Our society has lots of stereotypes about millennials: entitled, self-absorbed, non-committal, and killing all sorts of industries from 9-5 jobs to American cheese. “Philanthropic” doesn’t usually come up as one of these stereotypes, but certain foundations are looking to change that perception.

One of the most unique big-city foundations that we’ve come across in that regard is the Spruce Foundation, an all-volunteer group of millennial philanthropists in Philadelphia. The Spruce Foundation has been on the local philanthropy scene here for about 12 years, and it continues to grow stronger as the years go by. The foundation’s origins are tied to a group of friends who met on Spruce Street and developed a giving circle with a strict local focus on Philadelphia’s youth.

So, how does a millennial discover and get involved with the Spruce Foundation in the first place?

One member wrote on the foundation blog about moving to Philadelphia five years ago and looking for some way to volunteer in the community. A coworker recommended Spruce and the member is now finishing a fourth year of service on the foundation’s grantmaking committee. As part of the grantmaking process, existing Spruce board members recruit and train 20 to 25 young professionals to review annual grant applications and recommend grants to the board.

Another member wrote about learning that philanthropy doesn’t require donating large amounts of money as a 20-something living in the city because even just $25 here and there adds up. Members have also found that other young professionals in Philadelphia are eager to give, even when they’re not sure where or how, and how they’ve learned that giving money rather than just volunteering time allows nonprofits greater freedom to do what they do best. If even that’s too much commitment, Spruce also shares local volunteer opportunities at nonprofits in the area on its website, such as after-school wellness programs, reading coaches, and supporting kids for artistic performances.

Not only is this an opportunity for young professionals to get involved with philanthropy in a social and low-risk way, but it’s also an accessible opportunity for Philadelphia nonprofits to secure small grants and great exposure. Spruce has an online portal that opens up for two months to accept unsolicited grant applications. All proposals must serve youth, but the topics of interest range from career and technical education to health and wellness, arts, and LGBTQ needs. Nonprofit applicants must have organizational budgets of $800,000 or less to receive a Spruce grant, as well as a local address in Philadelphia County.

Recent grant recipients include Rebel Ventures for education, Fresh Artists for the arts, Philly Girls in Motion for health and wellness, and Galaei for LGBTQ social justice. The next Spruce Foundation grant cycle will go live in the fourth quarter of 2019.


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