Encouraging our young philanthropists of the future

Mrs Lynne Mungomery, Director of Service

As a nation, 80.8 per cent of adult Australians made financial donations to charities and non-profit organisations in 2015-16 (Scaife & Baker, 2017). While the total giving dollar amount was greater than that of a decade ago, the percentage of people who donated declined over the same period. Scaife and Baker also noted from the Giving Australia 2016 study that, ‘Those who both gave and volunteered [their time] donated nearly twice as much [money] on average as givers who did not volunteer.’ In an age where technology, social media and crowdfunding make it easy for us to give financial support, how can we encourage the next generation of philanthropists – our children – to give in alternate ways beyond that of simply donating cash?

The impact of giving is immense, both for the recipient and for the giver. More than a financial donation, giving can take many forms. We should be encouraging our children to also donate their time, knowledge and goods in order to contribute to an ethical and just society. While donating money within our financial means is relatively easy, finding the time and the appropriate opportunity to share knowledge and skills is often the greatest challenge experienced by our community service students at Girls Grammar. Rather than simply participating in an activity that is part of our school curriculum, we aim to broaden our students’ attitudes and opinions. Finding the right service provider that will enable a worthwhile giving experience, beyond assisting in the raising of (much needed) funds, can take much consideration and consultation by the student and their support networks.

I recently met with founder and CEO of GIVIT, Ms Juliette Wright, and we discussed ‘increasing the participation of our young people in service’. Juliette has successfully established an online platform to ‘connect those who have, with those in need’ (GIVIT, 2017). Her most recent work has focused on assisting cyclone-affected communities in Airlie Beach. Through her work with GIVIT, Juliette is changing the way goods are donated. By establishing an understanding of what is actually required, and matching this with those who have items to donate, it is hoped that quality goods can be donated to meet a specific gap in the community.

GIVIT Kids is an online portal (within GIVIT) that provides young people with a fun, safe and educational way to ‘give new or pre-loved belongings to Aussie kids in need’ (GIVIT Kids, 2017). The portal aims to engage children in giving and is helping to develop a philanthropic culture in young Australians. It encourages tolerance and empathy in individuals and is developing research and fundraising skills within young people while contributing to lasting connections within communities.

During our discussion, Juliette mentioned that refugee children living in Brisbane have a need for bicycles to ride to school. Educational outcomes are being disrupted for this vulnerable group due to the high cost of public transport together with the alternative of a long walk to school resulting in high levels of absenteeism. There are likely to be numerous unused, outgrown bicycles sitting idle in the sheds and garages of Brisbane residents. It is likely that our 2017 School Charity recipient, the Romero Centre – which aims to help newly arrived asylum seekers in Brisbane access support – would be most appreciative of a tangible donation of quality goods such as those bicycles.

We are often told that time is our most precious resource, but it is the giving of time and the willingness to be involved in hands-on activity that attracts younger Grammar girls to our School Service and Charity groups. In concluding her presentation to the recent Year 10 Ethics Assembly, guest speaker and social commentator, Ms Rebecca Sparrow, suggested to the girls that, ‘every year that goes by, one person should be breathing easier because you are here’. Rebecca commented that this should be the girls’ legacy and it is a human responsibility to find ways to give back to the community.

This was a timely message for our Year 10 students as they commenced their fifteen hours of Community Service, and one that was also well-supported one week later by another guest to the School, Ms Gemma Sisia, founder of the School of St Jude in Tanzania. Gemma helped us understand that following and realising your dreams is possible, and the empowering nature of an education that, once received, cannot be taken away. However, her most memorable statement was that, ‘No matter what your situation, you should give back and help others’.

While their background might be very different from that of a Grammar girl, students at the School of St Jude are also involved in Service and Charity Groups including Scouts, Guides and the Interact Club. Most significantly, all graduates complete a year of Community Service on completion of their Year 12 studies.

‘Giving back’ can take many forms. Take for example, New South Wales teenager, Miss Holley Sommerville-Knott. Holley is the CEO and Founder of her own charity, Stardust Foundation, which she created at the age of eight to help the planet, people and animals in need. Now thirteen, she continues to use her many talents to advocate and draw attention to the causes she is passionate about. In 2014, Holley was announced as one of ‘eight girls that are changing the world’ for her inspirational work as a social justice and environmental activist (McGrath, 2014).

‘Holley’s mission is to spread kindness and compassion, educate and inspire people to stand up for what they believe in, unite together and co-create a sustainable and peaceful Mother Earth’ (ChemFreeCom Beta 2.6 Release, 2017).

