Can You Teach Generosity? Yes.

For so much of the country these past few weeks have offered plenty of time – way too kids-give-back_square_300x300much time! – to be inventing things to do with school-aged kids, who seem to be in a perpetual cycle of snow days…  We’ve cleaned closets.  We’ve gone through artwork, long stashed under the bed.  We’d played endless charades.  We’ve read.  And read.  And read.  We’re coming to the end of our rope!  Then The New York Times offered this great piece on engaging kids in a conversation about giving.  Can you teach generosity?  This article gave some great suggestions on how to answer, “yes!”  It spurred an interesting conversation for us and a great afternoon of research and weighing of options.

Kids at home or not, we’ve all got a stake in getting this right.

  • We wrote earlier this year about how much our organizations benefit when we engage the whole family in service.
  • So many organizations are looking for those “next generation” board members who embrace serving others and the community.
  • Universities are increasingly recognizing the difference they can make, in their own futures and in the citizens they produce, when they teach philanthropy throughout the curriculum.

I like to imagine a future where this generation knows how to give as well as they know how to manage a checking account and their Twitter feed!


Build Great Giving Habits: Teach Children to Give

Tis the season!  In our house, it’s the season for all things kid-centric (more than usual!) from making gingerbread houses to decorating everything in sparkly tinsel, making sure our elf on the shelf is being appropriately entertaining and magical, and doing the NYC holiday kiddie stuff.  It’s also a time that I’m stressing about too much materialism and looking for ways I can help my kids understand that this season is about GIVING.  “How can we teach children to give?” is a thought I hear echoed all around me, no matter where I am. Indeed, according to the latest data,

Many high net worth households have family traditions around giving (41 percent), such as volunteering as a family and giving to charity during the holidays. Perhaps not surprisingly, 26 percent of wealthy donors cited the joy they derive from engaging with family around charitable activities among the benefits of giving… (and) One-third (33 percent) of high net worth donors who have children involve them and other younger relatives in their household’s charitable giving activities.”  

So, my question is, how are you teaching children to give?  Let’s say you haven’t involved them in the mission of your work or in the ask (radical concept, I know… but hey, they are sometimes the decision makers at the table!) up until now.  Hopefully knowing the data above (confirmed in my conversations with donors, and the behavior of my friends and others), has inspired you to think creatively about how you might make these little people the recipients of your stewardship and engagement efforts.

Need some inspiration?  Here’s what some  “out of the box” thinkers in the development world are doing to teach children to give – joyfully!

  1. UNICEF –  Teach for UNICEF provides a plethora of free curriculum to schools who want to use UNICEF’s work in the classroom.  Voices of Youth is a website where parents, teachers and children can talk about making the world a place where every child can live in peace, have decent shelter, be healthy and well-nourished, have clean water, play, go to school, and be protected from violence, abuse and exploitation – UNICEF’s misson.  But note, it’s hard to tell that this is in any way linked to UNICEF.  Then there is Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF their mobile applications for kids.
  2. Room to Read involves young people in their work in many ways.  I highly recommend checking out their “Students Helping Students” page that speaks directly to young people, but also to educators, giving them resources to use Room to Read’s work in the classroom.  Also, the founder of Room to Read has written and published a great children’s book, “Zak the Yak” that explains their work in picture book form.
  3. The Global Fund for Children has a line of books that embodies their mission.  I’ve been given one as a thank you before and it was wonderful to use it to help explain the GFC’s work to my little ones.
  4. Fidelco‘s mission is to train and provide blind people with seeing eye dogs.  I heard about Fidelco from a mom I know who gushed about an auction item she purchased that allowed her children to walk a course with a blind fold over their eyes with a seeing eye dog leading the way.  She told me all about their mission, how they did subsequent fundraising for this organization and that she plans to take two big groups of girl scouts to their program:  “Following a highly engaging presentation, students “adopt” a litter of young dogs entering Fidelco’s six-month Guide Dog Training Program. They receive “Pup-Dates” by e-mail, with photos, to follow their litter’s progress.”
  5. The New York Blood Center‘s “Little Doctors Program” teaches 5th through 8th graders how to run a blood drive, providing a fabulous mission centric way for children to participate in an academic, hands-on, community service activity that helps young people understand the difference the Center is making.
  6. Girl Up is an entire organization dedicated to leveraging the power of American girls to support girls in at risk situations in developing countries.  Here’s an example of Girl Up giving their potential young supporters the ability to participate in easy ways that resonate with them.
  7. Many programs connect children in the US with children in developing countries so that they may learn about one another.  I’ve got LOTS more to say on this particular topic.  That’s for another day.  But feel free to follow me on Twitter @NeeshaR where I often talk about this.

We would love to hear your thoughts on the above, or if you know of other great examples, and most especially how your organization is teaching children to give!

Until next time, enjoy opening those end-of-year gift envelopes and happy holidays to you and yours!