Monday, June 16, 2014

Philanthropy….Begin at the very Beginning…with Children

Charlotte proudly shows her hair given to Pantene Beautiful Lengths 
Children inspire us…in so many ways. We are inspired by the way they enjoy life, learn new things, know so much more than we did are their age, are so smart and more. We are inspired by their smiles and their ability to bounce back. I am also inspired by how children have a natural propensity toward philanthropy. It makes me think there is hope for the world to become a better place.  This topic is worth a book – not just an article – so this won’t be the last article on this subject. The word Philanthropy is derived from Ancient Greek and means "to love people". A dictionary definition is “goodwill to fellow members of the human race; especially : active effort to promote human welfare. Goodwill and active effort are the key words to me.

My grandson is 5 years old. When I thought about it he has already begun to develop a philanthropic spirit. I am so proud that Zach willingly shares his toys with other children and if we have a child who is younger than him visit when he is visiting, he will show them how to use a toy and help them. He does chores at our place such as when I come home from the grocery store he’ll help carry in the bags and put away the groceries. This winter we had a very, cold and snowy winter in New Jersey.  Zach’s Dad pulled over his car to help a disabled neighbor shovel snow.  Zach helped too. He is actively involved in helping others and does so willingly. When his parents were both sick recently Zach spent the day with us and when we brought him home we explained that they were sick and he should take care of himself and go to bed without their help. And he did. It’s a good start. Philanthropy begins with caring and wanting to be engaged with “goodwill.” It is so much more than writing a check. We should be thinking about philanthropy as a core value to teach children. It is an important part of wholeness in adult life and it should be something that just comes naturally. So how do we develop this?

1. Set an example and participate together - Today there are many opportunities for families to volunteer together. Whether it is cleaning up a playground, working at a food bank, or an improvement project at school there are lots of opportunities. Martin Luther King Day is a designated day of service and there are plenty of planned family ways to volunteer. Earth Day is an excellent time for outdoor volunteering – whether it be an organized larger activity or just helping an elderly neighbor with an outdoor spring cleanup.

2. Encourage what your child is interested in - If you want your children to be enthusiastic about participating in philanthropy then it has to be something that is of interest to them. It may be in helping poor children or the environment. It may be supporting children who are very sick. Explore with children how they would like to help others and if at all possible make it a hands on experience. Charlotte is a perfect example of a child with a philanthropic spirit who is an inspiration to all of us. She grew her hair long and had it cut for Pantene Beautiful Lengths so that it could become a wig for a child with cancer.  Charlotte did more than organize a fundraiser – she truly gave of herself.   She is a true philanthropist - demonstrating love of people and with a big smile on her face. I love that smile.

Charlotte's mom,  Nancy Schwartz is pretty special too.  She is a nonprofit marketing consultant extraordinaire - Check out Nancy at

3.Read books and connect with philanthropy – There is an excellent online resource – Learning to Give – which is chock full of resources including lesson plans, activities and resources to educate youth about the power of philanthropy. It is well organized by grade, subject matter and more. I especially like the reading guides for some of my favorite children’s books including A Chair for my Mother, the Butter Battle Book, Coming to America: The Story of Immigration, Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters, The Brand New Kid and many more.

4. Teach the concepts – Many people in my generation were brought up not knowing anything about family finances or giving. Looking back my parents were generous with their time, talent and treasure. I was oblivious to the treasure part but I could see the time and talent part. We have taken a different tack with our children. They know about our giving patterns and that it is spread across local, national and international causes. They know the local organizations where we are involved very well. They know that we have priorities for our giving and that charities are named in our will. When our children were young we made matching gifts to charities that they gave to and this encouraged them to give even more. As adults we have given gifts in their name at Christmas in this same spirit – education for our daughter and water projects for our son. They know our “philanthropy philosophy” and as adults are forming their own. When my son started working he immediately made a commitment to make a contribution to KIVA with every paycheck. He has his own philanthropy philosophy and it developed as he was growing up.

5. Be open to a child’s lead - Sometimes our children have set the example for us. When my son was a freshman in high school he came home and TOLD us he was going on a trip to help re-build a burned Black church in the South during his Spring vacation. My husband decided to take a week of his vacation and go with him and several years later my husband and I went together. My daughter has a caring spirit and when she works with young children she is particularly thoughtful of a child that needs a little extra personal attention that can make a difference. It was true when she babysat a special needs child and in college she was nominated for volunteer of the year.

6. Provide video games with philanthropic themes – Yes, that’s right – video games. We have to meet children on their turf. Games for Change – is an innovative company producing video games with social impact themes. They have games for different ages, beginning at 7.  These games offer a much healthier excitement than Grand Auto Theft.

7. Support community service – Many secondary schools and colleges have an optional or required community service component today. Actively discuss this with the children in your life and help them find a meaningful choice rather than a simple one that will merely satisfy the requirement. Our philanthropy manifests itself differently at different stages in our lives but it is important at every stage. For children and young adults it can be bursting with energy and innocence and a spirit true to the origins of the word.

Resources available at

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