The Community Foundation of Northern Illinois has a unique program that teaches high school students in Boone, Ogle, Stephenson and Winnebago counties about the grantmaking process and how philanthropy works. It’s called In Youth We Trust.
Jennifer Smith is the engagement director for CFNIL. She said the kids look at all aspects of grantmaking and then award grants to adults and youth alike.
"They make the application," she said, "market it to the community, receive the proposals, review them and then make recommendations for who will get the awards."
Smith said the process is intense and a great experience for students to make decisions about distributing philanthropic dollars.
"To get a picture of what it looks like to be philanthropic -- that's not something necessarily that a lot of young folks get the opportunity or responsibility to do," she said.
In Youth We Trust has awarding grants since 1995. Smith said the program is an example of how exceptional the youth are in our communities.
"When they are given the opportunity to dig a little bit deeper -- are given a little bit higher responsibility in terms of giving back to the community, they absolutely rise to the challenge," she said. "And this program has shown us time and again that we not only trust the youth council members, but all the youth who have received grants."
Smith said the cycle is open for the first of two In Youth We Trust grant programs. Because of the pandemic, the students are looking for proposals that request support for COVID-19-related expenses.
"It's a competitve grant," she said, "just like all the other grants that we have."
Smith offered advice to anyone who is seeking a grant.
"Read the directions and read the guidelines," she said. "Make sure that what you're asking for fits the guidelines pretty clearly."
She gave an example:
"An organization that's offering before-or-after-school programming and is asking for funds to cover COVID-19 related expenses is probably going to do well."
Smith also said to be clear with your budget.
"Make sure that what you're asking for and what you're describing -- the project description -- matches what you're showing in the budget."
The deadline to apply for a grant is January 5, 2021. Click here to apply.