Giving the Gift of Giving
“Philanthropy” is usually a word we associate with the world of adults and rich people. Increasingly though, children from a spread of socio-economic backgrounds are participating in and learning about what it means to be philanthropic – both at home and at school.
As well as helping those in need, the evidence shows getting children involved in philanthropy has positive effects for the children, their families and society more generally.
It might be just the key to helping your children be happier, smarter and more successful.
Why should we teach philanthropy?
The younger the child is when the discussion begins about giving, the more it becomes a matter of practice and habit that continues into adulthood.
According to developmental psychologist Marilyn Price Mitchell, children who perform acts of kindness experience increased well-being, popularity and acceptance among their peers. This, in turn, leads to better classroom behaviour and higher academic achievement.
However, the report found that among 9-11 year olds, three times as many children felt that discussing philanthropy with their parents would encourage their increased philanthropic engagement.
Where to start
How do we start teaching children about philanthropy?
There are a plethora of causes, activities and means by which children can become involved in philanthropic acts, regardless of financial means. Beyond individual acts of volunteering and fundraising, families are increasingly becoming involved with groups of like-minded families in “giving circles”.
Giving circles necessarily promote discussion, as decisions about what cause to support, how much to give, what activities and workshops to organize, are made jointly by all members in consultation with their children.
What are children learning?
Through the experience of family based philanthropic organizations donor children are benefiting, just as the recipients are.
They learn about worlds beyond their own experience. They also learn confidence in public speaking, how to make a case, how to choose a charity, research skills, fundraising and entrepreneurial skills, tolerance and empathy. They also learn how to organize through setting up cake stalls, garage markets, bike-a-thons and walk-a-thons.
Through this experience they can then define what philanthropy means to them and what change they would like to see in the world. They learn, just by small acts of giving, how to become a change maker, what it means to be a good person and citizen as well as learning from and teaching others how to collaborate and make a difference. They learn about the multiplier effect of small acts and subsequently, the large impact that can have on their communities.
There are many valuable models for encouraging children’s involvement in philanthropic activities. Time will tell how these programs impact individual donor children and beneficiaries. But it is clear that beginning at a young age in the family context will have a positive flow for the world in which these children live and give.