Logan Gardner is busy with a nonprofit organization he created, one that raises funds for other charitable ventures. He’s also responsible for cleaning his room and doing his homework, because, well, he’s still in high school.
Kids for Kids: Youth Social Ventures is a year-long school project for Gardner, a senior in the liberal arts academy at Henry Clay High School. Before he has a chance to turn in the final term paper, the program has already become a reality.
Focused on furthering the charitable endeavors of students in middle school through college, Kids for Kids has a mission of building a generation of socially responsible entrepreneurs with practical business experience.
“Kids for Kids is an organization that tries to help existing charitable projects run by kids expand,” Gardner said. “We focus on the three main obstacles in the expansion: credibility, networking and capital.”
In December 2012, Kids for Kids raised funds for Ellen Hardcastle, a high-school student in Nashville, Tenn., who recorded an album of original piano music. Hardcastle, a family friend of the Gardners, pledged proceeds of her CD sales to help build a well for a school in Malawi.
“I Facebooked her,” Gardner said. “I said, ‘We’re interested in raising money on your behalf, to expand your market.’”
Through crowd-funding resources, Kids for Kids raised $2,020 for Hardcastle in 45 days.
“I was surprised by my parents’ friends and my friends who donated money,” he said.
Many of the donations were $5 and $10.
“She’s making a name for herself for her music, not just because she’s a cool kid who did this cool thing,” he said.
Gardner has business in his blood. His dad, John, is a financial adviser at Wells Fargo. “My uncle and other uncle and my grandpa — everybody’s been in business. It was sort of a natural progression,” the younger Gardner said.
When he was a sophomore, Gardner started thinking about the “huge project” he would have during his senior year. He wanted to do something charitable; he appreciated the social-minded crowd-funding platforms of Kiva and RocketHub. He had some business knowledge, and he liked the idea of helping other kids start or expand their own charities. The combination became Kids for Kids: Youth Social Ventures.
His official mentor for the high school project is Erin Budde, head of community affairs at Wells Fargo Advisors in St. Louis, who he met through his dad.
“She has experience with starting charities and grants, so we sort of naturally hit it off,” Gardner said. He calls his mentor once a week, in keeping with the rules of the school project. Family members are among his informal group of advisers, and he plans to establish a formal board of directors soon.
“My dad helps me out with everything. He’s awesome,” Gardner said. “My mom, Carol, she’s also amazing. She’s from New York and has a lot of connections in New York that help me facilitate Kids for Kids.”
His mother is proud of the work he has accomplished, both academically and in the community.
“Logan has always been such a determined, hardworking and community-oriented individual,” Carol Gardner said. “His future is bright and Kids for Kids is just the beginning.”
John Gardner also beams with parental pride and has enjoyed watching his son grow through this process, “demonstrating not only the creativity one could expect from youth, but also the maturity required to do the work to develop a great idea and turn it into a reality,” he said.
Younger brother Austin will be named a Kids for Kids co-founder soon.
“He’s a junior,” Logan Gardner said. “He would take the reins next year when I’m at the University of Pennsylvania.”
Yes, Gardner has been accepted into the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, the business school of Donald Trump fame. He plans to pursue a double concentration in international business and finance at Wharton.
“When I was little, I watched ‘The Apprentice’ and I thought he said ‘Morton,’” Gardner said. “I thought he was talking about Morton Middle School (in Lexington), and I said, ‘I need to go to Morton Middle School.’”
Even Trump would have to give a nod to Gardner’s work ethic. The 18-year-old spent his Christmas break filling out the IRS application for 501(c)(3) status, by himself.
“I pulled two all-nighters and worked almost nonstop for four straight days to get it in,” he said. “I’ve never worked that hard in my entire life, not even for finals.”
Working with Kids for Kids has opened Gardner’s mind to social entrepreneurship, or the practice of using corporate methods to generate social capital.
“Somebody who has a vision of a business and just executes it” is Gardner’s definition of an entrepreneur.
“What we’re trying to do is not only help all these awesome social initiatives expand, but teach young people interested in entrepreneurship and business, and give them a foundation in entrepreneurship,” he said. “We’re hoping to teach kids what it means to be an entrepreneur and be a successful one.”