Awards & Events

Young Philanthropist Fund Inspires Next Generation

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Each February, leaders of the Mahoning Valley business community gather in Stambaugh Auditorium to honor a class of young professionals. They’re doctors and lawyers, brewers and teachers, architects and accountants.

The 25 Under 35 dinner – which this year will recognize 28 honorees on Feb. 8 at Stambaugh Auditorium – is organized by the Mahoning Valley Young Professionals and sponsored by the Community Foundation of the Mahoning Valley. And while the night serves as an opportunity to put the honorees in the spotlight, it also acts as the major fundraising component of the organization’s philanthropic arm, the Young Philanthropist Fund.

The fund, created in 2006, is led by MVYP with assistance from Community Foundation.

“We support organizations throughout the year. We try to find one nonprofit to give a $5,000 award to each year,” says Rose Shaffer Saborse, chairwoman of the 25 Under 35 committee. “We’re looking for organizations we can make an impact with. We try to find organizations that aren’t getting very much attention who are doing a great project or great services they’re trying to provide.”

In addition to the proceeds from the dinner, the Community Foundation accepts individual contributions to the fund.

Among the recent recipients are Making Kids Count, Potential Development and Boys & Girls Club of Youngstown, for whom the Young Professionals helped create a computer lab and offered kids a lesson in business fundamentals.

Making Kids Count received last year’s award to support its Comfort Kits package program, which tripled its deliveries to 2,400 from the year before. Beyond the cash award, Mahoning Valley Young Professionals made blankets for the packages at one of the monthly mixers and hosted a diaper drive.

The fund’s Gives Committee, which consists of five members, determines the recipient of the award. Once applications are submitted, the committee, with help from the Community Foundation, narrows the list and invites finalists to make a presentation.

“Then they make a funding decision based on that,” says Shari Harrell, executive director of the Community Foundation. “It’s an effort to engage the young professionals in the community.”

One aspect of the Young Philanthropist Fund mission is getting younger people involved in giving. In the past, the fund and Young Professionals have worked with high school and college students on projects. One needn’t to be a retired millionaire to be a philanthropist, Shaffer Saborse and Harrell say.

“We try to find high school and college students to join the Young Philanthropist Fund to teach them about giving back, raising funds, looking at grants,” Shaffer Saborse says, to give them a better understanding of how the philanthropic process works.

“The earlier people engage in the idea of giving back to their community, the stronger philanthropy becomes as a part of the culture in the Valley,” Harrell adds. “As these young professionals take off in their careers and earn more money and become a part of the community in many ways, the whole idea of giving back is important to them.”

Beyond the financial contributions to local nonprofits, though, members of the Mahoning Valley Young Professionals donate their time and expertise to charities across the area. So while $20,000 over a decade may not raise eyebrows, there’s more than meets the eye to the organization’s charitable efforts.

Part of the scoring in selecting the annual 25 Under 35 nominees, as well as the trio of MVPs recognized at the dinner, is their involvement in the community, whether through donating, volunteering or participating in community events.

“If you look at the pattern today versus 50 years or 20 years ago, people who are in their 20s to 40s aren’t giving money necessarily more [than they used to]. What we’re seeing is that people are giving time and talent,” Shaffer Saborse says, although having that money to give is still critical.

“We need to find other ways to raise money,” she continues. “We have our major fundraisers. We reach out to businesses and local organizations to give money so we can give back.”

So while the professional achievements of the 25 Under 35 and, more broadly, the members of Mahoning Valley Young Professionals deserve their night in the limelight, their work within their communities will also be recognized for having just as large an impact.

“We’re all people that chose to be and stay in this area. We’re all trying to do great things with our work and because we have different opportunities, we want to give back to our community,” Shaffer Saborse says. “We realize that things need to be changed. It’s having the mindset that we can make the community better.”

Pictured: MVYP club’s Rose Shaffer Saborse says members “want to give back to our community.”

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.