Event focus: Philanthropy through the eyes of the next generation

Jordan and Lauren Huizenga are like a lot of young couples who have chosen to make Northern Kentucky their home.

Both were products of growing up on the east side of Cincinnati, but the more experience they gained with Covington, the more they found themselves feeling at home — to the point that they have purchased their first house there.

They like the established, historic character of Covington’s neighborhoods and housing stock, along with the fact there are so many things to do, many of them within easy walking or biking distance. And they also found lots of others who had interests and ambitions similar to what they had, people who are interested in building a sense of community.

“We really have kind of the best of all worlds,” Jordan Huizenga says. “We’ve got tree-lined streets and neighborhoods, and progressive dinners with neighborhood associations, and neighborhood community schools and just wonderful parks. What’s going on now in Covington and our other river cities right now is just really, really exciting.”

Engagement by new, young residents like the Huizengas will be the lifeblood that nourishes the next chapter in the story of Northern Kentucky’s communities and neighborhoods. Coming up on May 6 will be a program that will discuss the role philanthropy can play in further enhancing the quality of life across the region.

The 2019 Next Gen Giving Summit will be a half-day event at Erlanger’s St. Elizabeth Technology and Education Center, presented by Horizon Community Funds of Northern Kentucky and the Kentucky Philanthropy Initiative. The goal is to create awareness of the impact that those under 40 can have in positively influencing the community around them.

Those who have studied the subject say that potential impact could very well be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“Northern Kentucky is on the brink of a historic transfer of wealth, with an anticipated $9 billion being passed down to the next generation over the next 10 years,” says Horizon Community Funds President Nancy Grayson. “As a community, we must be proactive in our approach to this new pool of philanthropists.”

One of the nation’s top experts in studying the impact of philanthropy, Una Osili, will be the program’s keynote speaker. Professor Osili is the associate dean for research and international programs in the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI (Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis). She also leads the research and publication of “Giving USA,” an annual report on American philanthropy.

This will be the second year that the Kentucky Philanthropy Initiative will be coming to Northern Kentucky for a community event. Last year’s program focused on defining the overall scope of philanthropy around the state.

This year’s program will be more directed at understanding and working with the key demographic of younger Northern Kentuckians.

“I’m looking forward to learning about the next generation data and what that potential is for Northern Kentucky,” says Joe Clabes, the president of the Kentucky Philanthropy Initiative and someone who spent his teenage years growing up in the area when his mother, Judy Clabes, became the editor of the Kentucky Post in 1982. “It’s going to be an opportunity for some of our future leaders in philanthropy to understand all the different ways philanthropy can help a community.”

Clabes says that taking an active role in philanthropy as part of a community gives younger people a chance to help steer support to where their local knowledge says it is most needed or will have the biggest positive impact.

“We try to encourage people to look at their community, no matter where they are from, as one of their heirs,” Clabes says. “We think people should participate in their community funds because they are baskets of funds that a community can use that are locally controlled, non-governmental, and permanent, if it’s an endowment situation.”

Several area companies will be participating within the day’s programming, discussing ways in which they support philanthropy.

Among them will be Tier1 Performance Solutions, a business consulting firm headquartered in Covington. Greg Harmeyer is a founding partner and CEO of the firm who says the benefits of philanthropy are part of Tier1’s message to both clients and its own staff of 200 employees.

“We work with organizations on improving their business through their people,” says Harmeyer. “We work on things like culture and leadership and engagement with people and talent development, those kinds of things. There are a lot of elements to our philosophy about our own work and the work we do for clients that are relevant in some ways to philanthropy.”

A key linkage is a core philosophy that Tier1, a Certified B Corporation, adheres to: organizations exist to serve people, not the other way around.

Tier1 has a significant number of employees who would fit into the “next gen” category, but the company encourages everyone to commit themselves to goals beyond just financial success. For instance, Tier1 has taken to actively promoting in-house programming initiatives to increase awareness of mental health issues.

The company is partnering in the upcoming May 10 “Cincinnati Scurry” event to raise awareness of teen mental illness. It also launched, in partnership with the Lindner Center of Hope, a “Start the Conversation” program to encourage employees to work to destigmatize mental health issues by breaking the silence that often comes when a mental health situation arises.

Harmeyer says he sees a lot of employees in their 20s and 30s who appear to be very purpose-oriented. That’s a good fit for business consulting, but it’s also a good fit for philanthropy and contributing to community success.

“It needs to be authentically a part of contributing to society, with everything you’re doing,” he says. “We try to be really careful with this. Yes, we do a lot in the community, but that’s not the only way we make a difference. In fact, it’s not the primary way we make a difference. The primary way is through the way we show up at work every day.”

Making philanthropy an organic part of a thriving community is exactly what the Huizengas are experiencing with their neighbors in Covington.

The more the Huizengas became involved themselves in their community, the more they found they wanted to do, which is a rewarding feeling of being connected when you are still in your early 30s. They found neighbors who were passionate about causes and projects, and wanted to support those efforts.

“I think one of the things that really spoke to us about investing in this community, through our time, our talents, and our philanthropy, was that when we were newcomers we were welcomed with open arms and encouraged to get involved and asked to participate,” Jordan says.

Jordan served on the Covington City Commission, the Foundation Board for Gateway Community and Technical College, and the Northern Kentucky Chamber’s board. Lauren is on the board of the anti-drug abuse and anti-violence group Covington Partners. They both mentor students in the Covington City Public School system.

While Lauren is an attorney who works for a company in Blue Ash, Jordan is the senior director of development for Children, Inc., a Covington-based agency that works to tie education and family success and stability programs into an overall effort to break the cycle of generational poverty.

“I think one of the challenging stereotypes we have is that philanthropy has to mean money,” Jordan says. “That’s a barrier for next gen philanthropy, because in my mind, philanthropy and civic engagement and community involvement are all intertwined together. Every 20- or 30-something person I know, every millennial, wants to make a difference. We need to change how we talk about philanthropy to having an impact in your community on something you are passionate about."

“We found an open, welcoming, friendly community here to get involved in," he continues. "If you’re willing and able, just stand up and raise your hand a little bit. You’ll pick up trash on the weekends or help plant a tree in a park and just show up, because Northern Kentucky is the kind of place where you can make a difference, whether you’re an outsider or a native.”

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