Corporate Philanthropy in Action

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

The Emerging Leaders in Philanthropy course is not my first exposure to Allowance for Good. I spent a week of my 2014 summer in its Global Philanthropy Summit, a sort of crash course in Philanthropy and Social Entrepreneurship. After that week I was hooked. I had always had a passion for philanthropy, inspired by pretty much everyone in my family. My Dad is in charge of Pro-Bono work at his law firm, my Mom works for two public health non-profits, and my Aunt works in marketing for JUF, another non-profit. So, I was familiar with the concept of “giving back,” but I didn’t really know the details because no one sits a child down and explains the who, what, where, how, and why of philanthropy-- except of course AFG.

This past week we focused on socially responsible corporations, ranging from Warby Parker, which donates a pair of glasses for every single one of its products sold, to companies that encourage volunteering or match the donations of their employees. There are lots of ways that a company can fit philanthropy into its mission, and based on the rising popularity of socially responsible companies among consumers, not doing so could be devastating. In addition to these examples, there are still other ways to integrate philanthropy into a company: a corporation could use its brand name or money to raise awareness of an issue (for example, Always’ #likeagirl campaign); donate a portion of its yearly profits to a cause (e.g., Patagonia donates 1% of its profits to saving the environment); or implement specific ways to encourage volunteering, such as allowing employees days off to volunteer, offering the specialized services of the company for free, or providing other incentives (perhaps financial) for employees who volunteer.

After learning about the different ways corporate philanthropy is possible, we put the lesson into action. Our job was to determine how the hypothetical (or maybe future company run by AFG) bicycle company, “GetThere” should integrate philanthropy into its mission plan. The students split up into two groups and were joined by the board members, to make a plan. After going through a variety of ideas, my group settled on a bike safety program. This would involve teaming up with the local governments of our store locations to create bike paths, and providing free helmets to those who need one, but cannot afford one. This plan, if put into action, would have numerous benefits. Not only would there be a safer space for bikers, but the anxiety caused by bikers on the road would be reduced for drivers, and it would make GetThere a more sustainable company. With the danger of biking as transportation reduced, more people would bike, increasing the demand, and therefor the sales. This would also create a brand awareness for GetThere, hopefully bringing more bike-buyers to that store. This past week was a great one, and I am sure this information will come in handy when dealing with corporations.

Arielle, far left, brainstorms with her ELP classmates.

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."

Multigenerational, International, Experiential Journey

By: Jeanne
Jeanne was a traveler on the Allowance for Good / Spark Ventures trip to Nicaragua this August. 

During one of our trip participant dinners in Leon, Nicaragua, Jeanne, a 43 year-old, mother of two shares, “I have done some reading and studying about Nicaragua since my last visit.” The unexpected reply, “I love to read about history. I read about Nicaragua too! It was a wonderful book, called The Jaguar Smile: A Nicaraguan Journey by Salman Rushdie,” says Nina, 14 year-old member of Allowance for Good. I, Jeanne, sat back, amazed that this young woman has read this book. Amazed that she has chosen to take the time to prepare herself for her first experience with global philanthropy.  This was just one piece of the tapestry of conversations that I would have, as we traveled with the youth group, Allowance for Good.

My husband, Jeff, and I have been Spark Ventures investors for many years.  In 2013, we travelled to León, Nicaragua to see and participate in the work that Spark has been doing at a grassroots level.  What we saw stunned and changed us in so many ways during that trip and for the months to come. Soon after our return, we decided that we would bring our boys, Luc (12) and Ben (9), back with us some day.

We were committed to the idea that we must raise global citizens. That we had to challenge our children to step away from their day to day lives, look up from the screens and frankly, out of their comfort zone.  How can we make the world better if don’t truly experience many of the cultures, people and perspectives that make up our mosaic called Earth? 

