Philanthropy: Such a heavy word, right? Reserved only for the mega-rich, people who donate buildings, hospital wings and college gymnasiums. Certainly not something for kids.
Not so fast. This is a misconception, says CJP development officer Melanie Camp, who often works with local Jewish families on philanthropic endeavors. Anyone can be philanthropic (really!) with the right mindset, and a bottomless bank account isn’t necessary.
“I can’t tell you how many parents come to me asking how to get their kids involved with philanthropy,” she says. But how?
Here are some starter tips to help your children put their good impulses into action:
Make it a game
Get three piggy banks and have your kids divvy their money into each. One bank is a spending bank. One is a savings bank. And one is a giveaway bank. They can split up their hard-won cash (gifts from relatives, allowances) into each. Having a visual helps kids see where their money goes. When the giving bank gets full, ask your child to choose where he or she would like to donate.
Model generous behavior
Do you volunteer somewhere, or maybe sit on a board? Share that with your kids from the time they’re small. Explain when you have to go out to a volunteering event and share why you love to do it. Show that it’s an integral part of your schedule, just like going out with friends or going to the gym.
Connect with a bigger organization
Don’t know where to begin? Camp recommends checking out Foundation for MetroWest, Jewish Teen Foundation of Greater Boston and 21/64 for tips on how to get started with philanthropic giving, how to pinpoint a mission and how to pass on a spirit of giving through the generations.
For kids, concepts like illness, poverty and homelessness might seem abstract. Think about ways to relate charitable causes to your own children’s lives in an accessible way. Point out examples of philanthropy in action, even in the smallest way, like when you see a kid sticking up for someone else on the playground or when your child’s class might make a card for a sick friend in the hospital. Did your child have a fantastic summer camp experience? Explain how donating money might help another child do the same fun things.
Ask your child what he or she cares about, and really listen
Chances are, something he or she loves can be connected to philanthropy, whether it’s animals or cooking or exercise. Sign up for a 10K together. Adopt a pet. Cook food to bring to a shelter. Think about ways to link everyday hobbies to a broader purpose.