Teaching Teens About Charitable Giving


By: , – Celia Shatzman, Family Circle
  :  8 comments   :  11,510 Views

There's no better time than the holidays to teach your teens the significance of making a difference. By helping them create a giving circle—a group of people who pool individual contributions to make a bigger charitable donation—you'll enable them to have a greater impact and pick up some valuable life lessons. "Kids become much better informed, not only as philanthropists but as active community members," says Ken Menkhaus, Ph.D., professor of political science at Davidson College in North Carolina, who helped launch a course as part of the Learning By Giving program. Classes at selected schools—including Tufts, Columbia and UC Berkeley—research local nonprofits and debate who should receive grant money. But you don't have to wait until your kids reach college. Just use this simple plan to get your teens to step up. 
  1. Get together. Have your teen invite 5 to 10 friends or classmates who are interested in doing good. Menkhaus suggests starting small, since too many members can complicate decision making. Next, create a name for the giving circle and determine how often it will meet and where.
  2. Settle on a sum. Members should decide on how much they'd like to donate, and whether they will pool their own money or solicit donations, either individually or through fundraising events. Remind them that the point isn't the dollar amount but the effort and act of giving. Even a modest contribution can have a major impact.
  3. Talk it through. When choosing a beneficiary, tell members they may have to agree to disagree. "Some might want to give to a food pantry, which isn't solving a long-term problem, while others might feel strongly about a cause that's sustainable, like job creation," Menkhaus says. "They'll learn a lot about themselves and one another's core values." Teens can research a range of charities, both national and local. "They could look into affordable housing, homeless shelters, health care and after-school programs, either by reading the local newspaper, contacting neighborhood charities or speaking with community leaders," he says. 
Click here for more tips to teach teens about charitable giving from Family Circle.
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How do you teach your children how to give to others? What experiences have your family had serving others together? 

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    I would urge parents and their teens to read a book called "Toxic Charity". It's a book that promotes healthy charity - giving that builds up the clients/recipients and doesn't make them dependent on continuing charity. It really has opened my eyes. I wish I had read it back when I first started to give. - 12/12/2012   7:38:27 PM
  • 7
    I think parents can start even earlier. When I was in grade school we began collecting funds for a charitable organization. I moved on to volunteering at church and for causes I believe in. As an adult, I make sure I volunteer for a few things each year and at Christmas, we do a giving tree at work so I can share Christmas with someone less fortunate.

    I work for a company that provides volunteer hours so we can take off work to volunteer and provides opportunities for employees to support the community.

    There are things everyone can do regardless of personal budget. I gave / volunteered even when I was without a job. - 12/12/2012   1:18:24 PM
  • 6
    I have just finished reading a book titled Christmas is not your birthday by Mike Slaughter. Addresses many of the challenges we face in a society that really emphasizes accumulation of 'stuff.' There are so many ways to help others even when we may not have a lot of financial resources. Last night I worked in a kitchen making corn bread for 90 people at our Community Table. Great way to serve and, btw, learned that I make one really fine cornbread. - 12/12/2012   11:06:52 AM
    This is a great idea. I like the idea of including researching the background of the charities. - 12/12/2012   5:42:52 AM
    My daughters have learned about charitable giving in many different ways. In high school many groups do service hours, at church, through organizations that her family belongs to. There are lots of opportunity to donate not only money but more importantly time to many needy areas. - 12/11/2012   8:53:59 PM
  • 3
    One can always give a helping hand even if no money, a smile if no hand is available, and so on. There is always something that you can give to help someone have a brighter day. - 12/11/2012   2:53:36 PM
  • 2
    Last year I worked with special needs kids. They were learning about weather, and we read about Hurricane Katrina and its toll on different communites. They asked, "Can we send them something to help them?" Our little class prepared a big box to collect various nonperishables to be donated to one community in particular, calling the box Mighty Marshall Mites (Marshall being the name of our school...mite referring to a small offering). It was touching to see these young students caring beyond their own borders. - 12/11/2012   8:02:23 AM
  • MRE1956
    Of course, a responsible sense of perspective is important here.......after all, it's hard to give if you don't have the means to provide! - 12/11/2012   6:05:13 AM

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