Teaching your kids about philanthropy

This week marks Global Youth Service Day – honoring the young individuals that give back to our unique communities in various ways. And while for many the word “philanthropist” implies someone with millions of dollars available to donate, at United Way for Greater Austin we believe that anyone can be a philanthropist – especially the younger generations.

So as Global Youth Service Day celebrates and mobilizes millions of young people who improve their communities each day of the year through service, it reminds us to use this as an opportunity to help children learn about giving, the importance about helping others in need and how they can help support their community.

The benefits of actively fostering children’s charitable impulses are enormous. Besides helping counter the overdeveloped “I want, I want” impulse, it gives kids a powerful boost in self-esteem to realize they can make a different in someone’s life.

To help children recognize how they can be a philanthropist, consider the suggestions below.


Be hands on. Most people tend to associate charity with giving money, yet for many children, it’s hard to comprehend the abstract concept of donating money to a charitable cause.

Instead, think about having your children join you when you volunteer at the soup kitchen or when you donate clothing to the Goodwill. Also when choosing a project, try to align with your child’s interests. The more your child relates to the process, the more likely they are to have an enjoyable experience and independently consider doing it again.


Put their money where their mouth is. If you give your kids an allowance, encourage them to divide it into three buckets: save some, spend some and share some.

What you encourage your child to do with the money is key, too. Instead of simply giving cash to a worthy organization once he or she has collected a reasonable amount, suggest they use the money to buy an item that’s needed by an individual or organization – such as a toy or clothing for a needy child.


Practice what you preach. As with everything in life, kids learn by example. Let your children see you in the process of giving – whether it’s completing a donation form, buying books for a book drive or dropping off canned goods to your local food pantry.


Seize the moment. You don’t need to set aside a special time to talk about the importance and joy of giving. Opportunities pop up all the time, especially if you’re engaging them in your volunteer work or donating of money.

By talking about to whom and how you give, you not only show your kids the importance of giving itself, but you’re sharing your values about the issues that matter most to your family – whether you’re passionate about the arts, the environment, the elderly or alleviating poverty.

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