As every new parent learns, quickly, there’s no single perfect way to raise a child. Each child is unique and none of them come with an instruction manual.
But, as parents, we still do our best to raise children to be healthy, happy, and able to reach their full potential. We also try to instill our own social and cultural values in our kids so that they will become the amazing adults we know they can be.
One of my values is generosity and one way I express this is through my philanthropic endeavors. Naturally, I want to raise my daughter and son to be charitable and have a philanthropic mindset.
It’s not an easy thing to do, and it’s not as common in young people as we wish. The Harvard Business Review conducted a national survey, recently, that found, “a large majority of youth across a wide spectrum of races, cultures, and classes appear to value aspects of personal success—achievement and happiness— over concern for others.”
But members of a functioning society need to be concerned for each other, or the society itself will devolve. Supporting nonprofit organizations is both a way to show concern and a way to get help to those that need it.
How to best teach our children to do this?
First, model the behavior you’d like your children to emulate.
From toddler-hood on, children learn from their parents and (setting aside rebellious adolescent years) mimic the behavior of their parents. So, if your child sees you drop money in a donation box at the museum, or goes with you when you take gently used clothing to a local charity, or even shops with you for toiletries or first aid supplies to send to on-the-ground disaster relief organizations they will absorb these actions and, hopefully, start to imitate (or at least ask about) them.
There’s research to back this idea up. According to a white paper created by the Central Carolina Community Foundation, “Talk About Giving,” 71% of adult children who had philanthropic parents become philanthropists themselves. Yet, only 47% of the children of parents who are not philanthropic become philanthropists.
Second, include your children in your philanthropic endeavors. While a gala is no place for a small child, there’s no reason not to talk about fundraising events when you visit the museum for which the gala was held.
Many families volunteer, as a group, to help at homeless shelters, food banks and meal centers (soup kitchens.) Seeing, personally, the hardships that others face and learning to help, rather than judge, goes a long way towards turning a child into a generous, compassionate, adult.
Also, kids are a natural fit for any fundraising activity that supports their school, whether it’s helping make cookies for a bake sale, selling wrapping paper, or participating in car washes.
Once children are older, generally middle or high school, there may be programs at their schools that teach the basics of philanthropy. These initiatives are often backed by foundations, and often include volunteering as well as discussions. Also, some nonprofits, like New York Common Pantry allows teenagers to volunteer on their own.
Finally, let them follow their passion.
Kids often have interests that surprise their parents. If we let those interests and passions guide us when we look for service projects or fundraising activities to participate in there’s a better chance at engaging our children.
Whether it’s helping out other kids, getting involved in the arts, or promoting environmental awareness, there’s a nonprofit organization out there that’s a great match for every kid.