6 ways to model charitable giving for your child

Kids are more likely to give when it’s part of how their parents live.

Tags: Charitable giving
Published: September 11, 2019

Leading by example is a powerful way to get your kids involved in charitable giving from an early age. In fact, studies show that when parents give to charity, their children are more likely to give to charity, too.1

Statistics aside, finding ways to inspire your children to be generous does take some thoughtful planning. Here are some simple ways to get the ball rolling.

 

1. Create space for gratitude and giving

On a regular basis, let your child hear you express your:

  • Gratitude for what you have
  • Commitment to helping others
  • Interest in what your child is grateful for and how they want to help others

Mealtime and bedtime offer great opportunities for sparking these conversations. Show your child that their voice is welcome when it comes to how, when, and where your family chooses to give. From here, you can even segue into “money moments,” discussing how charitable giving fits into an overall household budget and why you value being able to give back.

 

2. Weave charitable giving into everyday activities

Why not throw a children’s party for a cause? For example, you could ask guests (and their families) to bring a few shelf-stable products to the party that can be donated to your local food bank. Or host a bake sale with proceeds going to a charity of your child’s choice.

You can also let your child pick out which of their outgrown clothes and toys they’d like to donate to charity when you go through your own belongings. Events and activities like these let your child build positive associations with the practice of giving and experience first-hand the joy of sharing what they have, with the goal of helping someone else. Plus, by keeping the focus on action vs. ideals, children learn on their own how to spot opportunities to help others.

 

3. Catch your kids in acts of kindness

Start noticing ways your child naturally displays a giving nature. Maybe they share their toy without being asked, or help a new classmate get on the right bus. When you see these positive behaviors in action, use them as opportunities to talk to your child.

  • Tell them how proud you are of their choices
  • Find out what inspired them to act in that moment
  • Ask how it felt for them to demonstrate kindness and generosity
  • Share how much they have inspired you to be kind and generous

Telling your child that you notice when they help others reinforces the value of those actions.

 

4. Show them that financial donations are just one way to contribute

Lending your skills and/or time to a cause can be every bit as meaningful as a financial contribution. Charitable organizations and nonprofits often need volunteers to help serve clients, manage operations and more.

When you find the right fit for the interests and skills of you and your child, you gain a memorable, meaningful way to spend time together. Your child sees members of a community rallying around a shared cause, and the whole practice becomes more tangible.

 

5. Be a good neighbor

Let your child see you reach out when someone needs a helping hand. The gesture can be as simple as gathering a neighbor’s mail while they travel. Or caring for the kids of a single parent so they can get to a job interview.

As your children observe your day-to-day generosity, they learn that acts of service, large and small, can create stronger, more resilient communities. And they see that needing and receiving help is also a normal part of life.

 

6. Turn charitable giving into a family affair

Maybe you already have certain causes and charities that are close to your heart. Let your child in on important details, such as:

  • Why the cause is important to you
  • How you chose it over other causes
  • How long you’ve been giving to the cause
  • How often you contribute, and how much (if appropriate)
  • Where the money goes: Research? Education? Operating costs?

Next, give your child an opportunity to choose their own cause. You can also check Charity Navigator for information on top-rated charities and tips for giving wisely.

Finally, track your shared progress as a family. Once each month or quarter, hold an informal meeting to celebrate any positive news on specific campaigns or issues your family contributes to. If your kids are old enough, let them speak about how their charities are doing. Keep the gathering light and fun so it’s something everyone looks forward to. You can also use that meeting to decide whether you’d like to keep giving to the same organizations or switch to something new.

 

When you discuss the value of gratitude, generosity, and helping others from a young age – and let your children in on different ways to give back – you set them up to become adults who can give back in meaningful ways.


With more than 1 million public charities in the U.S., finding one to support can be intimidating. Here are 4 steps to finding the right charity for you.

 

1 Transmitting Generosity to Daughters and Sons. Women’s Philanthropy Institute. 2018.