A Publication of WTVP

The next generation of philanthropists will wield more philanthropic power than any previous generation.

“What kind of impact can I make in my community?” Have you ever asked yourself this question? Most likely, you have. And how did you respond? For many emerging leaders, this is a common question. However, the more important question may be, “How do I make a positive impact?”

According to the report Respecting Legacy, Revolutionizing Philanthropy by, the next generation of philanthropists will be facing many complex social problems that will require a certain level of expertise in terms of giving, while also wielding “more philanthropic power than any previous generation.” With this challenge presents the need for the next generation to be educated and more focused in terms of giving.

That being said, the next generation is already looking to do more than just write a check. Today’s emerging leaders seek closer relationships with nonprofit organizations, give more of their time and talents, seek networking opportunities and look for lasting, tangible results. The Community Foundation of Central Illinois, like many community foundations across the country, has identified the need to help educate the next generation on the basic philanthropic skills necessary to combat this challenge.

How EPIC Works
In August 2012, the Community Foundation of Central Illinois responded with the announcement of the creation of the Emerging Philanthropists in Central Illinois (EPIC) Fund, an initiative designed to invigorate emerging community leaders to join together as philanthropists. EPIC is comprised of a cross-section of professionals in the community who join together to make a positive impact on the quality of life in central Illinois. Collectively, through annual membership donations ($150 for individuals; $300 for families), EPIC members are building the EPIC Fund, an endowment to address community needs through grantmaking.

As a result, EPIC’s giving circle model allows members to be philanthropic without having to be wealthy. As the fund grows, year after year, a portion of the fund is granted back into the community through EPIC’s grantmaking process. EPIC members are involved in establishing the focus of the grant based on what they identify is an important need in the community. The EPIC Grant Committee, consisting of a smaller portion of the EPIC membership, then meets to narrow down the grant applications to up to five finalists. The finalists are invited to a grant presentation to share the details of their grants with the EPIC membership. Last but not least, members then vote on which nonprofit organizations receive grants from the EPIC fund.

Philanthropists in Training
As indicated in the report Respecting Legacy, Revolutionizing Philanthropy, many next-generation donors have learned about philanthropy through their parents and grandparents, but are still forming their own opinions. They are also learning how to become philanthropists through peer-to-peer contact and volunteer experiences. Becoming more and more engaged in philanthropy brings with it the need to know more about the programs that address needs in the community. The next generation expects clear outcomes and wants to understand the impact these programs have on the community.

Through the EPIC fund, members learn these basic philanthropic skills, from networking with peers at social events to learning more about grantmaking. Through EPIC’s own grantmaking process, members learn to identify programs with clear outcomes and understand the potential of these programs to make a positive impact in the community. Additionally, members are invited to conduct site visits to programs funded by EPIC grants and observe its grant money in action.

The Power of Endowment
One might ask, “What sets the EPIC Fund apart from other types of giving?” The answer is simple: the power of endowment. Collectively, smaller donations are combined with other smaller donations that grow the fund. Year after year, distributions can be made from the fund, providing much-needed dollars to nonprofits in our community. In turn, EPIC members are making a long-term investment that will benefit the community in perpetuity.

To date, the EPIC Fund has 71 members and more than $11,000 in its endowment. Imagine in 20 years if that endowment were to grow to $1 million and each year, $40,000 in grants were made. Can you imagine? That is the power of endowment.

Engaging the Family
Last but not least, one important benefit of becoming an EPIC member, and quite possibly the most overlooked, is the family aspect. Through an EPIC family membership, the next generation can begin talking about philanthropy with their children at an early age. Each year, family members are invited to bring their children along on site visits in order to help start the conversation of philanthropy. It is the hope of the Community Foundation of Central Illinois that by starting these conversations at an early age, children will grow up knowing the importance of giving back.

The future of philanthropy is in the hands of the next generation. The EPIC Fund of the Community Foundation of Central Illinois is working to educate and guide emerging leaders to become well-rounded philanthropists. Anyone—not just emerging leaders—is invited to join EPIC and be a part of something bigger that will have a lasting impact on our community for years to come. iBi

Alison Oaks is program manager for the Community Foundation of Central Illinois. To learn more, visit