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How To Make Charitable Giving A Family Experience

Charitable giving—whether donating time, talent, or treasure —can be a tremendously positive family experience when shared. Meaningful ways of giving can become traditions you can start building with your family today.

There are many ways to involve your children in your charitable giving plans or help them create traditions and donation choices of their own. 

Bringing your kids directly into the process of donating money (or time and talent) to people or causes that matter helps them cultivate the quality of generosity. What’s more, charitable giving especially helps kids develop a healthier relationship with money, as they experience how to align money with values and set aside money to give to others. 

Perhaps most importantly, making charitable giving a family affair helps kids acquire a sense of choice and empowerment around money. Inspired to start this in your own family? Let’s look at a few ways to make charitable giving a family experience. 

Model generosity with your actions

Experts agree that if you want your kids to cultivate generosity and a charitable spirit, let them see you in action. Equally important is ensuring they hear you talk about your donations of time and money. 

Personal finance columnist for the New York Times Ron Lieber wrote in his book The Opposite of Spoiled that “Parents have an essential role in modeling generosity, and researchers have shown that if parents give, kids tend to as well.” 

As soon as they are old enough, show them what giving looks like in your family, and explain why it’s valuable to you. Tell them about the causes, people, or nonprofits you care about. Express words about the value it brings to your life, and more importantly, the benefits it brings to the lives of others. 

Give kids the power of choice

Allow your kids to set aside some of their own money (allowance or savings) to donate to one or more of these causes that they feel connected with or inspired by. Explain or encourage them to research local or global options, then choose which charity or cause they want to support. 

Letting them take ownership of their part in charitable giving encourages the following, 

  • Associate money with “doing good”

  • Making money conversations normal and natural in the family dynamic

  • Cultivate a spirit of generosity

Volunteer together

Communities are stronger when people know they can rely on each other. You might then explain to your kids why giving (time, talent and/or money) during a crisis is an example of how to support their community. 

In the wake of natural disasters or even the current global pandemic, residents in your community need help, and any contributions, whether it be your time, talents, or resources, will make a tremendous difference. By volunteering as a family, you give your children the gift of personally experiencing how communities can come together.

Beyond crises, there are numerous opportunities locally to arrange for a family volunteer day or ongoing tradition. 

As parents, you might start a conversation with your kids that asks for their input on how they would like to make a difference to people in need. Suggestions include posting flyers for lost dogs and cats, serving food at a homeless shelter one night a month, or selling lemonade and cookies to raise money for a local cause. 

Schools, nonprofits, and churches are also a good source for identifying community needs. The important thing is that you are out in the world with your children, giving back and engaging in something positive and meaningful together.

Give as a family with a donor-advised fund

A donor-advised fund is a charitable investment vehicle that allows you to contribute assets, cash, or even property to the fund of your choice. From that fund, you designate payments to the charities of your choice. Donations are also tax-deductible in the year you donate.  They may also allow you to give more than you think you can.  For example, stocks can be donated directly to the Donor-advised fund at their full appreciated value.  The fund can then sell them, pay no taxes on the capital gains, then donate the full proceeds to the charity.  If you sold them rather than the fund, you would have to pay the capital gains tax and donate only what is left over after the taxes.

Donor-advised funds are flexible in that your money goes directly to support the causes that matter to you. As with any family-focused charitable tradition, they are also a great way to get your kids involved, since they can help select which charities they would like the family to support. 

For example, as a family, you could opt to make quarterly grants, with a different family member choosing each quarter where to donate.

The beauty of participating in a donor-advised fund as a family is that it’s an ideal way to make giving an ongoing and regular habit, versus an obligatory act of charitable giving during the holiday season. This approach also allows money and giving to be a regular family discussion topic, while indirectly instilling planning and budgeting habits in everyone! 

Families that give together, stay together

Charitable giving serves a meaningful purpose for your spirit while instilling into children the values of kindness, generosity, and empathy. 

We recommend regular giving rituals or traditions and direct participation by your children.. Keep the giving conversation going on a consistent basis, and be sure your kids learn to connect the dots between their efforts and the impact they have on your community, and ultimately, the world. 

If you’d like to learn more about creating a donor-advised fund for your family or discuss other topics about family and money, please reach out today.