History of the Michigan Community Foundations Youth Project

Beginning in 1988, the Council of Michigan Foundations (CMF) and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation engaged in an effort to:
• Grow community foundations in the state of Michigan
• Get young people involved in philanthropy and volunteerism, and
• Establish a permanent source of funding to meet youth needs.

The result of that collaborative effort was the Kellogg Challenge. For every two dollars raised by a community foundation for its permanent endowment, the Kellogg Foundation would match it with one dollar for a permanently endowed Youth fund. Funding recommendations for grants made from this Youth Fund were to be made by young people from the community; these became known as Youth Advisory Committees, or YACs. The youth involved are referred to as YACers. The Kellogg Challenge took place between 1991 and 1996 and was administered by the Council of Michigan foundations.

With additional funding from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, CMF established the Michigan Community Foundations Youth Project (MCFYP) to carry out the Kellogg Challenge. Although funding through the Kellogg Challenge is no longer available, MCFYP remains an active component of CMF and lives on in YACs across the state.

At the outset, MCFYP had four main goals for YACs. More than a decade later, these four goals still describe what a YAC does:
1. Assess youth needs and priorities: YACs identify key issues and priorities for youth in the community.
2. Make grants: Using knowledge of youth needs and priorities, YACs make funding recommendations for distributing grant funds from the endowed Youth Fund.
3. Fund development: YACers raise funds to increase the endowed Youth Fund.
4. Involve others in leadership, volunteerism and philanthropy: As appropriate in each community, YACs advocate for local youth, promote positive youth action or do community service.

Why YAC? What Makes YAC unique?

At the core of the YAC experience is youth self-determination. High school students are just beginning to make important decisions independently. They have very limited experience calling the shots in their own lives. A whole new world is opening up to them and the opportunities are seemingly endless. They are stretching their wings for the first time…but they are inexperienced. They don’t quite know what they need to do to be successful. They are bound to make mistakes and they won’t make the same choices that a group of people in their 40’s might make. But that is what YAC is all about – giving young people an opportunity to experience giving, so they will know how to do it for the rest of their lives.

The YAC is an opportunity for young people to decide – collectively with their peers – about how to give away someone else’s money to do the greatest good. YAC may be a youth’s first lesson in authentic youth leadership, working with peers as a team, making decisions, building consensus or showing empathy and awareness for others. YAC also helps youth learn to prioritize, budget, think critically and follow committee processes.