In my last blog post, A Mom’s Money Moment, I reflected on how my children thought about money, saving and investing in their future. For many families, charitable giving also plays a role in the young relationship our kids have with money.
As parents or grandparents, we universally wish for our children to have a sense of empathy for their fellow human beings’ needs, but how do we not only educate but implement charitable giving as a part of money management education?
With digital currency becoming more and more the norm – gift cards and product code gifts replacing the traditional money in the card – it becomes increasingly difficult to demonstrate an allocation of funds to charity. However, the same technology that takes away the paper money aspects of giving also creates huge opportunities for young kids to participate in a more sophisticated way. For example, starting an online fundraiser or creating a social campaign is only a few clicks away on crowdsourcing sites such as Indiegogo, CrowdRise and GoFundMe. These sorts of initiatives, with proper parental supervision and support, show children that even the smallest donation or contribution can make a considerable impact—especially when you work with others.
Our youth’s digital connectedness also extends their knowledge beyond local needs, connecting them to communities and initiatives across the world. Technology enables our kids to become involved in causes much earlier and in a more meaningful way. One article dubs today’s young people the “Always On Generation,” noting how not only the means to engage today’s youth have changed, but their inherent attitudes about philanthropy and charity have matured as well.1 One key difference, for example, is that today’s young people are more focused on supporting causes than institutions.
Like with most subjects, the conversation starts at home. According to the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, when parents talk to their children about charity they increase by 20% the likelihood that their kids will contribute in a charitable way, regardless of the parents’ income level.2 An open dialogue about charitable giving can frame the family’s values and create a roadmap of philanthropy. Often, it is actionable examples from parents that plant the seeds of philanthropy. Regular philanthropic conversations can help highlight the good fortune your family may enjoy and help balance the onslaught of consumer messaging our children receive in their everyday lives.
Below are some ways to create an environment of philanthropic learning in our children’s everyday lives:
- Make it their idea. Brainstorm ways that they can contribute.
- Create an action plan and participate. Making it a family affair adds value on many levels.
- Participate in a local fundraiser to raise awareness
- Exercise your way to a good cause
- Donate food and clothing on a regular basis
- Praise your children’s efforts on philanthropy – no matter how small
Connecting with your children on a regular basis about charitable giving topics creates an opportunity to deepen the discussion around your overall family values. Our reasons for giving back are as individualistic as we are as human beings, but as Martin Luther King once stated; “every man must decide whether he will walk in the creative light of altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness”. I personally prefer the former for my children.
For a light-hearted read on teaching your child about philanthropy, I recommend Raising Charitable Children, by Carol Weisman.