ALPENA – More than 120 youth grantmakers from across northeast Michigan converged upon Alpena on October 28 for a regional Youth Advisory Council (YAC) training event. The training was a day-long session hosted by the Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan (CFNEM) for all of the YACs in its nine-county service area. Facilitating the training was Chelsea Holmes, Learning Services Program Coordinator of the Council of Michigan Foundations, and Cory Matkovich. Cory is a member of the Michigan Community Foundation Youth Project (MCFYP) Committee and often helps train other youth grantmakers. Holmes commented that this was the largest group she had ever facilitated, and was impressed with the group’s passion for their communities.
“It was great to be able to reach out to others who are also involved with YAC to see how they run their program in their school,” said Makenzie Zybdel, a YAC member from Alpena. “It gave me and other YACers an opportunity to use other methods to make our own YAC greater and more successful.”
During the event, YAC members dug deep into several aspects of youth philanthropy, including what makes a good grant vs. a great grant. They also had discussions on the importance and many benefits of community service activities; fund development projects that build relationships and increase gifts to the Kellogg Endowment Funds at the Community Foundation, from where their YAC grants are made; and participated in leadership skills activities. The group even held a Jeopardy-style competition to see which teams knew more about the many aspects of YACs locally, throughout Michigan, and nationwide.
YAC members traveled to Alpena from Iosco, Montmorency, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Crawford, Ogemaw and Oscoda Counties to attend the event. Also attending the training were 11 adult YAC advisors.
“Adult advisors play an important role in our YACs,” said Barbara Frantz, CFNEM Executive Director. “The Community Foundation has a YAC serving every county in our service area, and these advisors help it all come together so the YACers can review grant applications, and then they step back to let the kids make the decisions.”
Each YAC reviews grant applications at least once a year, while some YACs review twice a year. Nonprofits with youth projects submit their grant applications to the Community Foundation, which are then sent to the YACs. Each applicant requesting more than a mini-grant ($300-$500) is required to give a presentation on their project in front of the YAC members, who then get the opportunity to ask questions of the applicants. Then the YAC members make their grant recommendations.
"Our YACs do a great job of taking the information they have from applications and presentations, and then making very fair and informed decisions,” said Frantz. “They consider the amount they have available to spend for grants, how many youth the project will impact, other funding sources and the grant’s proposed budget, among other things.”
Funds for YAC grants come from the Kellogg Youth Endowment Funds at CFNEM, and at each of its affiliates: the Iosco County Community Foundation, the North Central Michigan Community Foundation and the Straits Area Community Foundation. In the past year, CFNEM’s Youth Advisory Councils have awarded a combined $68,000 to youth programs throughout northeast Michigan. Established through a matching grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Northeast Michigan Youth Advisory Council has been making grants since 1993, while the affiliate YACs began in 1998. Since their beginnings, our YACs have awarded more than $1.5 million in grants.