Early in 2014, we heard that Spark would be partnering with another philanthropy on the next trip to Nicaragua, a group that worked with teenagers in the areas of leadership and philanthropy. While 10 months was a bit faster than we had planned, we decided this was our opportunity and the group to share our family experience with, down in León. 

Being in a completely different country, with a different socioeconomic environment, speaking a different language, eating different food, hearing different music and doing it all in a very different climate, can be unsettling.  The closer it drew the more we went through our concerns.  We didn’t know how our children would react.  We weren’t sure how the other group would either.  Would we and/or our children be welcomed or simple tolerated?  Will they befriend our boys or think them too young to bother with on this trip?  As it turns out, everyone exceeded even our highest expectations.

You see, these are not your normal teenagers, enamored with Disney, Xbox and the multitude of burgeoning social media tools.  Remember that Rushdie novel Nina mentioned? It was just the first of many pleasant and impressive surprises they had up their sleeves. Spending time with Allowance for Good and the five youths that we had the honor to accompany on this trip was, frankly, an inspiration to us as parents with children just a few short years behind the AfG youths. 

There was Turner, age 15, he came with an open mind and heart to everything that was happening around him.  When matched up with children who couldn’t speak English, he kept smiling, made up a game and in no time had a shy little child at Las Tias laughing and happy.  And Turner, well, he has a plan.  A sophomore in high school already thinking about what he wants to be, where to go to college, what that means to his family and maybe win a few more diving medals in the process.  Turner participates, he is present, he wants to learn about everything and everyone.  And how was he with our boys?  Well let’s just say that our son Luc is begging us to let him head out to Africa with Turner next summer, so that they can continue their journey of friendship and immersing themselves in global philanthropy.  And there are so many other moments, memories and stories of how each of the teens made an impression that will stay with us for the rest of our lives.

It was very clear to Jeff and I how lucky we were to have our children spending time with and learning from our AfG companions.  They are not the teenagers who move quickly away from something new and uncomfortable, or find their friends to avoid being part of the community.  They engage, they learn, they teach and they are infinitely interested in growing.

Isn’t this what it’s all about?  Our world is getting smaller, true. But it can also be more isolating. Social media gives young people windows to the world in ways that were never before possible.  Yet, Nina, Turner, Nicky, Orleana and Sylvana, that just isn’t enough for them. They are not content watching from the sidelines, or watching a video of someone else creating an experience. They wanted to a part of every moment we had with the women and children of Las Tías. To learn and grow EVERY single day. It wouldn’t have been the same trip without them.  We are blessed for having spent that time with them, they were a part of OUR learning and growth experiences, as well as our children’s.

It’s a tradition on these trips to share your experience with the other participants at the final group dinner.  Well, AfG was already doing that in their daily Reflection sessions.  We were just blown away how deeply these teens were thinking about the experience, how to build on it, how to integrate these thoughts and feelings into their development.  And at that final dinner, their thoughtfulness, maturity and character was on full display.  We’d heard from our peers during the other trip and spoken with many that had visited Spark partners in Zambia and Nicaragua.  And these teens were just as self-aware, had grown just much, and were developing plans on how to continue on their philanthropic life journey.

Keep your eye on these kids, help them if you can and they will ‘help’ you in ways you hadn’t thought possible.  These are the youths that will help us evolve as a global community.  The kind that will lead their generation and others, into the future and do it for the betterment of ALL of us. 

Jeanne, right, presents Las Tías with educational materials for their students.

Philanthropy: Fun, Easy, and Motivating

By: Meredith
Meredith is participating in Allowance for Good's spring 2014 Emerging Leaders in Philanthropy: Explorers program.

I have always enjoyed helping people and having that feeling of accomplishment after. That feeling always makes me feel like a better person. To help someone I don’t have to save a person from tragic accident, I just have to do a simple act of good.

