doing something they want to do.

Lessons from Foundation Leaders

By: Will
Will is a participant in Allowance for Good's Winter 2015 Emerging Leaders in Philanthropy: Explorers class.

This week at ELP, we were lucky enough to talk to a few leaders in the philanthropy world today. Two members of the McCormick Foundation and one from the Jack Miller Family Foundation joined us to discuss their work. We learned the origins of each group, and what they strive to fix through their philanthropy. Programs run by the groups varied immensely, and the speakers were passionate while discussing the diverse initiatives focused on Judaism  medical research, civics, education, democracy, aid for veterans, and more.

As students, it was interesting to hear from two separate foundations each trying to give meaningful grants. The McCormick Foundation is substantially larger than the Jack Miller Family Foundation, but both groups utilized similar grant-making policies. Personally, it was unexpected to hear just how driven each group was by their founders. For the McCormick foundation, they are still driven by the values from about 150 years ago. Jack Miller, who is still alive today, also plays a large role in crafting his foundation’s initiatives. 

Later in the class, we were invited to ask a few questions of our panel. I asked the first question, which was definitely a tough one to answer. I inquired as to how their foundations measure the success of their grants after giving them. The answers varied, but provided nice insight into how decisions are made in foundations. Suzanne Knoll from the Jack Miller Family Foundation noted that their group attempts to give grantees the tools to measure success on their own. They also try and use any quantitative data available to find the impact of the programs. The representatives from the McCormick Foundation also commented on the difficulty of analyzing success in philanthropy, and what their efforts have been. 

There were a few more questions posed before the end of class. For example, one student asked which of the programs each panel member was most proud of. The unique answers displayed their passion for helping others, and some background for what drives them. Unfortunately we ran out of time a tad early, but the chance to hear from these friendly and intelligent guest speakers was amazing. A friend and I also got to ride down in the elevator with one of the speakers, so it was nice to speak a little bit longer with him. I loved getting to know the philosophy behind each foundation’s work, and I’m looking forward to next week’s class.

Will writes, "I am a Catalyst for Good because everyone deserves the right to be their own catalyst."

Teen Discovers Financial Literacy and Personal Philanthropy

By: Ella
Ella is a participant in Allowance for Good's Winter 2015 Emerging Leaders in Philanthropy: Explorers class.

When I signed up for the ELP Explorers class, one of the words that jumped out to me in the course description was “financial literacy”. I had heard it before: it’s a “buzzword” often used in news articles or on talk shows, but not everyone knows what it means (I didn’t). But people often claim that it is severely lacking from our education system, and that teaching it may be the secret to preventing a good amount of our financial troubles. It turns out that financial literacy can mean a myriad of different things to different people, but fundamentally, it is the ability to understand financial matters, and how money works in general. However, many people don’t possess this understanding, as a 2008 survey shows that only 34% of parents have taught their child how to balance a checkbook.

In the most recent ELP class, we began to learn financial literacy by tracking our weekly spending and comparing it to our weekly earning. Many of us were surprised, and realized how little we think about spending money as teenagers. Financial literacy ties into personal philanthropy because it teaches us how to properly allocate and transfer funds. Also, keeping in mind my own spending highlights how severe needs are in the areas where we are trying to direct our aid to, and provides a sense of urgency to our personal philanthropy. For example, I will usually spend 7 or 8 dollars on food when I go out with my friends without a second thought. However, 2.7 billion people worldwide are struggling to survive on less than $2 a day, or a fourth of that amount. We also learned about AFG’s global affiliates, many of which combat similar situations: There’s the Liger Learning Center, based in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, a progressive school that provides opportunities for bright children living in poverty. There’s the Adonai Child Development Centre in Uganda for kids living among AIDS, war, and poverty. Finally, there’s Spark Ventures, which is Chicago-based and had a representative come in and educate us about their partnerships, such as Hope Community School. This is located in Zambia and provides the impoverished children of Twapia with an education. In future ELP classes, I’d be interested to learn more about what we can do to get involved with our global affiliates and how we can fundraise for them.


Ella writes, "I am a Catalyst for Good because no matter who you are or where you come from, you can make a difference."

One Member of a Seven Person Family

By: Ryan Barrett
Ryan is co-founder of the Allowance for Good Associate Board. To learn more about Ryan, read his bio here

I was born March 10, 1988 with my two triplet sisters – Meghan and Kathleen. On March 2, 1989, our sister – Patti – was born. On March 9, 1990, our brother – T.J. – was born. In other words, I’m one of a five kids in a ridiculously compact family.

