The Benefits of Involving Your Children in Philanthropy and Volunteering

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Charitable activities are a great way to teach financial skills and values, and counter feelings of entitlement or guilt about the family's financial status.

Parents can inspire their kids to become philanthropic by inviting them to participate in identifying and researching causes the family can support.

Many problems parents struggle with can be improved, if not solved, by involving them in charitable and volunteer activities, according to Richard Morris and Jayne Pearl, co-authors of Kids, Wealth, and Consequences: Ensuring a Responsible Financial Future for the Next Generation (Bloomberg, a Wiley imprint, 2010).

“Many parents worry that their children are spoiled and entitled; others worry their children feel guilty about living a comfortable lifestyle when so many other people are suffering,” say Morris and Pearl. “Some families have a hard time giving as much to charitable causes than they have in the past. Another common problem is that lots of parents feel they don’t know enough to teach their kids all they need to know about money, or they are uncomfortable talking about it at all.”

The authors point out that each of these concerns can be addressed by involving children in giving decisions and helping out at community and other charitable causes. For instance, they explain, “Parents can inspire their kids to become philanthropic by inviting them to participate in identifying and researching causes the family can support.”

They suggest activities for kids of different ages:

  • Parents of grade-school children can contact the local branch of an organization that supports research for a childhood disease about organizing a “get well soon” event with art supplies for kids and parents to create a get-well card for children in treatment at a nearby children’s hospital. Families can visit a local animal shelters, where they can feed the animals and play with kittens or puppies. Kids can also help prepare and serve food at the local soup kitchen or visit the elderly at a local nursing home.

“Families that volunteer together send powerful messages about the importance of giving back,” the authors explain. “They also strengthen their own family bonds as they learn firsthand about people who are less fortunate.”

  • Children in middle school through high school can participate in a fundraising campaign by helping design posters to put up around the community announcing the campaign. Teens who are adept at social networking can create a Facebook fan page for a local charitable group and post news about its activities on their own Facebook and Twitter pages. Teen-oriented events, such as an ice cream social or even a formal dance for children of potential or current donors, can help them learn about the causes the organization supports, the results of its grant-making, and future goals.

“Investing sweat equity in organizations to which families donate their financial equity engenders a deeper connection, not only between the family and your foundation, but also among the family members themselves,” point out Pearl and Morris.

  •     Young adults can look for internship programs in the nonprofit world, to gain work experience in marketing, accounting or finance, for example, at the same time as they do good in the community.

Pearl and Morris point out, “This is truly a win-win-win endeavor. Parents can use philanthropy as an effective parenting tool. Kids can better appreciate their blessings and learn new skills. Charitable groups can help develop a new generation of potential donors and volunteers.”

Kids, Wealth, and Consequences helps affluent parents and their advisors understand how affluence affects children’s future success, happiness and motivation. The book explores everything from how and when parents should talk to their children about the often-uncomfortable topic of money to what affluent families can learn from the economic meltdown about spending, saving and investing to help them better prepare themselves and their children to survive in any economic environment.

Jayne Pearl is a journalist and entertaining speaker, focusing on family business and financial parenting. She is author of [Kids and Money: Giving Them the Savvy to Succeed Financially (Bloomberg Press) and has co-authored or ghost-written ten other books. Jayne began her career at Forbes and was former senior editor of Family Business magazine, to which she has contributed for 20 years.

Richard Morris is an adjunct professor at the Lake Forest Graduate School of Management and is principal of ROI Consulting, helping family owners expand and pass down their business to subsequent generations. Previously, he worked at his family's 80-year-old privately held company, Fel-Pro Incorporated, managing Marketing and then Acquisitions, and serving on the Board of Directors until its sale in 1998.

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