Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Talking With Kids About Philanthropy

A few months ago my son told me "when I got freaked out, I just smiled, it helped me calm down." What a great idea. How’d he learn that? I thought. A few minutes later it hit me—duh, he learned that from me. (In a visit to the Mall of America, I told him that I smile on rollercoasters so I don’t freak out. Try it, it works.) You see, my son, at 8 years old, sings songs, uses words and does things sometimes that I’ve never heard or seen. I continue to assume he’s learning them from friends, at school or at day care. Imagine my surprise when he acted on something that he so clearly heard from me.

Yet, what does smiling, roller coasters, and freaking out have to do with philanthropy? Umm... not much really. Although I’m sure many people smile when making gifts. But, I use the story as a reminder to myself and others. That sometimes, teaching your children about something, like giving to charity or philanthropy, doesn’t have to be a big production or a big deal. Sometimes it’s just a matter of talking about it.

So, I’ve made a pledge to myself. Talk about those organizations that I support with my philanthropic dollars in front of my kids. Because even if we may not have millions of dollars to support our favorite charities—it’s important that he knows why we think our favorite charities are so special.

  • Your dad and I give regularly to a food shelf because we know that there are a lot of people going hungry in this economy.

  • Hey Max, I used to work at this organization that helped people when they are sick. I gave them $20.

  • I really like how your daycare is a community organization. They’re so welcoming to the community and our family. I’m going to make sure we give them a donation this year.

And sometimes, talking about it the simplest ways may just have an influence. My son had a birthday party recently and I encouraged him to not have presents. I said, maybe you could ask your friends to give to a charity? “Like one for animals” was his quick reply. After a few weeks and a birthday party sans presents, I told him he had raised more than $200. He grinned hugely and imagined a garage full of dog food—“That’s a lot of food for the dogs.”

—Amy Sinykin, Charities Reivew Council, Associate Director
Image: kidsandbills.com

PS. The fundraiser function at givemn.org worked great for the birthday party "presents".

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