As we approach the holiday season, charitable giving becomes top of mind for many families. While it shouldn’t only be during this season that priority is placed on philanthropic endeavors, this season can be used as a stepping stone to a larger charitable giving conversation within families. I strongly believe children who are educated on the importance of charitable giving from a young age are more likely to grow into financially prepared adults.
Whenever implementing an educational lesson, I believe it’s beneficial to draw on your own personal experiences. For me, that means recalling a lesson my parents once taught me. Every year around Christmas time, we pulled from a community “giving tree,” where various donation requests for less fortunate families were hung. My parents not only encouraged me to pull a gift request from this tree, but they also encouraged me to pay for the gift with my own money. I distinctly recall one Christmas where I gave my own baseball glove to a young boy around the same age as me. That feeling of selflessness and satisfaction has never left me. Now, I am continuing my passion for charitable giving in my adult life and am now passing my love for it down to my children.
While there are many ways to have this important conversation with your children, I believe the most effective way to teach this lesson is through engaging the entire family in the process. Here are three ways you can help your children realize the satisfaction that comes from giving back to others.
- Discuss what you are most thankful for in your lives
One of the best ways for children to begin thinking about philanthropy is through an understanding of what they are most thankful for in their lives. One of my favorite ways to do this is through a group discussion at our dinner table on Thanksgiving Day. We take turns saying what we are most thankful for, going around the table until everyone has expressed their gratitude. This conversation provides children with powerful insight into what truly matters most to them and to those they love. It also gives them a greater appreciation for the family members, good health and other things that are typically taken for granted on a daily basis.
Once children identify what they are most grateful for, it makes it easier for them to determine which charities may be of interest to them. Exercises like this also helps children understand that many of the things they are most thankful for, other children do not have.
- Donate through a donor-advised fund
Another great way to educate children on the importance of charitable giving is through a donor-advised fund. This is a charitable giving vehicle sponsored by a public charity that allows you to make a contribution to that charity and be eligible for an immediate tax deduction, and then recommend grants over time to any IRS-qualified public charity, according to Fidelity Charitable.
To put in more straight forward terms, you make tax-deductible contributions to organizations sponsoring a fund. However, because the fund is donor-advised, you can advise the organization on how the money is granted to charities.
Not only is this a great way to support your favorite charities, but your donation will also have the potential to grow and make an impact over time. This is also ideal for families who are looking to make a large donation to their favorite non-profit organizations. Parents can engage their children in this process over Thanksgiving dinner, as this can be a great time for families to discuss and decide where their money will be granted.
- Save charitable contributions yearlong in a checking account
For families not prepared to make a sizeable donation, a basic checking account can be utilized as a “family giving account.” Throughout the year, families can put aside money for an annual contribution. Through this method, the contribution will be built over time, further increasing the gift amount.
Parents can engage their children in growing the family giving account by encouraging them to donate a portion of their weekly allowances or other money they receive. This activity is just one of the ways families can teach their children to follow the “order of money ” – give, save, invest and spend.
The earlier we can instill the importance of charitable giving in our children, the more likely they are to make charitable giving an important part of their adult life. Looking for more ways to teach other important financial lessons to your children or grandchildren? Click here to learn more about my complimentary workshop, Raising Financially Fit Families, which I present to groups and organizations of all sizes.
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