Last week, 30 goal-oriented teenagers gathered at the Abramson Center for Jewish Life, in Montgomery County for the kickoff of the second year of an ambitious, collaborative program. The Teen Giving Project is an eight-month long curriculum about philanthropy offered by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia that will expand their understanding of Jewish giving. The program culminates in a real-life challenge: By the end of the program, the teens are expected to raise and allocate real-life grant money.
From now through May 2018 the teens will learn fundraising, communication and decision-making skills. They’ll discuss the notion of giving with Jewish values, utilizing concepts like tikkun olam and Maimonides’ tzedakah levels. By consensus they will determine a cause they wish to fund. Then they’ll go through every grantmaking step, by conducting research, creating a Request for Proposal, fielding and thoroughly reviewing grant applications. They’ll even learn how to read organizational and program budgets and make site visits. Finally, the teens will choose which organizations to whom to grant their money. All the while, they’ll be raising funds to meet their goal.
Sound like a lot for a teenager to handle? Think again. This year’s Teen Giving Project builds on the success of last year’s pilot program, which saw the inaugural class of ten teens set their expectations sky-high, with a fundraising goal of ten thousand dollars. “We really wanted to push ourselves,” says participant Dylan Hurok, then a tenth grader at Lower Merion High School. Incredibly, his group managed to not just meet their fundraising goal, but also exceed it, raising $10,600.
“We were on the edge of our seats ‘til the very end — we weren’t even sure we were going to make our goal,” says Dylan. “We were so happy.” And the kids found it to be such an inspiring experience that most have returned for this second year. “It was a worthy cause, and I felt a second year would be exponentially more valuable,” says Dylan, who has returned as a peer educator. He has big goals for this year’s group: “I’d encourage them to beat us out from last year.”