And a Child Shall Lead: The McKenna Foundation Develops Young Philanthropists

In Winnetka, Illinois, the McKenna family and their friends gather with McKenna Foundation Junior Board Members on Sunday evening. As young adults discuss the pros and cons of different grant applications and learn to develop group consensus, child-led philanthropy is getting a chance to spread its wings and fly. Allowance for Good is the organization teaching communities like Winnetka how to make their children lead philanthropists.

In 2013, the McKenna Foundation began partnering with Allowance for Good to educate the next generation of philanthropists in the North Shore area of Winnetka, Illinois. This partnership engages the McKenna Foundation Junior Board, made up of 19 North Shore area youth ages 13 to 18. With content created and led by Allowance for Good, including the Emerging Leaders in Philanthropy program, youth learn about philanthropy and the grantmaking process.

Registered in 2000 by hedge fund manager William McKenna and his wife, Michelle, the McKenna Foundation is dedicated to William McKenna's mother, Sharon McKenna, who died of breast cancer. The McKenna Foundation was formed in 1999 to honor her memory and her love of children, with the aim to "advance efforts that benefit youth." With an initial investment of $250,000 in 2000, the McKenna Foundation set out to educate and train the next generation of philanthropists. The foundation is small, but it has a solid focus that is gaining traction.

Allowance for Good has been educating the McKenna Foundation Junior Board and taking them through the grantmaking process. Kids are learning lessons in philanthropy, nonprofit prospect research, grant applications, and nonprofit evaluation. Recently, the Junior Board narrowed down their nominees based on group evaluation criteria, heard from potential grantees from the community, reviewed grant applications, and made two grants to local organizations.

Elizabeth Newton, founder and executive director of Allowance for Good, sees McKenna's youth philanthropists building the skills that will make them "global change agents" for life. “We are privileged to walk alongside the McKenna Junior Board as they unearth their philanthropic potential as individuals and as a collective," she stated. "The motivation and thoughtfulness of the board to ignite change through philanthropic grantmaking places them beyond their years." 


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