Charitable Giving

Family philanthropy: planting seeds for family giving (Part 1)

This is our first post in a series about how to create and continue a family tradition of philanthropy. Keep an eye out for more as we show how your kids and grandkids can play a role in your charitable giving.

Want to start a tradition of giving in your family? Turns out, it’s as simple as having a conversation. A study by the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy says when parents talk to their kids about charity, they’re 20 percent more likely to give—that’s even more influential than role modeling alone.

So, where do you begin? 

Starting the conversation with your kids or grandkids is easier than you think. There are opportunities to talk, well, everywhere. With younger children, it can be as simple as pointing out someone performing a good deed. As children mature, guide the discussion toward more complex territory. What does it mean to be part of a community? What are our responsibilities as citizens of the world

Here are some conversation starters to get the ball rolling…

“Family giving matters because…” 

The bottom line is that we’re all in this together. Cities, towns, schools and religious organizations—all communities do better when people help one another. To relay this message, talk to your younger kids about a time they helped out a friend and ask them how they felt. For school-aged children, talk about bigger issues possibly affecting the community, like flooding, storms or other disasters. Cast the net even farther if you have a teenager—are they concerned about certain global issues? How might they be able to make a difference?

“Our family gives back by...” 

Although it’s admirable to give quietly, it’s important for children to see and hear about how you contribute. No matter how routine a gift might seem, point it out occasionally. Make the connection between your participation in the local blood drive and the people whose lives could be saved. If you volunteer, be sure your children realize that’s an important form of giving. And praise your children for their acts of kindness and charity. That can be a powerful motivator, especially the younger ones.

“This is important to us because...” 

Speak from the heart about why you give and why you want each generation in your family to carry on the tradition. Maybe it’s because you feel lucky and want to help others who haven’t been as fortunate. Maybe you want to pay it forward or are passionate about a specific cause. Then again, maybe it’s simple—you believe giving back is the right thing to do.

“Family giving helps us, too, because…” 

It’s easy for children to understand that their gifts help others. But, according to a Harvard Business School paper, giving also has a positive impact on donors’ health and happiness. The next time you and your children are involved in giving together, ask them to pay attention to how they feel. They’ll experience, firsthand, that it truly can be better to give than to receive.

Remember, traditions aren’t built overnight. That’s why it’s important to talk with your kids and take advantage of opportunities to give as a family. Consider options, such as a Giving Fund, that make it easy to pass on your family value of giving.

To learn more on this topic, watch for our upcoming post walking you through the next step—formalizing family giving.

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