Three tips for raising philanthropic children

by Badgley Phelps | Nov 27, 2019

Dubbed “National Philanthropy Month” and boasting both National Philanthropy Day and Thanksgiving, November is a month for giving thanks—and for charitable giving. That’s why now is a great time of year to reflect on how you can pass on your attribute of giving to your children so that the philanthropic spirit continues in your family during the month of November and beyond. Here are three tips for raising philanthropic children:  

1. Remember that it’s not all about money.
According to Giving USA, Americans gave $427.71 billion to charity last year, up slightly from 2017. But it’s important to teach children that giving goes beyond money. Time and influence are gifts as well. suggests setting up a donation box in the home to provide an easy place to pass on household goods and clothes to a more needy cause.  “Kind gestures have big impact…Dedicating time to uplift someone else can strengthen relationships and be very rewarding.”

2. Focus on what you care about.
Instead of giving a little to a lot of charities, focus on giving your time and money to organizations that matter to you—and explain to your children why they are important to you. Talk about how you’ve supported these organizations over time and what types of things the organizations have been able to accomplish with the help of people like you. Ideally, this approach will stick with them as they grow and make their own decisions on how to give.

3. Do your homework but stick to your gut.
According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS), more than 1.5 million nonprofit organizations are registered in the U.S. Deciding where to donate time, money and other resources can be daunting. Through friends and in school, children will hear about opportunities to get involved. Teach them to research the organizations by showing them how you researched the charities you support—but also to trust their own judgement. says, “Ask the charity to provide you with program data that tracks their activities—and ask how they measure their own progress…But note, it doesn’t necessarily matter if the organization is effective. Some problems can be extremely difficult to solve, and you don’t want to punish the charities working on those problems—otherwise we’ll only get charities working on easy problems. Think about if you had asked Jonas Salk how effective he was one year before he found the cure for polio. He would not have been very effective at that point, but that doesn’t mean you would not have wanted to invest in him.”

Remember that for children to absorb what you’re trying to teach them, ongoing conversations are better than one-and-done. Talk with your children at the dinner table about philanthropists you admire or reflect on world issues. When they’re older, volunteer together or read books about inspiring individuals. Establish philanthropic rituals during the holidays and beyond. A lifetime of learning about philanthropy alongside adults who model this behavior will help set them up to be charitable adults.


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