Engage your children early in your charitable legacy

by Phil Tobin | Hudson Community Foundation Published:

It's never too early to begin teaching children about philanthropy. It's not always easy when our children are constantly distracted in today's digital age. But it's important for passing down our core beliefs and values, and it's a lesson they will carry forward for generations to come.

While parents typically wait until their children are teens, there is growing evidence that involving children in philanthropy at an earlier age has benefits. Children learn early that not everyone is as fortunate as them, they become more empathetic adults, and they learn and retain the core value of giving back.

Here are several suggestions for passing down a true sense of charity to your children and grandchildren.

Share your favorite causes with your children and explain why you support these causes. They will be interested in learning about others and will admire your caring attitude. A younger child outgrowing her toys is a perfect first opportunity to teach the importance (and fun) of philanthropy by donating them to charity. Talk to your child about the little girls and boys she will help and bring them to the donation center so they can feel part of the process.

Consider the three-part allowance as suggested by author Ellen Remmer, with equal amounts set aside each week for spending, saving and giving. According to Remmer, this reinforces the importance of saving and giving.

Engage children in your philanthropic decisions when they are young. As they become older, encourage them to develop their own causes based on what they see and what they develop feelings and passions around. It could be anything from anti-bullying programs to feeding homeless kids they see on the news.

Make volunteering a family activity. For families, volunteering is a good way to spend quality time together, to share experiences, establish traditions, and have fun, all while helping the community.

Create a separate account for charitable giving and get children involved in researching charities they want to donate to each year. Donor Advised Funds offer maximum flexibility for giving over a period of years and can be passed down to your heirs.

We all want our children to grow up to be responsible caring adults with deeply held values and empathy for others. By involving them personally at young ages, you are well on your way to teaching children the importance of lifelong giving. As an added benefit, they will also learn key lessons about financial management and responsibility.

Hudson Community Foundation is somewhat unique in allowing children and grandchildren to participate in their parent's or grandparent's Donor Advised Fund as early as 8 years old. The stories and letters going between the children and the parents or grandparents are heartwarming. Call me if you would like to learn more about these experiences. The children will forever remember you for teaching them these values.

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