The EngAGEment Initiative partners Grantmakers in Aging with regional associations of grantmakers and other national organizations to introduce grantmakers to the many needs of our aging population.
Guest Post by Marie Beason, Director of Professional Development and Special Initiatives, Indiana Grantmakers Alliance
During my first week of employment at Indiana Grantmakers Alliance, I found a grant application for the Grantmakers in Aging EngAGEment Initiative on my desk. Having left my previous position as a nonprofit executive director because of my 82-year-old parents’ health concerns, I was intrigued. It seemed the application and goals of the initiative were as broad and complex as the issue of aging! So I did exactly what all good grant writers do and focused on what I thought I could deliver with limited resources and a strong passion.
The first lesson I learned was that Indiana grantmakers did not think of themselves as “aging funders.” A very simple baseline survey completed in 2009 indicated that only 1% of respondents identified aging as a funding priority for their organization. At a series of regional meetings, we encouraged funders to think about how almost any grant they could make would impact the aging population and to look at each grant application through an aging lens. The “education grant” to the tutoring program provided a civic engagement opportunity for senior citizens. The “arts grant” to build a community amphitheatre provided cultural opportunities for the elderly.
The second lesson I learned was that communities want and need to work together to address the needs of our aging populations. We created nine EngAGE Indiana Networks (EINs) in communities around the state. These networks, led by community foundations, convened policymakers, service providers, aging funders and senior citizens discussed issues such as providing coordinated senior nutrition services, creating lifespan communities and promoting civic engagement – often for the very first time.
Finally, I learned that donors need to be encouraged to support aging issues. Yes, kids count… but codgers count, too! As wealth transfers across generations, families need to be encouraged to think beyond scholarships to honor their loved ones. Indiana Grantmakers Alliance is in the process of developing some planned giving resources to help community foundations create endowments and donor-designated funds to address the needs and opportunities presented by our aging population.
Grantmakers in Aging’s EngAGEment Initiative provided me with several eye-opening experiences—from learning (much to my dismay) that I am part of the “mature” workforce to discussing what might happen to a small foundation when one of its three staff members needs to care for an elderly parent. I’m happy to share our work on Indiana’s mature workforce, a video and community discussion guide we helped create, and the planned giving resources we’re developing for community foundations, once they are available. Though not one of the highest priorities for most foundations, everyone is aging and philanthropy can and should take an active role in meeting the challenges and seizing the opportunities presented by our aging population.