Charitable Giving

Family philanthropy: Keeping pace with older kids (Part 3)

Youth Philanthropy

This is the third post in our series on how to create and continue a family tradition of philanthropy. Watch for more as we show how your children and grandchildren can play a role in your charitable giving. Earlier posts focused on planting seeds for family giving and making a plan. Here, we look at ways to get teens and young adults more involved.

Kids grow up fast.

Younger kids might have been perfectly fine going along with whatever giving plan the family decided. But teens and college students likely have ideas of their own.

As much as possible, follow your older children’s lead. The more involved they are in family philanthropic decisions, the more likely they will continue to give throughout their lives.

Be open to change.

Periodic reassessment makes sense for almost any ongoing activity. So when your children are ready to take on more responsibility for family charitable giving, it could be the perfect time for taking another look at your giving priorities. Be sure to consider the following:

  • Are you open to changing the charitable causes your family supports?
  • Or, will changes be limited to the way you divide your time and resources among your existing charities?

If you are considering new charitable causes, turn the research reins over to your older children. Challenge them to investigate some new charities—they can start with our charity search tool. Then have them make a pitch to the family for their new favorites. It’s a great way to strengthen the older kids’ commitment and help them develop their persuasive skills.

Three thought starters for picking a charity.

  • Charity mission statements and programs. Why do specific missions and programs appeal to your older children and why are they a good fit for your family?
  • Scope. Are the charities local, regional, national or international? Where do your older children want to make a difference—and why?
  • Budget. Do your kids want your family’s gift to play a bigger role in a smaller charity? Or, would they prefer to support a larger organization with more resources?

For more hands-on research, you may want to arrange a site visit to one or more charities. Your family will get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how the charities work—and how your gifts help.

Give in to peer pressure.

It’s no secret that children care what their friends think. That holds true for volunteering, too. According to “The Dosomething.org Index on Young People and Volunteering,” parents’ influence on volunteering remains strong while kids are in middle school and early high school. Once your children are in college, the impact of friends is four times that of family.

Play to your children’s strength.

Everyone is better at some things than others. So take advantage of each child’s areas of expertise. Is one teen an organizational wizard? Have them lead the planning for your family’s next fundraiser or food drive. Is one young adult a social butterfly? They’re the logical choice to reach out to volunteers. Is there an artist in the group? They get to design the posters and other announcements. The challenge is to make the most of each child’s talents while pushing them just a bit out of their comfort zone. That approach instills confidence while opening the door to new opportunities.

Let your kids see the financials.

If children are old enough to take a more active role in decision-making, they might also be ready to learn more about the financial aspect of charitable giving. For instance, how do you decide how much you will give each year? Is the amount consistent from year to year, or does it change based on world events, such as natural disasters?

Do you use a donor-advised fund (DAF)? If so, now could be a good time to talk about how your DAF works —and to point out that the grant recommendations from your DAF are based on the discussions your family has been having.

Make a difference today and tomorrow.

The goal is for your children to become giving adults, who instill the same values in their own children. Every time they take the lead on a charitable activity, teens and college-age students experience the satisfaction of making a difference. That is one of the most effective ways of encouraging them to carry on the family tradition.

To continue learning about family giving, be on the lookout for the next post in the series.

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