Many of us first learned to care for others when we were small, at home, or at the knee of a parent or grandparent. Others give out of compassion for those who are less fortunate. The National Institutes of Health has discovered in brain MRIs that we experience a “helper’s high,” good feelings that drive better health outcomes for each of us when we help others.
How do you pass on what you’ve learned about giving to your own kids or grandchildren? Are you worried about talking about your values without coming across as lecturing?
This giving season is a wonderful time to invite the next generation to give alongside you. Here are a few tips.
- Establish a family-giving vehicle. For most families, this can be as simple as a dedicated account in which you accumulate charitable funds. If you want something more structured, consider a donor-advised fund; You can set one up in minutes and use a tax-smart asset like appreciated stock to fund it, and there’s only one receipt to find at tax time. Once it’s set up, use the family fund together to talk about how you would like to give. Bonus — you can teach all kinds of financial and investment topics through the family charitable fund.
- Host regular family meetings about giving. At each meeting, let a different member, including the youngest, present their favorite charity and why they may want to volunteer or give money to that organization. Vote annually on a joint contribution. Many families like to make final giving decisions around the holidays because of the season’s focus on gratitude.
- Match the gifts of young children or grandchildren. Encourage the young philanthropists in your family to grow their gifts. One family doubled every gift made by each of their teenage sons and tripled them when the two kids gave to the same charity together, hoping to encourage not just giving, but siblings working together.
- Volunteer together. There’s no lesson more powerful than seeing you get your hands dirty. Invite others to join you as you clean up a stream, ladle soup, bathe a stray dog, or blaze a forest trail. We once heard a 13-year-old observe, “Grandpa got really excited about cleaning up this park. He played here as a kid, but we live out in the suburbs, so I’ve never been here before. He said the kids who play here now are just like him.” This grandpa didn’t argue with his grandson about why it mattered. Instead, he was a role model and told stories about his early life. See if there’s a time when you could volunteer as a family.
Generosity is a demonstration of kindness, but also intention. Try to be intentional in discussing why you give and why you’ve chosen certain charities or organizations. Learning to be generous can be a part of your kids and grandkids’ lives when you include them in your philanthropic priorities, and what better time to start this family tradition than during the season of gratitude?
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