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Raising a Philanthropist

Sep 04, 2023 07:56PM ● By Nikki Ducas

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?” –Martin Luther King, Jr.

Talking to children at an early age about charitable giving can significantly increase the likelihood they will become charitable adults.  

My boys have always been intrigued as to why a building or room was named after a particular person. I explained that they likely gave a lot of money to support the organization and that he or she is a philanthropist—a person who donates time, money, experience, skills or talent to help create a better world.

I remember when my eldest was little and could barely utter philanthropist clearly. He asked if he could be a philanthropist one day and I replied you can be anything you set your mind to, no matter your social class or net worth.

Parents, you are your children’s role models. It is never too late to instill a sense of purpose and joy in your children’s hearts when they give to others. Here are some ways to raise a philanthropist:

Walk the Walk. Talk to your children about all the charitable work you personally do. Tell them about the charities you support, how you support them, and why you support them. It is intrinsically important that children witness firsthand all the good deeds parents do, be it volunteering, giving in-kind donations or monetary support. Stress to them that giving of time and doing pro bono work is just as important as financial support.

Allow Children to Lead. When children are empowered they tend to stick with their choices. Children should choose a charity that is near and dear to their heart and have an understanding of how it helps others. Ask your children what interests them and gently suggest researching organizations where they can offer works of charity. For example, my teen loves dogs and found Old Dominion Humane Society, where he volunteers with his dad and donated prescription dog food for one of his favorite pups.

Give Jar. When my boys started getting an allowance, we put a percentage of their allowance aside for charity. Don’t read me wrong, there was grumbling and asking why they should give their money away but as they got older they welcomed the idea of being able to give when they feel drawn to a cause. Most recently, my teenager through his own volition volunteered time and money in support of his friend’s Trail Life Freedom Project. It gave my son a sense of pride and accomplishment.

Pay It Forward. Give out of your abundance with no expectation of repayment. Someone who receives money from someone else is more likely to later give than someone who had not received generously from others. This can be as simple as a smile when saying thank you. There is great magnitude in gratitude. 

Giving not only helps others but it also makes you happy, is good for your health and helps social connections. Giving is contagious.

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