Encouraging Philanthropy at a Young Age: Teaching Your Kids To Give To Causes

BlogHer Original Post

In our family, I have involved my kids in fundraising activities from the time they were old enough to walk.  Whether I'm raising money for Cambodia or Creative Commons, I try to include them in some way.  We have dinner table discussions on why it is important to support causes, particularly programs in Cambodia like the Sharing Foundation.  My kids have posed for photos in t-shirts, emptied their piggy banks, helped me make fundraising videos, contributed clothing or other items to drives at school, and have attended lots of fund raising events.

As someone who works in the nonprofit sector, I understand the importance of giving - and trying to pass that down to my kids.  I was curious about my colleagues, who work for nonprofits and are parents, what do they do to encourage their children's spirit of giving at a young age?

My colleagues who support the The Sharing Foundation also make fundraising for their favorite cause a family activity.  Take for example third-grader Sophie, the Cambodian daughter of a Sharing Foundation supporter in Maine.  Sophie created a flier to sell Cambodian/American flag pins and raised $350 for Sharing Foundation.   Notes Sophie in the recent Sharing Foundation newsletter, "Not many people in Cambodia are as lucky as we are, so I decided I just wanted to help give them money to buy food and water, because I was from the country."

Be A Role Model of Generosity

Hans shared a story about how his wife donated her hair to Locks of Love which sparked a conversation with their 4 year old about children who are in need.  He notes, "So we model the values that we hope our children will emulate, and support charities that our kids can see connections to."  Roxana Gheorghe suggests the PSA Partnership and agrees, "It is an interesting subject because generosity is a characteristic typical to all cultures, ages, races and people. Parents and relatives are the best role model for their kids in sharing generosity, that is,generosity is passed on from generation to generation."  Katrin Verlcas adds, "Talk about, read about, and surround yourself and speak with inspired people and their work who are making the world a better place. Name your children after them."

Host A Giving Is Better Than Receiving Birthday Party

That's some great advice based on personal and professional experience from Amy Jussel who is the Founder and Executive Director of Shaping Youth.   For the holidays, she has hosted a kindergarten "angel" party where the kids were "angel donors" for families in need, depositing their unwrapped toys and gifts as admittance to the fun.   The idea is basically giving rather than receiving wrapped in a party theme.  Amy says that now that her daughter has entered her teen years, they segued to more complex themes.   She warns though, "I've found that you have to follow your kids' leads to enroll them in THEIR passions, not necesarily yours, as they get older."

Create a Holiday Tradition of Giving

Happy Katie recalls her own childhood traditions of giving, both during the holidays and year round. "My parents encouraged us to donate 10% of our weekly allowance to charity. We also had a Christmas tradition where instead of giving each other gifts, we sponsored a family and bought them presents instead. That was one of the best holidays traditions we had. We basically, what it came to was creating a family culture where giving and being charitable was not only promoted and smiled upon, but recognized as a regular activity we did on our own and as a familial unit."

Looking for an alternative gift to help a child?   Save the Children has just launched an inspiring and informative catalog that lets you and your child explore a map of the world and imagine how simple gifts, vitamins for infants, library books for kids in rural America, or an apple tree in Ethiopia are extraordinary resources. 
Amy Sample Ward reminds us that your kids don't have to give cash only.  "Time, enthusiasm, expertise, skills...it is important to keep all of these things in mind when choosing a group to support and how to support them."

Let your Kids Make the Decision

Kayta Andresen from Network for Good has fantastic idea last holiday season, "Give with your kids day" "Give your child—or someone else’s child—$25 to spend on charity.  You can give them $25 to spend at Network for Good (which has every charity based in the US) or Global Giving (which has a bunch of international projects) or the charity you work for.  Let them choose how to spend it, either by letting them pick the charity or by designating their donation to a special project.  Spend it together online, checking out pictures and project descriptions."

Share Giving/Gaming Opportunities Online

Amy Jussel of Shaping Youth Blog shared a story of how she and her daughter played the Freerice game, a new, quiz-style vocabulary builder that rewards correct answers with ten grains per bowl to feed hungry children, distributed by the U.N.’s World Food Programme.  Not only was her daughter able to contribute to a good cause by playing a game, the experience also brought up a ethical dilemma.

Money Savvy Piggy Bank and Spend, Save, and Give Allowance Policy

Celeste for the studio 501c3 blog suggests this piggy bank, with separate slots for investing, saving, spending, and donating is a great way to teach kids about devoting a portion of their income to
charity.  Katrin Verclas says her family's allowance policy is:  1/3 for spending as you wish, 1/3 for savings,
and 1/3 to give wherever you wish.

Donate or purchase a toy for a child in need

Another great way to teach kids about charity is to engage them in buying or donating something that they are familiar with--toys!  Celeste suggests Able Play where kids can research toys that are appropriate for kids with disabilities, and then buy and donate one to a local hospital, school, or day care center (perhaps after asking the staff at the center about what is most needed in terms of the age range, or disability of the children who would play with the toy).

Neha Yellurka suggests Toys for Tots is a great way to introduce children to charity. "For the holidays, instead of asking for a toy for themselves, encourage your child to pick something out that they would like another child to have!"  Another option is Get Well Gamers which brings video game systems and games to children's hospitals by collecting used game systems and other donated product and sends them to children's programs at hospitals. 

What are some ways that you have encouraged your children to give to charity during the holidays or year round?

Additional Resources

Learning To Give
Youth In Philanthropy
Children for Children Foundation
Kids Can Make A Difference
Youth Noise

Beth Kanter, BlogHer CE for Social Change and NGOS, writes Beth's Blog.


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