Holley’s list of community contributions and achievements is extensive and she is an example of a young philanthropist who is instrumental in delivering environmental projects and demonstrates outstanding leadership in driving positive change.

The internet and social media have been, and still are, revolutionary in providing a means to share knowledge and inform people of current trends and also to advise participants of the needs of others. Social media is often criticised for making us antisocial, and so we strive to reduce the time children spend using digital devices. Avoiding a negative digital footprint is important, but there is much opportunity offered by social media and the internet to be used for good (Generation Next, 2017). Thus, we should be encouraging the use of social media and the internet for positive and socially responsible purposes, as well as for enjoyment and entertainment.

American inventor, scientist and cancer researcher, fifteen-year-old Jack Andraka has demonstrated how the internet is, ‘a place where only your ideas count, and we can use it to help people around the globe to innovate and change the world’ (Generation Next, 2017). Through ‘Google scholar’ Jack taught himself how to develop a test for pancreatic cancer in just eighteen months; a test that cost just four cents and eventually – through persistence and establishing contacts via social media – captured the attention of large research labs in America. Jack’s work is a great demonstration of how the internet and social media can be a very positive influence for young change-makers as well as those wishing to follow the work of community and charity groups.

Teachers, parents and service providers can each contribute to the outcomes of the community service experience. Together we can assist our young people to give back and participate in valuable and appropriate community service that also contributes to their growth, and allows them to create deep loyal connections to and appreciate the diverse nature of society. Demonstrating the commitment of giving time, and encouragement and support from parents, guardians and care-givers can all have a significant impact on a young person’s ability to follow their passion, share their knowledge and advocate for those in need.

At Brisbane Girls Grammar School, we encourage our students to volunteer their time and knowledge to support causes that benefit children, the aged and those living with disease or affected by disability.  Students are also encouraged to help people who are experiencing homelessness or disadvantage, and to help with funding or assistance with research or care, plus environmental preservation groups and associated causes. ‘Volunteering is about supporting non-profits or community groups by willingly giving your time, skills and enthusiasm to become involved and take action on issues that are important to you’ (Volunteering Queensland, 2017). Grammar girls are challenged to extend themselves beyond their comfort zone, both in their choice of activity and by planning and preparing for their community service independently and with the maturity to recognise when assistance is required. Through this level of independent personal challenge, they experience the magic of transformative service.

Questions to think about when considering community service options might be: What is my motivation to volunteer? Is there a cause close to my heart? And, are there particular skills I want to contribute or learn? For our young volunteers, it is also very important to consider how their community service will co-ordinate with their weekly schedule, the location of the placement and their transport options.

The motto of the 2017 Brisbane Girls Grammar School Service Captains, Alice Dunn (12E) and Ayesha Kumar (12G), is: ‘giving time helps others shine’. Through the giving of money, quality goods, knowledge and time, we offer opportunities for our students to make a positive difference to the lives of others as we direct our girls along the pathway to becoming young philanthropists of the future.


ChemFreeCom Beta 2.6 Release. (2017). Chemical Free Community Ambassadors, Advisors & Advocates. Retrieved April 12, 2017, from Chemical Free Community: http://www.chemfreecom.com/staff/holleysomervilleknott/

Generation Next. (2017, February 22). Connected Kids – The Potential of Pro-Social Media. Retrieved February 28, 2017, from Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S5tPHZVfQKE

GIVIT. (2017). About GIVIT. Retrieved April 11, 2017, from GIVIT: http://givit.org.au/about-givit#

GIVIT Kids. (2016). About GIVIT Kids. Retrieved April 11, 2017, from GIVIT Kids: http://givitkids.org.au/about

McGrath, G. (2014, October 20). 8 girls that are changing the world. (Fairfax Media) Retrieved April 12, 2017, from Essential kids: http://www.essentialkids.com.au/development-advice/development/8-girls-that-are-changing-the-world-20141020-118m6s

Scaife, W., & Baker, C. (2017, March 14). There’s cause for celebration and concern in how Australians are giving to charity. Retrieved March 20, 2017, from The Conversation: https://theconversation.com/theres-cause-for-celebration-and-concern-in-how-australians-are-giving-to-charity-72969

Sisia, G. (2017, March 27). Lunch Time Presentation.

Sparrow, R. (2017, March 22). Year 10 Ethics Assembly.

Volunteering Queensland. (2017, March 27). What is student volunteering? Retrieved March 28, 2017, from National Student Volunteer Week: http://nationalstudentvolunteerweek.org.au/resources/find-a-volunteer-role#trust-yourself-have-fun