Philanthropy starts at home in your own family. It’s never too early to get your family thinking about it. If your children get gifts then they’re likely not too young to grasp the concepts of gratitude and sharing. There are all kinds of ways to introduce the concept to your family and make it part of your family’s culture.
Here are 10 tips to help your family move toward a culture of philanthropy.
Be a mentor – Let your children know what philanthropic activities you’re involved in. Tell them know why you do it and why it’s important to you. It’s a great way to start the conversation and keep it going. Or why not find them another mentor? A godparent? Or an aunt or uncle? Maybe it’s a close family friend. This type of relationship will help foster independence in your kids and their approach to community involvement.
Engage your community – Many schools are working philanthropy into the curriculum – often for credit. Ask the teachers how you can be involved; can you give time? Ideas? Any other kind of support for the school’s many projects?
Talk with your kids – Get to know what their passions are. Once you get the dialogue going it’ll be easier to help them direct those passions and find others who are already doing work in those areas. Or if there’s a particular challenge in the community that isn’t being addressed, help them find a creative way to tackle it.
Take a fieldtrip – Not everyone lives the way you do! No matter where you live, whether in the city or a rural area, it’s important to get out and experience different scenarios in life. Your kids are never too young to learn about the challenges that others face daily. This can be an important piece of the puzzle when your kids are figuring it all out.
Rethink the holidays – While so many families are caught up in the rush and bustle of Christmas and birthdays, consider giving the gift of a donation in someone’s name. Or try spending holiday time volunteering together at an organization. Why not collect toys for a children’s charity at birthday time?
Set up a family committee – Establish a small pool of money (a % off each family member’s allowance or paycheque, for example) each year for your family to donate as a group. This is an opportunity to come together to decide what’s most important to your family and your community. Your kids can investigate organizations and report back. This is a fairly informal method that will yield tremendous educational results.
Match your kids – Give them a little extra motivation to get them saving or collecting for charities. Match their initiatives dollar for dollar. You may be surprised what a little healthy competition will add to the game.
Microloans = mega lessons – Learning about the value of a dollar is a great starting point. Organizations like Kiva let you decide where your funds go. And they’re almost always paid back in full. Increasingly, there are locally focused micro-lending organizations that will see your funds go to work right in your own community.
Gratitude for what you’ve got –Discuss with your family what you’re thankful for on a regular basis. Realising where you’re starting from is an important philanthropic exercise.
Create community online – Help your kids start a Facebook page to rally their friends and family, or a blog to chronicle their philanthropic activities. Once people start seeing the kind of work that can be easily done to make a huge impact, they’ll be more likely to get on board. Sharing online platforms are also a great way to communicate needs – both in your community and in your individual endeavours.
Start a family fund – On a bigger scale, this is an opportunity to discuss real community challenges with your children. It’s also a way to leave a lasting legacy for your family right within your own community.
We’d love to hear how your family gets involved in helping the community. Please leave a comment below, or email us if you’ve got a story you’d like us to feature here.
Leah Baade is the Youth in Philanthropy and Social Media Coordinator at the Victoria Foundation. Please contact her for more information.