Building Leaders in Innovative New Giving (BLING): The 5 Reasons Why Bay Area Funding Is Necessary

Anela and Abdul of BLING

This is the third post in a three-part series showcasing youth-led philanthropy programs in the Bay Area. Read the first and second posts. For more information on how young people are engaging in support of the social sector, see Foundation Center's report, Scanning the Landscape of Youth Philanthropy

We are a group of youth from the Youth Leadership Institute (YLI) who want to make a change in our community. This change happens with our decisions, can you believe that? We’ve funded 33 youth-led social justice projects in San Francisco since we started in 2013, and there are more coming every year. We give youth a space to step up and address issues of inequity in their communities. We help youth apply, review applications, interview to fully understand ideas, and then decide whether they are ready for funding or need do to more work and apply again. Through this unique experience, we know the issues youth face are not only present in San Francisco.  Throughout the Bay Area, we have similar struggles--from access to healthy food to gentrification and police brutality--and we need each other to eliminate them.  This is why we are introducing a bigger picture of B.L.I.N.G. philanthropy at YLI to fund youth-led projects from San Francisco to San Mateo to Oakland to Marin.

1) Youth know youth.

"Youth power is invaded by the imperialism of Adultism, and we want our independence." - Abdelatif, BLING Philanthropist

In a world full of adult philanthropists, it is often difficult to think, “well, what about youth?” This question is not posed to discourage or push aside adults, but instead to ask about the next generation and how to make successful youth-adult partnerships.  In our work we see that projects “by youth” are far more successful than projects “for youth.”  Youth philanthropy is important because youth know what youth need. There is no person who knows better about the exact needs of a community than the person who is a part of that community. 

2) San Francisco is a city committed to youth philanthropy.

"We are grateful for a city fund that lets us do social justice youth philanthropy, so let's talk about how to do this in all cities." - Cathryn, BLING Coordinator

We are all fortunate enough to be surrounded by accessible resources for youth philanthropists. Through the Department of Children, Youth, and their Families (DCYF) and the Children’s Fund (Prop C), we have three youth philanthropy programs here in San Francisco. B.L.I.N.G., Youth Funding Youth Ideas (YFYI), and Youth Empowerment Fund (YEF).  The only issue is we are limited to funding work that happens within city limits.  We want to extend our resources to youth outside of the city, so we are building our local youth-led program to expand regionally to do it.   

3) Youth have ties to many communities.

“At my own school, almost half the students come from outside SF, but they are as much a part of the culture and community as those who were born and raised here.” Jill, BLING Philanthropist

From our time doing this work we know youth have no shortage of creative ideas to address issues in their community. But what is their community? The neighborhood they live in? The place they go to school? The location they had to move because their rent was increased? Youth in and out of San Francisco build connections to places all around the Bay Area.  Bay Area funding would provide youth the opportunity to work with other youth and programs outside of San Francisco and the chance to expand their projects to all their communities. 

Flyer for BLING grants
4) Together we are stronger.

“Social justice can only be achieved through a collective effort, and expanding is the first step in achieving such progress.” – Ryan, BLING Philanthropist

Bay Area Funding comes with the chance to expand and collaborate with youth based outside of San Francisco. With the chance to grant money to projects that take place outside of SF, we give projects the opportunity to work with programs and communities outside of their own. It is through this collaboration that we learn from each other and we are able to come together to work towards social change within our neighborhoods.

5) Grow and deepen our network.

“Youth philanthropy can show how strong youth are and how they work through things to address inequity.” – Anela, BLING Philanthropist

With the idea of Bay Area Funding, we are expanding how many people we impact and our understanding of the issues that most affect youth. For BLING members, we feel that meeting and hearing from other youth while grantmaking expands our own understanding of social justice.  In two years we’ve funded 33 projects with over $125K and have impacted over 200 youth leaders that have estimated impact on 7,500 other people in their communities.  Beyond numbers, the impact we have is in what we learn from every youth we meet.  The more networks we build, the clearer picture we have, so we can get to what is keeping all youth from succeeding.  

For more information about BLING and YLI, visit our page at yli.org. Follow us and our progress on Bay Area Funding on social media: FacebookTwitterInstagram.

Jillian Wu, BLING Program Officer

JILLIAN WU is BLING's program officer.