You don’t have to look far these days to find people in need of a helping hand. Earthquake survivors in Haiti, flood-ravaged communities in the United States, and other natural-disaster victims—all have an urgent need for large-scale, airlifted donations. At the same time, perhaps closer to home, the mortgage crisis and rising unemployment force families to seek help from local charitable groups, which in turn need their resources bolstered by individual contributions. So now is a good time to start teaching your grandchildren about the importance of charitable giving. Here are some tips to get you going.
Teach By Example
As with so many things in life, the best way to impart a lesson to your grandchildren about the importance of charity is to set a good example. That means being open with kids about the causes that matter to you, the volunteer work you do, and the money you donate. It also means involving them in your charitable efforts.
If you’re writing a check to your favorite cause, explain to your grandchildren why you’ve decided to support it. Visit the organization’s Web site together to show them how the group you’ve chosen helps others.
If you’re involved in a volunteer activity in which your grandchildren can participate, ask them to do so. I have one client who volunteers at a soup kitchen once a month and brings his granddaughter with him to help. Not only do they help feed hungry people in their community, they get to spend time together, too.
My own grandchildren know that giving money and time to charity is the norm in our family. I often talk with them about my involvement in various charities, and they see me heading off to meetings and events. But at the same time, I don’t make a big deal out of it, because I don’t want them to think there’s anything unusual about what we do. It’s simply the way we live.
Tap Into Their Interests
When you’re involved in causes that affect you personally, you can expect grandchildren to be eager to get involved themselves. But you can’t automatically assume that all of your favorite charities will become theirs. Sharing your own priorities for donations and support is a good way to introduce them to the concept of giving back to the community.
It’s also important as they grow up that their philanthropic projects come from their own interests. Pay attention to your grandchildren’s hobbies, to the topics that interest them most in school, and to items that catch their attention on the news. My own grandchildren spend hours watching nature shows on Animal Planet and the Discovery Channel, so we’ve spent time talking about the environment and global warming. I’ve encouraged the kids to think about making donations to groups that help with those concerns.
Like teaching a foreign language, preparing your grandchildren for a lifetime of charitable giving starts ideally when they’re young. A picture of you pushing a baby grandchild or a toddler grandchild as you do a charity walkathon will make a great photo for the child’s baby book. Later, such experiences will become tales you can tell the kids of how they were active in charity even when they were little.
Age 6 or 7 is a good time to start involving your grandchildren directly in your charitable causes. A cause that’s close to home gives you a place to start. Many families, unfortunately, have a close relative who has some kind of serious health issue. You can show your grandchildren the Web site of an organization that helps people with that condition. You can also consider causes that are close to kids’ lives, such as schools, libraries, children’s hospitals, or religious institutions.
You can help grandchildren get on the road to giving back by at least partially funding their early charitable efforts. When my husband and I give our grandchildren money today, it always comes with a caveat: They can spend half on whatever they want, but the other half must go to a charity of their choice.
Charitable giving is its own reward—we know that it feels good to do good. By helping your grandchildren get involved in a cause, you’ll give them a gift of wisdom: the knowledge that each has the power to help make a difference and become a positive force in society.
Courtesy of AARP