Teen’s Love for Community Inspires Philanthropists Young and Old

Alison Koff, and her parents, stand in front of the Cranmer Park Sundial, the neighborhood landmark she’s trying to save

Alison Koff is an energetic, personable teenager who’s done more in her 17 years than most kids her age. She’s written a business plan, organized a large benefit concert and been on television – all in the name of philanthropy.

This young teen’s love for community is inspiring. Involved in community giving since age 13, Koff is also a member of Rose Youth Foundation, a philanthropic giving group for teens at Rose Community Foundation. Her spirit runs in the family. Her parents serve on several nonprofit boards, and the family has a donor-advised fund with Rose Community Foundation which they use to designate charitable gifts to nonprofit organizations each year.

Most recently Koff invested her enthusiasm for giving back to help restore a beloved park in her neighborhood.

When Koff learned that Cranmer Park Sundial and Plaza, a place of countless childhood memories, was in desperate need of restoration, it hit a nerve. “The park is where everything is to me. I played soccer and lacrosse there. We used to take nightly family walks at the park, and I would climb on the sundial with my sister. All those events made the neighborhood and park so meaningful to me that I want to keep that for generations to come,” she explains.

While some people might just pull $10 out of their pocket to help, this young philanthropist took a different approach. One of Koff’s homework assignments was to write a business plan, so in it she proposed a benefit concert to help fund the renovation – a total projected cost of $1.5 million.

“I thought why not make the business plan about something more personal to me. So I wrote it for a benefit concert to raise money to renovate the plaza and sundial,” says Koff. “After I turned in my plan, my teacher came to me right away and said ‘you can do this; you have to follow through with this.’”

Energized by her teacher and parents’ encouragement, Koff connected with Denise Sanderson, a volunteer leading the fundraising effort.

“I was impressed,” says Sanderson. “Alison came over with her iPad, her plan and a presentation, and you could see her passion and drive. She was a sophomore in high school at the time. Her plan was so well-thought out and she had everything down that you’d need, from porta-potties to permits. She did a lot of initial research on what it would involve, how to get bands to come and how to pull the whole thing together. It was pretty phenomenal.”

The two worked together to take Koff’s business plan from idea to reality. They landed numerous media interviews, promoted the event to neighborhood and social media networks and put all the pieces in place for a fun, family affair in the park.

Koff points to her involvement with Rose Youth Foundation as a source of inspiration and strategic thinking. The experience of working closely with a group of 23 teens to learn about community causes, research nonprofits and make joint decisions on grants provided her with valuable background. “It helped me better understand the work behind the whole cause,” she says.

On concert day, more than 750 people of all ages came out to enjoy the festivities, and the effort inspired donations of more than $120,000 – more than Koff ever imagined.

Koff’s mother, Judy, is extremely proud of her daughter. She’s also not surprised at what she undertook. “Alison has always been a really caring person. When she came up with the business plan, that didn’t surprise me,” says Mom.

As for Koff, bringing the community together is what she’s most proud of. “It was so cool to look out and see all those people,” she says. “Everyone lived in the area and had memories from the sundial and plaza, and they were all there to support such a good cause. It was great.”

It doesn’t take millions to be a philanthropist. Like Alison Koff, it took passion and a great idea. Whether it’s an idea, time or money you have to share, our Philanthropic Services team can help. Learn how we can help you, your family or your company give back in a meaningful way by contacting a member of our philanthropic services staff.

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