Ryan, center, with his four siblings.
My siblings and I were all very fortunate to grow up in a household that fostered each of our individual curiosities, strengths, weaknesses, passions, you name it! On any given Saturday, it wouldn’t be so out of the ordinary to be at my sister’s swimming meet in the morning, another sister’s track meet before lunch, my basketball game in the afternoon, my brother’s soccer practice after that, and my other sister’s piano recital after dinner. We did a lot, and we did a lot together. We were lucky.

Coming from a large family, I learned humility at a very early age. Regardless of what any of us had been doing or how we had been doing at it – whether good or bad – we were each just one member of a seven person family. Now, that’s not to say that victories weren’t applauded and losses weren’t consoled. It just means that my parents engrained in each of us that not one member of our family was any more (or less) important than any other member of our family. That same virtue rung true throughout all aspects of our lives – from the classroom to the locker room to the kitchen table – and with each person we interacted with.

As I grew up and began to get involved in volunteering and philanthropic activities, I developed an appreciation for how fortunate my siblings and I had been to have had the supporting environment that we grew up in and to have had garnered the experiences that ultimately led my triplet sisters and me to Northwestern University. I, again, was humbled and I wanted to give back.
Ryan on a Global Business Brigades trip, Panama.

Going into my junior year of undergrad, I came across an organization – Global Business Brigades (GBB) – that sought to ‘empower undergraduate students to develop sustainable micro enterprise in (at the time, only) Central America.’ I knew I had found my avenue to give back. Over the next two years, I co-founded a GBB chapter, recruited 30 fellow undergraduate students, and organized two trips to Puerto Lara, Panama. Over those two trips, our Northwestern team developed a sustainable eco-tourism business for the indigenous Wounaan Indians of Puerto Lara that will benefit the community for years to come.

GBB enabled me to realize the copious need in our world and the reality that I could actually do something about it. My involvement with GBB made tangible a world to me that had previously only been anecdotal. Once realizing my potential to improve those peoples’ lives less fortunate than me, I very much enjoyed acting on it. I will be acting on that creed the rest of my life.

Allowance for Good empowers youth by making them aware of the same realization I experienced my junior year in college. AfG, then, supplements that awareness by providing the framework for youth that suggests how they can go about actualizing their potential to influence such positive change. Armed with thoughtful programming and inspirational leadership, AfG will continue to educate the next generation of global citizens – providing the very roots of global awareness and philanthropy that will surely enable the future ripples that will leave our world a better place. I am excited to be a part of those ripples.

Building a Philanthropic Foundation for Future Endeavors

By: Nate
Nate was a participant in Allowance for Good's Autumn 2014 Emerging Leaders in Philanthropy: Explorers class. 

I have really enjoyed my classes at Allowance for Good.

Before my first class, I honestly did not know how to define philanthropy, so I looked it up. According to Webster’s dictionary, philanthropy is goodwill or the active effort to promote human welfare.  Again, I found another unfamiliar word – goodwill. I researched further because other than donating our closes and used items to Goodwill, I needed more explanation. According to Webster’s dictionary, goodwill is a feeling of support.  I was starting to catch on.  My family has consistently helped our community cooking at soup kitchens, donating money and items, and helping with other service projects.  I have grown about with the understanding that it is necessary to support to not only community but humankind especially those less fortunate then myself.  It is part of who I am as a student, an athlete, a brother and son and a member of my church to help others.  Although looking back, I see the ways I have helped (another student or my younger siblings with school work, a teammate with a drill, or a hungry person at a soup kitchen), I have a better understanding of what philanthropy is and how I want to continue with bigger projects to help a greater number of people, and not just random acts of kindness.

I would like to continue to be a philanthropist and young catalyst for good after ELP by exploring the issue of poor children’s basic right to adequate medical care.  I would like to go to college and study medicine and eventually become a doctor. My hope is to discover a cure for cancer.  I know that there are millions of children around the world that do not have access to basic medicine such as vaccines or prescription drugs when they get sick.  I know that many children die from diseases and viruses that are either preventable with vaccines or curable with medicine, but the children die because they are not treated.  It is important to me that all children are given adequate healthcare regardless of ability to pay.  I would like to be part of the process to make this a reality.

One of my favorite parts about about ELP was meeting so many new people and hearing all of their great ideas about building support in the community and the world.

Nate writes, "I am a Catalyst for Good because all humans should have the same rights so they live in happiness."