In Westchester County in New York State, the Helen Andrus Benedict Foundation formed a partnership with the local community foundation designed to encourage intergenerational programming. The Benedict Foundation is directed by members of the John E. Andrus family. Its two-fold mission is to create elder-friendly communities, and to mobilize older adults to volunteer their time and abilities to benefit people of all ages. The Foundation funds in Westchester County, and has a special interest in the City of Yonkers.
In 2000, the Benedict Foundation created an Intergenerational Fund at the Westchester Community Foundation, an affiliate of the New York Community Trust. As Frederick Moon, president of the Benedict Foundation explains, "We intended the Intergenerational Fund to serve as a vehicle to help strengthen communities, significantly increase meaningful opportunities for older people to contribute their expertise to the community, and encourage other local funders to support intergenerational programming."
The Westchester Community Foundation calls this initiative "Connecting Generations - Strengthening Communities."
Each year a Benedict grant to the Westchester Community Foundation supplies monies to help hire a part-time intergenerational grants coordinator and award mini-grants to local nonprofits. The Community Foundation begins the year by widely distributing a Request for Proposals to nonprofit organizations across the County. An advisory panel reviews and recommends grants to the Community Foundation's board of directors. Mini-grants of $3,000 to $10,000 enable the nonprofits to add an intergenerational component to an existing program.
In each of the last two years, the Benedict Foundation granted $100,000 to the Westchester Community Foundation for the Intergenerational Fund. A third year of funding has just been approved. In addition, the Community Foundation has increased the Intergenerational Fund's power by adding over $80,000 from other interested individual donors and foundations. In the first two years, a total of 21 mini-grants were awarded to 15 nonprofits. Projects include ones in which older adults help youth, youth help older adults, and youth and adults work together side by side. Most are located within child-focused agencies, although some are multi-service and older adult-focused agencies.
With a desire to bring nationally recognized intergenerational expertise to Westchester, a Benedict Foundation grant made directly to Temple University's Center for Intergenerational Learning has provided the Westchester Community Foundation as well as each of its intergenerational grantees with specialized training workshops and hands-on technical assistance. To help bolster the supply of older volunteers, another Benedict Foundation grant to the Volunteer Service Bureau/RSVP launched an aggressive media campaign designed to illustrate older people as valuable community resources and recruit Yonkers older residents as volunteers.
Intergenerational Funding Successes
Neighborhoods, children and youth, and older people across the county have benefited from this funders' collaboration. Older adults are tutoring and mentoring children, and teaching communication and public relations skills. Young people are teaching older adults how to use computers to write and send e-mail. Youngsters and older people have: written plays exploring intergenerational relationships and presented them to standing ovations in numerous community forums; designed and created new neighborhood parks; planted community gardens, flowers and trees; restored stream banks; cooked and served nutritious meals together at senior centers and after-school sites; and produced oral histories focusing on older women's experience struggling toward civil rights, and older veterans' experience in foreign wars.
A National Model?
The Helen Andrus Benedict Foundation created an Intergenerational Fund at the Westchester Community Foundation with the hope that intergenerational programming would mobilize people of all ages into action on behalf of their communities, enhance meaningful opportunities for older people to volunteer their time and abilities, and encourage other funders to support intergenerational initiatives. In two years, 15 nonprofit agencies have added an intergenerational component to existing programming. Last year over 150 children and 340 older adults participated in a wide range of programs designed to benefit young and old and their communities.
The Westchester Community Foundation has become a knowledgeable leader and advocate for intergenerational programming in the region. This year the Community Foundation institutionalized its interest in intergenerational programming by changing its review guidelines for general grant proposals to add points in its rankings for proposals with intergenerational components. As Catherine Marsh, executive director of the Westchester Community Foundation describes it, "Intergenerational programming is consistent with the Westchester Community Foundation's mission to strengthen communities while addressing broad community needs. Establishing links between the generations is an essential component to building strong and healthy communities."
With adaptation to local challenges and opportunities, an Intergenerational Fund could no doubt benefit many other communities. The potential for partnerships is enormous. Nationwide there are an estimated 18,300 family foundations and 670 community foundations, most of which share an interest in funding locally. In addition, funders might consider creating Intergenerational Fund partnerships with United Way, alternative federated funds, or other trusted local groups like community development corporations or multi-service agencies.
Barbara R. Greenberg is president of The Philanthropic Group in New York City, which designed the grantmaking strategy for the Helen Andrus Benedict Foundation, and directs its grantmaking program. Funders interested in learning more about creating an intergenerational fund may contact the Helen Andrus Benedict Foundation at email@example.com