Doing Good Better Takes Young People

Hank Doll is an investor of sorts. His involvement in philanthropy spans decades and is connected across states and countries. To say he has perspective is an understatement. His family foundation has been around for a quarter century and is dedicated to supporting youth philanthropic initiatives and social justice issues.

What Hank invests in is the talent and energy of young people. There is proof that blending philanthropic endeavors with learning yields beneficial results. Schools are a wellspring of youth-driven philanthropic efforts. Hank knows this all too well from his work in giving. His foundation supports school-based charitable activities in several communities. Hank himself interacts with youth directly listening to their proposals for support. Hank believes that exposure to philanthropy is important at any grade level.

In thinking about the future of the social sector, the answer lies in young people. Young people are the future nonprofit practitioners, volunteers, board members, and donors. For Hank, getting young people informed, excited, and engaged about making a difference is how the sector will survive, “I think if people don't understand what the needs are out there they're not going to get, I think, sufficiently passionate about doing something about the issues.” He continued, “The opportunity is with the younger generation trying to get them to be more enthusiastic about being donors and board members and so forth.This is why his foundation—along with the William K. and Dorothy J. O’Neill Foundation—supported Foundation Center Midwest’s recent Youth Philanthropy Summit. The Summit brought young people together to learn practical skills, network, and share ideas about how to give back in their communities.

There may be endless possibilities in bringing young people together, but Hank observed that adults are responsible for one particular pitfall, which is a lack of connection in the donor community. “You tend to then stay within those silos and try to make a difference…but you don't necessarily see the larger picture and that's one of the values I think of the Foundation Center, the Council on Foundations, Philanthropy Ohio, and so forth. It brings together people from different places with different passions or different focus areas, and they start talking about ways in which they can work together.

Hank keeps his eye on the future, “One of the things that really makes me hopeful is that there are a lot of people including young people now who are connected with nonprofit organizations and philanthropic groups including foundations that want to do good in our community. The millennial, I understand, wants to do good in the community and hopefully in the process of being exposed to opportunities they will get more into ways in which they can have an impact.”

This sets the stage for a conversation with Windsor Ford from the Abington Foundation, which was founded by his great-grandfather. Windsor, 27, is a young professional and in part depicts the young person who Hank sees as the future of philanthropy. Windsor operates in the corporate space, the grantmaker space, and the grantseeker space, so he has perspective, too. Educated at Case Western Reserve University, Windsor works for a multinational manufacturing company. He serves as a trustee on his family foundation’s junior board where he learns about foundation operations and community involvement in preparation of one day joining the board of trustees.

One of the key roles Foundation Center fulfills is that of convener. Windsor’s first introduction to Foundation Center was as a guest panelist at Generation Give, a community convening sponsored by Foundation Center, Philanthropy Ohio and IdeaStream.

In addition to the foundation, Windsor is deeply involved with WorkRoom Programs Alliance. WorkRoom Alliance Program is working to create maker spaces as neighborhood cornerstones in order to upskill and reskill youth and adults in the skills needed by manufacturers. Windsor is forthright in his assessment of the philanthropic spaces he encounters, “philanthropy in a lot of respects is kind of boring. It's very much dominated by older people who have a lot of money, or who work at foundations and it doesn't really allow for younger people to really get passionate about anything.” He went on to explain, “You're kind of blocked by you know institutional barriers.New ideas are challenged because they don’t have a track record, but this stymies innovation. For Windsor, it’s simple: give young people with good ideas a chance.

Windsor insisted, “We've got to get people more excited. We have to get people who have the passion for that kind of thing access to the funding, and we've got to get the people who have the funding to be a little bit more open minded.” He insists that philanthropy has to think and operate entrepreneurially.

Windsor spends his time moving manufacturing into the 21st century. In his work in business there is more than one solution to a problem and that mindset should be applied to the social sector. It is about taking some risk in order to solve large-scale social problems. His grandfather’s paper boy is now his boss. Realities like that emphasize the line he walks between tradition and modernization. For him, all his efforts are to make this region stronger. Windsor has seen his city evolve over the years and his peers are part of that evolution, “Young people are engaged. Young people want to be here. People take a lot of pride and ownership in community.”

Windsor’s tenacity balances Hank’s patience. Both men recognize the value of young people and want to make a seat at the table for them. Fortunately, as philanthropists and community leaders they are well-positioned to open doors, creating opportunities to continue legacies started by their families, and make their own mark in history.

Inspired by its recent 40th anniversary celebration and theme of “Doing Good Better”, the Vision and Voices series is a collection of blog posts based on storytelling from Foundation Center Midwest leaders and stakeholders.