Youth philanthropy group one of seeds planted in community by IUPUI

Jill GordonJill Gordon

by Ric Burrous

Jill Gordon first got exposed to philanthropy in the late 1990s as an IUPUI undergraduate student in the School of Liberal Arts and as a Sam H. Jones Service Scholar in the Center for Service and Learning.

Gordon quickly figured out that she had career aspirations in the field of service and nonprofits, feelings that grew nearly a decade later as a master’s student in IUPUI’s museum studies program, also in Liberal Arts. But Gordon never imagined that she might one day become the program director for the Youth Philanthropy Initiative of Indiana and find herself giving the city’s youngsters an early exposure to a field that Gordon now considers her professional home.

The Initiative, part of the Indiana Philanthropy Alliance Foundation, is based in downtown Indianapolis and is one of many seeds planted in the philanthropic field by the campus. Gordon was trained at IUPUI, as other current and former staff members have been. Youth Philanthropy Initiative has used numerous IUPUI students as interns with a variety of responsibilities. And initiative’s Partner Network relies on the campus and the Center for Services and Learning for insight and advice.

The relationships Gordon formed as an IUPUI student ripple throughout her career even today.

“I’ve continued to work closely with the CSL through Morgan Studer, the program director for community outreach, and executive director Julie Hatcher,” Gordon said. “Morgan invited me to teach one of her class sessions, and Julie has paired interns with Youth Philanthropy Initiative and continues to be a great resource.”

The Partner Network helps the Youth Philanthropy Initiative remain focused on its mission to grow lifelong philanthropists who give their time, talent and treasure for the common good. “The network meets monthly to talk about integrating youth philanthropy into nonprofit and youth-serving organizations around Indiana,” Gordon said.

The campus also helps the Youth Philanthropy Initiative in other ways, she added. School of Public and Environmental Affairs students have helped formulate a development plan to expand YPII’s grant and fundraising efforts. And Gordon is talking with IUPUI schools (for example, Engineering and Technology or Informatics and Computing) to help create promotional videos for the Youth Philanthropy Initiative and to develop online tools to support the organization’s community programs.

Gordon is a big believer in the value of internships. On her way to a B.A. in anthropology in 2000, she interned at The Children’s Museum in Indianapolis, which led to her first position with the museum (1998 to 2000). When she returned in 2007 as the Public and Youth Programs Coordinator, Gordon explored the Power of Children exhibit and connected with YPII. That experience put the organization on her radar screen.

She believes the relationship between IUPUI and the Youth Philanthropy Initiative of Indiana is important for young people throughout the area.

“Educational resources can nurture the spirit of generosity among all families, regardless of income level,” she said. “The more assets youth have, the more they will demonstrate positive behavior, such as academic success, appreciation of diversity and good health practices.”

The initiative spreads its message through youth and adult conferences and workshops, mostly for students of high school age, but also children as young as 4 years of age.

Gordon believes IUPUI is in perfect position to achieve its goals as well as to help support community philanthropy, volunteerism and service. That is especially true in getting young people involved in the community at a young age.

“It’s important to help young people realize the power they have to make an impact in the community and to help the people around them,” Gordon said.