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PhilanthroKids: Teaching Your Children About Philanthropy

5 Ways to Teach Kids About Charity and Giving Back

By Dina Roth Port and Hiranmayi Srinivasan

Published on June 11, 2021

Teaching your children about setting aside money to give to important causes is the key to raising socially-conscious kids. Here's advice from other parents on how to give back as a family.

Talking to your kids about money—and starting the conversation early—is a really important step to normalize money and show that it isn't something taboo or scary. And along with talking to them about money, teaching your children about using their dollars to give back to the community and donating to charity is equally crucial in raising well-rounded, compassionate little humans. Here is expert advice on how to navigate giving back as a family, from parents like you.

1. Lead by example.

Kids are visual learners, and the best way to teach them about giving back is by modeling that behavior yourself. "You have to give to teach your kids to give," Robyn, a mom of three and founder of personal finance blog A Dime Saved. And don't just do it once in a while—make giving a habit, so your kids make it a regular part of their lives too.

2. Talk about giving as a family.

Along with setting a good example for your children, have conversations about giving. Explain to them why you're giving time or money to a particular cause. "We talk to our son about how important it is to give back and how fortunate we have it compared to many," Mitchell Kraus, a chartered advisor in philanthropy. "Explain how one less dinner out might feed 30 other families, help save a species, or help other kids get an education." Have conversations about the ways that you and your family are working to support other members of the community that need it most, how it makes you feel, and why it's important.

3. Look for volunteer opportunities.

There's no better way to teach kids about giving back than through action. Whitney Rancourt, an elementary school reading teacher and parent blogger at Mama Manages, suggests finding volunteer opportunities "that will truly excite your child." Look for volunteer opportunities that align with your kids' interests, such as volunteering at an animal shelter or offering free tutoring.

In addition to volunteering, encourage your child to choose toys, clothes, and books to donate. Mom blogger and nonprofit executive Siobhan Alvarez says to talk to your kids about how not every family has access to the kind of toys, clothes, or food as they do. Last Christmas, Alvarez had her 2-year-old son choose toys he no longer played with to give to kids in need. "He loved it! He is already talking about how excited he is to pick out toys this holiday season for other kids to love," says Alvarez.

Positive reinforcement works really well with kids, so encourage your child's efforts to give back. "If you see your kids being generous, point them out and praise them," Mo Mulla, founder of the blog Parental Questions.

4. Have a three-bucket approach for allowances.

If your kids get an allowance, teach them to put a portion of it aside every month to give to causes important to your family. Kraus suggests having a three-bucket approach to allowances; this means having a part of their allowance be for things they want to spend it on, some for saving, and some for giving back. If your kids are younger, suggest causes for them to think about, or let them choose where they want to donate if they're older. Rancourt suggests the Greenlight Debit Card, a kid-specific debit card, with an app that lets children split their allowance into sections for saving and giving. This is a great way to track your kids' spending and charitable donations—and teach them financial literacy.

5. Set up a donor-advised fund.

If you can, set up a donor-advised fund as a family. A donor-advised fund is an account that allows you to contribute to charities and organizations you care about. Contributions you make to the account can get you an immediate tax deduction, which can then be invested and grow tax-free. "Donor-advised funds work very much like a private foundation, but are much easier to set up with smaller minimums," says Kraus. Not only will this teach your kids about investing, returns, and tax deductions; it will allow you to come together as a family to decide on which communities and causes you want to support.

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