Introducing Your Children to Your Family’s Charitable Initiatives

Givinga is pleased to continue Expert Perspectives, a series of blog posts featuring one of our many partners on topics that are currently trending in the world of giving.  We’re proud to continue this initiative with Jocelyn Bishop.  Jocelyn is a philanthropic and nonprofit advisor who helps individuals and families make impactful contributions and nonprofits operate more successfully.  She has a deep understanding of nonprofit finance, governance, and operations through her professional experiences, which have included executive roles in PwC’s nonprofit tax practice and Harvard Management Company (Harvard’s endowment). Her current roles include consultant, nonprofit board member, treasurer, endowment chair, and writer.  She is passionate about making a positive impact on society and developing professional relationships with others who share her commitment.

Jocelyn can be reached at

As parents, we constantly focus on our children’s health, safety, and happiness.  But one important opportunity that we often miss out on is the positive impact family philanthropy can have on our children and our family units.

Philanthropy is defined as the love of mankind, and kids can be the best philanthropists provided they have good role models.  As we teach our children the golden rules of being kind, treating everyone how you wish to be treated, and sharing what you have, the best reinforcement is putting those teachings into action through philanthropy at any level and in any form.

Here are a few philanthropic opportunities for you and your family to enjoy together:


Charitable giving is one of the most common forms of philanthropy and can be very simple for your family to accomplish.

  • Save, spend, donate – If your child currently receives an allowance or you’re thinking about implementing one, the popular concept of “save, spend, donate” may be right for you. This is a simple way of providing your child the freedom to control their personal finances within set boundaries.  Essentially, the allowance you provide your child is divided into 3 buckets – one for saving towards a future goal, one for spending in the short term, and one for donating to charity.  When they have a reasonable amount saved in the donate bucket, talk with them about different giving opportunities and let them decide where to make their donation.
  • Discuss giving as a family – If you’re already discussing the household budget with your family, this easily can be extended to charitable giving. Let your kids know that one of your family’s budget line items is charitable donations.  Provide them with an understanding of what charities you’ve given to in the past and let them know you’d like for them to be a part of the decision-making process going forward.  If you’d like to set some parameters around the decisions, provide your children with a list of organizations or causes you’d like them to consider and tell them why they’re important to you.  Alternatively, provide them a dollar amount that they can each decide where to donate.  Either way, discussing the selection process as a family can provide your children a greater appreciation of the purpose and impact of your family’s philanthropy.
  • Meaningful gifts come in different forms – Giving belongings can be just as, if not more, meaningful to a child than making cash donations. For younger children, money is an abstract concept but property, such as a toy, is a different story.  They may feel that they’re making much more of a difference by giving away their gently used toys rather than making a cash donation.  And if they’re feeling good about donating now, they’re more likely to continue donating in the future.


A donation of your family’s time can be equally important to a charity as your cash donation.  And these days, opportunities range in location from close-to-home to half-way around the world.

  • Think Global – Volunteer vacations continue to grow in popularity, and for good reason. They combine family fun with altruism and can provide you and your children with a different perspective on the world.  If physically traveling the world isn’t feasible for your family, your computer and the web also can provide you with many international volunteer opportunities performed right in your home.
  • Act Local – Family volunteering locally has several benefits. Logistically, it can be accomplished easily because it’s close to home and may not require a substantial time commitment.  Volunteering locally also shows your children that there are needs in the community in which you live, which develops empathy for others.  From the food pantry to the nursing home to the pet shelter, and in the most prosperous to most disadvantaged communities, there is a diverse array of volunteer opportunities.
  • Do the Car Wash, Sell the Cookies – If raising funds is going to be most helpful to your family’s philanthropic causes, think about the activities your family can do as a team to accomplish your fundraising goals such as a garage sale, car wash, or a baked goods sale. One popular opportunity for children and parents celebrating birthdays is to request donations to a particular organization in lieu of gifts.

One final thought:  Whatever philanthropic opportunity you choose to undertake with your family, your children will have a better appreciation of the activity, the charitable cause, and of you as a parent, if you explain to them why you’re doing it.  Putting the activity into context will motivate your children to follow in your footsteps by becoming active philanthropists, now and in the future.

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