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How to Teach Children about Charity: Philanthropy begins at Birth

Charity is a developmental milestone. If parents do not instill a love of supporting one's community through volunteerism and philanthropic giving at a young age, the child may grow up to never know the joys of making a difference in their community. There are several ways. 

Personal Finance

Teach children to divide up money they receive, from allowance, chores, jobs, or gifts, into categories. There should be at least three categories of children’s finances: savings, spending, and giving. When children are young enough and their income is small enough, the visual of reusing glass jars for this purposes serves as a constant reminder of their personal finance goals. 

Children Choose

Allow the child to choose what cause they want to support. If they want to feed the hungry, help them find a local food pantry. If they want to support the shelter where they got their beloved pet, then do that. Make sure that they are seeing where their charitable dollars go. If you choose for them,then it may feel like more of a tax than an opportunity to make a difference.


Giving an Event

Coordinate a pre-arranged donation drop off where you take a photo of your child giving the donation to a staff member or volunteer at the charity of their choosing. While it might seem cheesy at the time, having the photo means the child will be able to look back fondly on that memory throughout their life. If appropriate, the organization may even be able to arrange a tour for your family of their facility while you come to do the donation drop off. If it is in the family budget, a celebratory meal out afterward where you can talk about the positive impact of the gift is a nice capstone. If you use social media, posting the picture online to celebrate your child’s accomplishment can help promote the organization while furthering a culture of philanthropy in your community. 


Connect with Causes

Many nonprofit organizations have special days for volunteer events such as Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service. These days provide a special opportunity for you to bring your children to a local nonprofit organization to volunteer. Due to the limitations of children’s skill set, we recommend you sign up early for these events so you can have the pick of charities that matter to your children. While volunteering, be sure to take photos, keep any special volunteer swag like t-shirts or buttons, and keep a positive attitude. Children find it hard to be happier then their saddest caregiver, so keep it upbeat so they know you are having fun volunteering even if you’re simply picking up trash along a local road. 

Acknowledge Engagement

When you are with your children, if you see volunteers in the community make a point of acknowledging them to your child and talking about how great it is that people donate their free time to causes that matter to them. 


Model Giving

As you plan your charitable giving for the year make sure to tell your children what causes you give to, why you chose them, and how you support them. You are not giving out of obligation. You are giving out of generosity and kindness; tell them that. Much of charitable giving is unseen so make an effort to be a good role model by sharing your family’s experience in a positive and open way. 


Reinforce Empathy

Remind children whenever appropriate that you give of your time, talents, and treasure to your community to make it a better place for everyone. If your child asks why some people need help and others don't, it provides you with an opportunity to teach empathy and compassion instead of pity or judgement.  Encourage children to imagine themselves in another child’s shoes and ask them what they think that kid would be thinking or feeling. There are many opportunities to teach empathy when watching, listening to, or reading the news. 


Community Participation

If your community runs a food collection for a local pantry such as the United States Postal Service’s Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive, participate alongside your children. For example, allow them to select shelf stable goods from your cupboards or your grocery store to set up. Then help them set out the food on the designated day. 



It is important with any parent led teaching to make sure not to be too pushy or to smother too much. If you are overly controlling or forceful it could inadvertently lead to your child making an effort to try to not learn what you are attempting to teach them. 



By telling your children what you are thankful for, you encourage a mind set of gratitude and abundance. There are many opportunities for your children to share what they’re grateful for. In addition to saying thank you when they receive a gift they can share something they’re grateful for at meal time or before bed each night. This habit fosters optimism, appreciation, and family togetherness. 

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