Charitable giving is an important endeavor that even young kids can learn early on.
Giving as a family, whether money or time, can make your dollars and your energy go farther.
Encouraging kids to support causes they care about can be an excellent personal as well as financial lesson.
Seems like we hear the word "gratitude" a lot these days. In spite of being faced with all kinds of challenges, the idea of being grateful for what you have, whether it's family, friends, financial security or just a beautiful moment appears to be a common theme. I like that concept—and I like the idea of using it as a way to focus on how we can help others. In effect, how we can share our own good fortune.
To me, giving is an important part of everyone's financial lives and I think it's something that we can introduce our kids to at an early age. For instance, as you teach your kids to manage their money and save a certain percentage for their future goals, it's a natural extension to also encourage them to earmark some of their money for a charitable cause.
So with Thanksgiving just ahead and Giving Tuesday coming right after, I want to share some ideas on how to introduce your kids to the importance of philanthropy and get the whole family involved in giving this season.
1) Talk to your family about the causes you support and why
As with so much in financial education, your kids can learn about giving through your example. So start by talking to your kids about the organizations you support. Discuss with them how you make giving choices. Do you support some national causes? What local charities are on your list? How do you decide how much to give and how often do you make contributions?
2) Let the kids research and choose an organization to support
Have your kids make a list of what's most important to them. Whether it's something like the environment, animal adoption, homelessness or hunger, help them do some online research. Encourage them to consider local charities as well as national organizations and think about where their donations could have the most impact.
Depending on the age of your children, you could have them look at an independent online rating service such as or . The ideal would be to pick a family charity that you'd all agree to support.
3) Decide on a dollar amount each family member can give and make it a year-long family project
This is a great way to reinforce basic money management skills. Have the kids consider their sources of income, whether an allowance, gifts or a job, and decide what percentage they could put towards the family charity each month. Include your own commitment.
Then decide how and where you'll set the money aside, ideally in an account that earns interest where you can all watch it add up. A quarterly family meeting to discuss—and celebrate—the growing balance can be a great motivation to keep going. You might also set a date when you'll make your group donation to the charity you've all chosen.
4) Match your kids' donations to show your support
As an added encouragement, consider matching your children's donations. It doesn't have to be dollar for dollar (after all, you're making your own contribution), but even a small addition to their donations will show how important you think this project is—and how proud you are of their efforts.
5) Volunteer as a family
Giving isn't just about money; giving of your time can be just as valuable. Chances are there are numerous organizations in your own community that would welcome the gift of time. From libraries to animal shelters to food banks, volunteers are often in short supply. What a wonderful opportunity for you to work together as a family and share in an experience that can be as enriching for all of you as it is helpful to those in need.
Encouraging kids to support causes they care about can be an excellent personal as well as financial lesson. It not only teaches them to manage their money wisely, it gives them a chance to reach out, connect, and contribute to a more equitable, more caring world. And that's something we all need, not only during the holiday season, but all year round.
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