Having led fast track careers at Oracle in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, my husband and I had focused our entire lives on work. We first began to embrace our role as members of the community after he joined Yahoo! in 1996. The company’s high profile IPO invited many grant requests and we began supporting enterprising nonprofits as we met them. We were awakened to develop a parallel resume, as most people in the Silicon Valley have, of philanthropic work.
When we founded our own family foundation in 2003, our hope was to involve our kids in our grant decisions so they could carry on with the foundation after we'd gone. But our daughter Denna was only 6 years old, and our son Ari was only 4, and we weren’t sure how to help them wrap their heads around philanthropy. SV2 was critical in both our own evolution from donors to mindful philanthropists and in helping us to involve and prepare our children.
When my daughter and I showed up for her first day of SV2 Teens three years ago, we learned that the teens would have their own grant round, where they would examine several nonprofits and then select one to receive a $5,000 grant. The meetings were facilitated by staff and SV2 Partners, but there was plenty of flexibility for the teens to steer their own process.
I can never forget the lively grant discussion I witnessed at the conclusion of that first year, when the SV2 Teens evaluated the tradeoffs between their two finalists, a local organization and a global. I was amazed at the scope of the decision they were making but have always believed that people rise to the occasion if given the opportunity, and those teens were no exception. They proved that you don't have to be in your first job out of college before you figure out how to think outside of yourself, consider the needs around you, and make decisions about how you can help. Kids as young as 11 looked at just about every aspect of those two finalist organizations, and evaluated the potential leverage of their $5,000 investment. They did so in the most civil, constructive and collegial way. They owned the decision, and they got it done. It was as good as any grant discussion anywhere.
Since that first grant round three years ago, SV2 Teens has continued to have a huge impact on Denna and Ari. They have been able to explore philanthropy and social change in ways that are age-appropriate, accessible, and multi-faceted. Each year, they’ve visited new nonprofits that work on very tangible, local issues, such as poverty, education, and elder-care. Additionally, the career angle of the SV2 Teens program has exposed Denna and Ari to various career paths and revealed the importance of these hot companies’ dedication to social responsibility. Strategic visits to companies such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Andreessen Horowitz helped Denna and Ari contemplate their futures while fulfilling their passion of wanting to help others.
The results of the SV2 Teens program are even more powerful than its methodology. My husband and I are seeing Denna and Ari engage in the community in countless ways. Inspired by a visit to the Boys’ and Girls’ Club with the SV2 Teens, Denna founded a club called Menlo Mentors to facilitate a dozen Menlo students tutoring at the Boys’ and Girls’ Club every Tuesday and Wednesday after school. Using the skills she’d gained at SV2 Teens and in our family, Denna has recruited and acknowledged volunteers, created the tutoring schedule, managed correspondence with Boys’ and Girls’ Club staff and volunteers, and written status reports that she distributed to all involved.
SV2 Teens is a critical part of Denna and Ari’s education, which is of utmost importance to us. Today, at the ages of 14 and 12, they understand the crucial concepts of addressing the root cause, helping people help themselves, and standing for what they believe even if it's not the common view. My husband and I feel increasingly confident that our kids are armed with the strategic thinking and logistical training they will need to run our family foundation brilliantly when the time comes.