Allowance for Good: Engaging Teens in Philanthropy

As a teenager, it’s often hard to feel like you’re taken seriously. The only people who can make a difference in the world are those with big jobs and a lot of money, right? If your child has dreams of one day changing the world, who is to say that she or he can’t start now?

We love Allowance for Good (AfG) because they are that missing piece. Based in Evanston, the non-profit works with children ages 13 to 18, and focuses on empowering the next generation of philanthropic leaders. They operate under the belief that global citizenship is not bound by income, race, or culture – and that everyone has something to give.

Once students at AfG realize that philanthropy is so much more than writing checks, they become enthusiastic about their ability to give of their “time, talent, treasure and ties” to make a difference in their own unique way. Elizabeth Newton, founder and executive director of AfG, describes their approach as covering philanthropy, civic engagement, social innovation and global citizenship.


“This framework serves as the underpinnings that give youth the permission, skills and confidence to engage meaningfully in our increasingly interconnected world,” she says.

Since it was founded in 2010, Allowance for Good has reached over 800 students from across the Chicago area, with future plans to expand into the school system. Throughout the year, they offer three different programs that provide opportunities to engage with philanthropy in the classroom, in their local communities and across the globe.

This July, we had the chance to sit in on their Global Philanthropy Summit titled “Empowering Social Innovators.” In a one-week crash course, students were given the chance to explore some of the coolest philanthropic efforts happening in Chicago. The week included speakers from and visits to Google, Groupon, Microsoft, McDonald’s, World Chicago, Impact Engine and Design for America. By the end of the week, students were inspired by the many ways that people, companies and communities can make an impact. Using their newfound philanthropic strengths, students then applied their knowledge to a fundraising project of their own, ultimately benefiting Spark Ventures, one of AfG’s global affiliates.

As they continue to grow and share their passion for change, Allowance for Good’s leaders are incredibly proud of the courage, zealousness and strength of the youth they have worked with thus far.

“The ripple effects of their actions are transforming lives and empowering others around the world to achieve their full potential,” Newton says. “This is the most significant and celebrated outcome for which I could hope. Our youth are a formidable force for good.”

Excited to get involved? Be sure to check out their website for details on their Emerging Leaders in Philanthropy programs this fall.


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