How to model giving for your family

Traditions and practices are often passed down from generation to generation. Your dad may have taught you to throw a curveball, your mom demonstrated how to ride a bike and your grandfather showed you his mother’s famous brownie recipe. These practical lessons likely came in the form of demonstrations and more formal training sessions. After all, you have to strap on your knee pads and helmet before you hit the open road on your first two-wheeler.

Your family likely shared more subtle practices with you by modeling behavior. You learned how to hold conversation at a party by watching your aunt, and you noted how your grandmother took attentive notes during the pastor’s sermon. They didn’t tell you how to do these things, but you picked up on the importance and nuance of these behaviors by watching them in action.

Modeling giving and generosity sits somewhere in between. Some families make it a point to teach specific lessons about giving and its role in their household. Others take a more subtle approach, ensuring their children see what they’re doing in the hopes they’ll do the same thing when they’re older. But modeling giving, no matter the method, is important to create the next generation of burgeoning philanthropists. Here are a few recommendations to help you model giving for your children and grandchildren:

Make giving accessible to them
Your preschooler likely doesn’t have a bank account – and if they do, their counting skills may limit their ability to interact with it. While they don’t quite understand finances yet, they do understand sharing. At a young age, talk with your children about giving away household items like toys and clothes. Explain in an age-appropriate way that not all children have the same types of things that they have, and that it’s important to donate these items as they will help the community. With gentle guidance, encourage them to make the ultimate decision about what to donate and what to keep. Take them with you when you bring the items to your donation site, talking with them about what the organization does and how helpful the items you donate will be to children who need them.

Help them give of their time
Organizations in your community are always looking for volunteers. Find opportunities that allow children and families to volunteer together and sign up for an upcoming shift. Talk with your children in advance about the work you’ll be doing and how it will help people. Drive home that giving of your time is a great way to give back that doesn’t require you to give money or resources.

Talk about donating money
When’s the last time you talked with your children about the nonprofits you support? If you’re not already, you should be! You don’t have to talk dollars and cents, but sharing why you give to specific organizations can plant seeds in your child’s heart that will blossom as they grow older. When you receive an email communication or printed mailer with organizational updates, share it with your family around the dinner table. Talk about the work that is being done in your community and why your family chooses to invest in specific organizations. When your children get older, allow them to share their thoughts on causes and organizations they care about, making where you give a family decision.