By involving children from a young age, families can establish cohesive philanthropic values while preparing them to manage their own wealth in the future.
Although children may not fully grasp the concept of philanthropy until they are older, taking small steps to educate them about charity can help strengthen a family legacy of giving for future generations.
Even children as young as three or four are capable of understanding caring and giving, which means they can understand the basic principles of philanthropy. Small charitable lessons, such as setting aside a part of their allowance to save for charity or donating their first toys after they no longer use them, can instill charitable values in children for the remainder of their life.
Involve children in your philanthropic decisions
Make sure children know what causes the family donates to and why, and encourage kids to adopt causes of their own. For example, if your child is an animal lover, consider a trip or donation to the local humane society. By asking children’s opinions on the causes you are active in and allowing them to bring additional causes to the family’s philanthropic legacy, you can show them that their voices are being heard and help them feel a stronger sense of responsibility to carry on the family’s charitable habits.
Make giving a family activity
By visiting the charities you contribute to, you can help children more fully understand the impact of their charitable deeds. Charitable activities such as volunteering together can also help children develop new skills as well as confidence and maturity by working within a team to help others. In addition to benefiting charity, pursuing charitable activities together can provide valuable family time and help to generate family traditions through shared experiences.
Set money aside for children to donate
Depending on your means, providing children with their own source of charitable donations may mean anything from designating a portion of their allowance for charity to setting up a donor-advised fund in the child’s name.
As children grow older, encourage them to set aside a specific portion of their own money to charity. By having a portion of money that they see as their own to donate, you can encourage children to become more involved in the research and selection process for charitable organizations and teach them how to go through the steps of making a donation.
Take a hands-on approach
Allow children to participate in hands-on charitable practices, such as raking leaves for an elderly neighbor or picking up trash at a local park. Even if children are too young to understand the value of money, these kinds of activities allow them to see the visible effect their charitable efforts have on someone else’s life.
Take advantage of personal causes
Those moments when a family member or friend falls ill or suddenly becomes in need due to a change in financial circumstances are undoubtedly difficult, but they can also provide a valuable learning opportunity. By contributing to a cause that relates to something children are personally affected by, you can help children recognize the importance of helping others.
Encourage year-round giving
Rather than addressing philanthropy only around the holidays or after a disaster or crisis, try to set up a volunteering or donation schedule for children. Teach children that charitable giving is an ongoing process, not something to be thought of only once a year. Different things will work for different families—perhaps you make it a point to donate a certain number of times per year or you set up a monthly volunteering day—what matters is that children see charitable giving as a part of day-to-day life.
Although leading by example is important, as young children may look to copy your practices, talking to children about charitable giving is crucial. A study done by the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy found that children whose parents talk to them about giving are 20 percent more likely to give to charity than children whose parents don’t discuss giving with them. Rather than just encouraging children to give back, make sure to have a detailed discussion about your family’s giving values and how you hope your children will carry on those values. Having this kind of dialog can make all the difference for children’s future giving habits. Including children in the charitable giving process can provide a valuable opportunity to teach them about the importance of helping those in need as well as further their financial literacy.