The Denver Post Checks Out Philanthropy
Article about involving kids early in philanthropy and book mention at Denver Post: “Letting your child select what to donate and accompany you when making the donation creates a lasting impression.”
Involve Kids Early in Family’s Giving Ethos
Involving your children — young or grown — in your philanthropy is one of the best ways to pass on your values about community, giving back and helping others. Kids learn not only by example but also by actively participating in their family’s giving plan.
Children as young as 3 can be encouraged to donate gently used toys, books and clothes to less fortunate kids. Letting your child select what to donate and accompany you when making the donation creates a lasting impression. If your kids already have enough “stuff,” on birthdays consider encouraging your child to request that friends make donations to local charities that help kids rather than bringing gifts. The same approach can be taken during the holidays and for other events like confirmations, bar or bat mitzvahs and graduations. The invitation should specify two or three charities from which to choose. Some ideas are the Denver Public Library Friends Foundation, dplfriends.org; Reach Out & Read Colorado, reachoutandreadco.org; the Kempe Foundation, kempe.org; and the Colorado Children’s Campaign, coloradokids.org. Set the example yourself by asking others to make donations instead of giving you gifts on holidays or special occasions.
Once children start receiving an allowance or earning money, they can set up three separate funds, one third for spending, one third for saving and one third for giving. With help from their parents, they should select the charities to receive their donations.
Family volunteering engages children in philanthropy and creates a unique way of spending time together. The opportunities are endless, including Habitat for Humanity, habitat.org; Food Bank of the Rockies, foodbankrockies.org; and Project Angel Heart, projectangelheart.org. Discuss various opportunities with your children and pick something that everyone will enjoy. Consider also a “volunteer vacation” where your family helps others as the centerpiece of a trip.
There are many excellent children’s books about philanthropy, including “The Giving Book” by Ellen Sabin (age 6+); “Philanthropy . . . a Big Word for Big-Hearted People” by Jan Helson (age 9+); and “A Kids Guide to Giving” by Freddi Zeiler (age 12+).
As kids and parents get older, the focus will be different. Honest and bold communication between parents and grown children about the family’s money, philanthropy, estate planning and charitable legacy is essential. The way in which parents introduce the idea of sustained family giving is critical for its success. The leadership and vision of family philanthropic ventures should be shared among all family members rather than imposed upon the children by the parents. Involving the kids from the outset and allowing their wishes to be considered and causes supported will greatly increase the likelihood that philanthropy will be a positive family bonding experience around shared values.
A Donor Advised Fund is a charitable fund created by a donor within a public foundation that allows the donor to “advise” the sponsoring foundation about which nonprofits should receive grants. Parents may want to open a family Donor Advised Fund with a local community foundation like the Denver Foundation, denverfoundation.org; Rose Community Foundation, rcfdenver.org; Community First Foundation, communityfirstfoundation.org; or with commercial funds like Fidelity Charitable, charitablegift.org. If possible, create a separate fund for each child in the family, as well as a collective fund to enable siblings to collaborate on how and where to give.
A family foundation may be appropriate if greater sums are being committed to charity. If so, older children should be involved at all levels of decision-making about the entity’s formation and giving strategies.
Consistently and meaningfully involving children in a family’s philanthropy can strengthen family connectedness and communication, teach kids to appreciate what they have, transmit values to future generations, and leave a lasting family legacy, all while addressing important societal needs.