by Pat Eng, Director of Programs
I attended the Community Investment Network (CIN) conference early in October as part of Bolder Giving’s mission to shine a spotlight on bold philanthropic giving. CIN works to inspire, connect and strengthen African Americans and communities of color to leverage their collective resources to create the change THEY wish to see. Held in Denver amidst the Rocky Mountains and commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, the theme for the title of this year’s conference was Beyond the Mountaintop. So, I went to the conference looking for that mountaintop to include examples of inspiring bold giving. And found them at every turn. Here’s one example:
Jerel Ballard, a freshman at Columbia College in Chicago, modestly considers himself “an average kid”, but when you meet him, you know that he is anything but ordinary. He was first introduced to organized philanthropy in the 8th grade and from that point on, Jerel became a catalyst for change. As President of the Youth Advisory Council, which gives grants to youth led organizations, he helped to transition the program from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation to an independently run non-profit called Lead2Change. Jerel rolled up his sleeves and helped draft by-laws, a business plan, a website—everything from soup to nuts. And the new organization thrived, adding new grant programs – Girls Leading Change and DreamBig!
Jerel talked about philanthropy as a lifestyle rather than an extracurricular activity. When he met with grantees, he saw firsthand the impact of philanthropy, and was sold on giving as a way to make change in the community and in the world. With such an early start in philanthropy, Jerel has been giving boldly of his time, talent, as well as treasure. Using his own modest financial resources ($25-50 per project) alongside his time and talent, he has wholeheartedly engaged in many efforts, including helping build two houses with Habitat for Humanity and helping to organize a petition around gun violence and a press conference with the Mayor of Milwaukee.
And Jerel is just getting started. He is helping to organize a new Youth Giving Circle where he anticipates donating $25 each month on top of other financial support he doles out for projects that work to create the change he wants to see in the world. He is studying broadcast journalism and is considering a minor in politics because he understands the need to be civically as well as philanthropically active. Where does he get his money? Luckily, he has received scholarships for his education, gets a small stipend from his parents, and wiggles a little paid work here and there.
After meeting Jerel, I felt like I reached the mountaintop and the view was amazing. Jerel is a shining example of bold giving. He understands that philanthropy is not just about money, but also about the love of humanity and expansive generosity. I left the conference feeling renewed and grateful because he represents a new generation of philanthropists leading the way forward. In the end, I got more than I came for.