State Farm Not Only Invests In Teens, It Lets Them Do the Grantmaking

“Like a good neighbor State Farm is there” is the insurance behemoth's corporate motto, but it serves the company’s philanthropic work, too. State Farm Companies Foundation broadly supports education, safety, and community betterment through several giving programs.

The most exciting and out-of-the-box of these programs is its Youth Advisory Board Service-Learning Grants program. Projects funded here must involve peer-to-peer learning and leadership. That peer leadership also extends to the State Farm decision makers. Its Youth Advisory Board is exactly that—a group of students ages 17-20 that lead the way in terms of setting the granting agenda and dispersing the funds.

We don't see that very often, or really ever: A bunch of young people telling a corporate funder where to put their cash. 

The granting agenda, in addition to being student-driven, must provide hands-on engagement and education for K-12 students in one of the following topic areas:

  • The environment
  • Community safety
  • Health and wellness
  • Financial literacy
  • Access to college education
  • Arts and culture

The foundation is looking for big ideas, offering big checks to support them. Grants range from $25,000 to $100,000; the foundation is potentially giving upward of $5 million through this program in any given year. That's a lot of allowance money. In fact, the Youth Advisory Board Sevice-Learning Grants program is where the biggest bucks are for this foundation.

The State Farm Companies Foundation is putting a lot of responsibility in the hands of its youthful neighbors, but not to fear: Grown-ups are still in the picture, because the projects must flow through K-12 public schools or 501(c)(3) organizations. These organizations and the K-12 student-generated projects they're spearheading come in all sorts of engaging forms.

Are you a theater company? Nation Theatre for the Children's Research Foundation's Acting Out! A Peer-to-Peer Anti-Bullying Program uses this theater company's expertise to work with high schoolers to develop an anti-bullying program for 25,000 elementary school students in Minneapolis, MN ($43,625 grant).

Is gardening your gig? Tucker County High School in Hambleton, WV is improving its current school greenhouse, to be made financially stable and profitable with "new, diverse products, while teaching students about the nuances of running a full-time business," thanks to a $73,242 grant.

Should robots rule the world? The Halton District School Board Robotics Program in Ontario, Canada is creating programs for grades one to 12 "with the aim of aiding in S.T.E.M. scores" ($100,000 grant).

Do you like to get your blood flowing? La Clinica De La Raza in Oakland, CA is expanding access to physical activities for middle and high school students through youth advocacy and youth led fitness programs ($29,535 grant).

Is reading fundamental? Everybody Wins! in Washington DC thinks that it is, has a mentoring program that enables older elementary students (grades 4-5) to serve and mentor their younger peers (grades 1-3) to read aloud together ($47,378).

All of the Youth Advisory Board Sevice-Learning Grants the State Farm Companies Foundation doled out in 2013 are listed here. (Note that Arts and Culture is a newer category for them, and bravo to that Youth Board for adding it to their list.)