Ten Ways to Involve Your Children in Philanthropy

Derek Ferriera and Martin Johnson
Updated: 5/23/2013

Through your own philanthropic generosity—whether volunteering, supporting a charity as a benefactor, attending fundraisers or setting up a family foundation—you are educating your children about your values and teaching them to be generous. While you may identify your philanthropic values more formally in a family charitable mission statement, children learn a lot through observation.

Introducing your children to the philanthropic projects you support is the first step toward building a family unit that knows what resources you have, and will work together to help reach financial goals. In the long term it will help your children preserve your assets and share the wealth in a philanthropic way.

Studies show that participating in charitable activities can help boost your children’s self-esteem, build confidence and help shape their values. Doing charitable works is enriching, valuable and self-perpetuating; kids learn that helping others can be fun and makes them feel good. Children also feel positive about wealth when they see the effects of charitable giving on the world at large. Philanthropy helps children learn to manage the family wealth and realize the benefits of the family working together to support common interests. This can help ensure that the legacy you leave will be cared for by your heirs.

Encouraging Philanthropy

Working with your children to support philanthropic projects is an important way to put your family values into practice, build relationships with your children and to teach them how they can impact others in a positive way. Here are 10 ways to get started:

Give away used items. Set aside time to go through your children’s rooms with them to select gently used toys or clothing to donate. Help your children box up the items, and encourage them to come with you to deliver the items so they might see the need their donation fills.

Donate part of an allowance. Encourage your children to contribute a percentage of their allowance to charity, or to purchase an item from savings to donate to a charity. Charity is something that must be taught. It can be hard at first for people to give money away.

Adopt another family. During the holidays many charities sponsor “angel” projects. You could select needy children in the same age group as your children to make shopping easy and fun, or adopt a whole family.

Hold family meetings on charity. Discuss how much money the family will donate this year and review what charities you’ve supported in the past and the impact of the contributions. Involve your children in the decision-making process of where this year’s charitable donations will go, or helping to create the mission statement of the family foundation. You may wish to allocate age-appropriate amounts from your total charitable contributions so that each child can select a charity to support.

Research charities together. Research the Web with your children to identify projects they would like to support with donations or time.

Volunteer. Help your children contact, visit and explore a community cause that interests them.

Support school and community activities. Support your child’s involvement in charitable projects sponsored by the school, church or community centers. Working together with their friends to benefit others reinforces the values you are teaching at home.

Start or join a local charity chapter. You may wish to contact a local organization that can identify resources in your area and helps you get started.

Organize a fundraising project. Encourage your children to identify a charity they would like to promote and help them organize a fundraising project.

Take a philanthropic vacation. Working to help build a school or well in another country will give your children a new perspective on the world at large, the needs of others and how to help. You can send them on their own or make it a family activity.
Your Charitable Mission Statement

Introducing your family’s charitable mission statement to your children at an early age supports communication, individual interests and family needs, and helps strengthen the focus and impact your family has on others. It may be helpful to talk with your kids about the following questions to help them develop their values and understand yours:

What’s important to this family?
What impact has our charitable works and contributions had on the family and the world at large?
What do each of us feel passionate about supporting?
How can we fulfill any social responsibilities we feel are important?
You can help preserve your family wealth by educating your children during family meetings—specifically the financial benefits of planned gifting—and answering questions about long-term estate planning.