For those with a charitable heart, they know the secret: that the very act of giving makes us happier. They want share that secret with everyone, especially their families. No matter what your family looks like, you can instill values that will live on through generations of givers. As a firm, we are incredibly grateful to give back to our community with time and resources. As financial advisors, we have the great privilege of helping our charitably-minded clients find ways to create a family of philanthropists. Here are some ideas on how you can work to light philanthropic passion at any age.
Caring Kids (Ages 3-10)
Talk to them about what they care about (typically, animals and other kids are good places to start). Whatever they are passionate about, find a way to honor that. Do they love trains? The Willamette Heritage Center may help provide glimpse into history. Are they crazy about cats? How about Friends of Felines? Provide them with some information about the organization, go visit / tour, ask them to think about the pros and cons of giving to one vs. another. This is a pivotal learning time where children develop their sense of empathy. Make the most of it by showing them how to give.
Of course, you could set aside a dollar amount that you’re willing to give on behalf of the children in your life, but asking them to give something of theirs has a far broader impact (the same is true for adults!). Maybe they can sell baked goods to family friends to raise money, or they could copy the “Penny Harvest” idea. Be sure to measure progress along the way and celebrate successes. A toy drive is another great opportunity for your child to pick out a toy, or one of their own, gently-used toys to give away. Ask them to come up with ideas. You might be surprised at how innovative they can be.
Looking for the perfect book to inspire your little giver? Try Because of You by B.G. Hennessy. This will be in my daughters stocking this year!
Thoughtful Teens (Ages 11-19)
Ask the teens in your life to do the legwork and research a deserving organization. Ask them to check out their website and volunteer their time before you contribute monetarily. Knowing and sharing the story of a charity they love can give teens something big to focus on during an often self-conscious time in life, and it can be incredibly empowering. As teens develop and grow more independent, you might find that their passion and focus differs from yours. Again, we encourage you to honor what is important to them. This will help emphasize the message that all teens need to hear over and over again: the adults in your life think that you and the things you have to say are important (even if you’re going to be embarrassed by some of it down the road).
If your children receive an allowance, consider creating the three bucket system: spend, save and give. Assure that they understand the importance of giving and set goals. Some families choose to match their children’s contributions to make the gift go even further.
Another popular way for teens to raise money is to ask friends and family to make contributions to their charity of choice in lieu of birthday presents. One of our clients supported her granddaughter in this endeavor. Instead of giving her a birthday present, the two of them went shopping for and eventually distributed toys to the children in the cancer center at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. This is an experience that she and her granddaughter loved so much, they’ve done it every year since.
Young Adults (Ages 20-30)
You can work with the young adults in your life to create family philanthropy plan. Think of it like your mission statement. It can outline criteria that must be met by a charity in order to be supported by your family. For example, you could have a narrow focus, “Religious affiliations that support the homeless in our community,” or something more broad, “Organizations that support the health and wellbeing of children.” A donor advised fund can serve as a conduit for nonprofits and is often drive by a mission statement like this. Donors can gift any amount (usually a minimum of $25,000 to start), take an immediate tax deduction and decide at a later time which 501(c)3 they’d like to support.
Ask the young adults in your life to research a not-for-profit that they care about and make the case as to why a portion of your family’s charitable gifting should support that nonprofit. Time is precious to young adults, so do what you can to make this a centerpiece of time you already plan to spend together (holidays, for example). As kids leave the nest for work or college, creating a family philanthropy plan can serve as a unifying force for families…not that your green bean casserole isn’t inspiring enough to fly home for.
Adults (Ages 30+)
A family foundation can be a way to align the overarching philanthropic goals of a family and involve several members in leadership / trustee positions. One of our clients chooses to gift his large annual required distribution to his family foundation. He splits the RMD in half. One half is divided between his children and grandchildren for them to give to their charity of choice. The other half is pooled with the foundation, and every spring the family gathers from all over the country for a family meeting. They each bring ideas and over the course of a weekend together, decide which organization deserves the support of their family foundation. This creates an opportunity for them to connect outside the holidays, but also on a deeper level. They have learned so much about each other by understanding the why behind what they believe in. As trustees, your kids can also be brought into the fold on the investment choices behind your donor advised fund or family foundation.
No matter what age, we encourage you to foster a sense of philanthropy in those you care about – including yourself. If you want help with resources, conversation starters or other ways to get the ball rolling on your own family philanthropy – give us a call. Our team of Certified Financial Planners is eager to help you and your family give in whatever way is best for you.
“Whatever you spend is gone. Whatever you keep, someone else gets. What you give is yours forever.” — Dr. Wil Rose