Part of what motivates me to be a philanthropist/young catalyst for good is after helping someone they get this joyful and satisfied look on their face. That makes me feel very happy with myself and what I had just done. The way people feel when I help them is the motivation I get to be a philanthropist, but I also find helping people and being a young catalyst fun. When I am given a goal that I must reach and I like to do what I have to do, it makes good memories and is very fun. Many people may think that helping people is hard, but with help from some adults, I have found that being a philanthropist and helping people is very easy.

After the first Sunday class I had I went home and talked about philanthropy with my mom. She had explained to me that I actually have done a lot of philanthropy in my life, without knowing it. During Christmas time, my family and a bunch of other families come together and wrap up presents for people that maybe can’t afford presents or need care packages to help them live easier. Also, I am a swimmer at the YWCA and had been offered to teach swimming lessons to little kids on days that I don’t have school or on the weekends. I wouldn’t get paid, but I did it anyway. I get to help out the teachers and I get to teach kids how to swim. Not only does it benefits the kids, but it helps me become a better swimmer and for in the future, a better teacher.

In the future I hope that I take charge and do good for the world. I don’t have to be a genesis that comes up with a new way to make everyone’s life easier. But, by doing little everyday things and some big projects here and there I can change the world to be just a little bit of a better place.

Allowance for Good: Creating Changemakers and Citizens of the World

By: Danielle Siebert
Danielle is an Allowance for Good parent. 

As parents, we want the best for our kids. We want to give them everything they’ll need to be successful in their lives. So often, however, our focus is on whether or not they attend the best schools, make the right grades, play the sport of their choice or spend their free time constructively. We are so fortunate to live in a community full of amazing resources and opportunities to help our children to succeed in every traditional sense of the word. But I’ve often wondered…is this really enough?

Despite all of these fantastic opportunities and abundant resources, are our kids really developing the skills they will need to find and create their own happiness? How will they discover what they are truly passionate about? Can they connect with others in a meaningful way? Will they grow up confident and kind? Most of all…will they become citizens of Chicago’s north shore or will they truly become citizens of the world?

The idea of service has always been important in our lives. My husband and I were fortunate to have parents who valued both volunteerism and philanthropy. We grew up knowing that we are so small in this big world and that it would be our efforts to connect with and help others…near and far, friends and strangers…that would bring us the most happiness. For us, this is one of the most important things we can pass on to our children. Their greatest joys will come from reaching out, connecting with and helping others and having the confidence to discover and follow their own passions. What a joy it has been to see our daughter grow and develop in these ways during her involvement with Allowance for Good.

Last fall, our daughter, Clara, was a participant in the Emerging Leaders in Philanthropy (ELP) Explorers program offered by Allowance for Good. Through their fantastic speakers, seminars and discussions, Clara gained a much better understanding of the many ways that she can get involved with local and global issues and organizations that she cares about. She has always been a kind, thoughtful and curious person, but was sometimes shy and a bit hesitant. Well, no longer! We’ve seen such a transformation in her and especially in her desire to become involved in leadership roles in her school, in her extracurricular activities and among her friends. The ELP program has helped her realize that the words “Be the Change” are far more than just words.

The teens who attend the programs offered by AfG find such determination relative to the changes that they can bring about…in their own communities and around the world. They are learning skills that will help them leverage resources effectively and they are gaining confidence in themselves and their abilities. Additionally, they are finding the joy that comes from doing something that they are passionate about. They are discovering how nonprofits work to connect, help and inspire. And they are learning that connecting and “giving back” can be about far more than just donating money. They see firsthand the difference that only one person can make and they see the big changes that they themselves can create.

We are looking forward to our daughter’s continued participation in AfG’s programming…especially the ELP Changemakers program and hopefully a trip to one of the global affiliates in the coming years. As a parent, there’s nothing more rewarding than seeing your child become passionate about helping others. We see her developing the same appreciation for volunteerism and philanthropy that we value so much. We are so grateful to AfG for helping our daughter and her fellow ELP participants along their road to becoming kind, caring and passionate citizens of the world!