We are pleased to be sharing news about the Lawson Foundation’s newly funded micro-grants for youth mental health and just as excited about the level of engagement and leadership from the 5th generation of Lawson family members on this initiative.
As mentioned in an earlier post, 5G Fund: Accelerate is an initiative that was designed and led by the fifth generation from start to finish! The group of millennials collectively decided to focus a small fund on youth mental health and use micro-grants as a means to accelerate or kick-start a number of projects across the country.
This initiative has proven to be successful on a few fronts. For the Foundation, succession planning is always on our radar, and we are constantly thinking about engaging new directors and members. So over the course of the last year, we have recruited so called ‘fifth gens’ who identified that they were interested in getting involved with the Foundation. This has allowed us to get to better know the new generation of philanthropists, to get them excited about the work of the Foundation, and to teach them about our grantmaking.
This engagement has led to a successful micro-granting initiative – providing funding for a range of youth mental health initiatives in communities across Canada.
In addition to that, we have also captured some important lessons about engaging with young philanthropists. In the spirit of sharing what we’ve learned, here are a few insights:
- If you want to engage with millennials, you need to provide an environment where they can get involved (hands-on) and where they can see their impact in a relatively quick fashion. You also need to ensure the cause/mission/area of focus is of interest to them.
- You need to be flexible on many fronts. Younger generations have demanding and busy lives and like everyone have limited time.
- You need to adapt to their world of technology. We have 5th Gen members all over the world, so to keep connected we engage virtually (Facebook) with them…and we don’t host conference calls!
- To keep the ball rolling, it has been helpful to have a dedicated staff person (that’s me!) to help support the work of the 5th Gen.
- Mentoring is important. Keep providing learning opportunities, such as philanthropic professional development, so that they continue to acquire the knowledge they need to make informed decisions. They are really keen and providing mentorship opportunities will help them thrive personally and professionally.
- In order to get buy-in, don’t dictate what they should be doing and how. Rather, get their input and let them be creative. They can do amazing things, and this initiative is proof of that.
The next steps for us include circling back to the 5th Gen to get their feedback and input on the past year and see if there is room for improvement and in efforts to keep them engaged, see if they want to continue micro-granting or if they want to mix things up a bit and try something else. They will also be finishing the current granting cycle by taking part in the monitoring and oversight function required to ensure good granting. Grantees have been asked to report back in 6 months time by answering three questions (being such small grants, we didn’t want to create extra work for our grantees, and so we decided on a short reporting back mechanism). When the reports from the micro-grants come in at the end of June, each committee member will follow up with a grantee to review the reporting and talk about what the micro-grants allowed the grantee to achieve.
So the engagement with the 5th Gen continues at the Lawson Foundation. It is amazing what a smart bunch of sharp young minds can do when they are truly engaged. I encourage all family foundations to make genuine efforts to engage the next generation of philanthropists and start reaping the rewards now – as some of them will be sitting where you are right now before you know it.