Just weeks ago, the Forbes’ 7th richest person in the world and his wife made a lifetime commitment to give $45 billion in honor of their baby daughter. The stated purpose was “to further the mission of advancing human potential and promoting equality by means of philanthropic, public advocacy, and other activities for the public good.”
The number is staggering. The gifts will have enormous impact over the donors’ lifetimes and beyond, and they demonstrate that giving is not reserved for the last chapters in life.
While not everyone can make mega gifts, everyone can be a part of the movement to look beyond oneself to the future, to do what we can to improve that future, and to teach children the values that will promote the common good.
We can start by setting an example, then providing tools and experiences that lead to charitable intent, generosity, and effective giving.
1. Teach sharing. The earliest instincts are selfish. In the second year of life, children will likely say “mine.” Attachments to people and things are strong. Sharing might begin by giving the child some of mommy’s cookie. A child’s early sharing is not self-initiated. It imitates and is mostly done to please parents.
2. Later, to share means to empathize. It is part of socialization and may not happen until pre-school or Kindergarten. When one child can feel the need or sadness of another they might be inclined to (briefly) share a toy. Increased empathy generates increased comfort with letting go. Even at 4-5-6, there may be some appropriate reticence linked to temperament or even fear of damage to something precious. In cooperative play, sharing is more likely. Adult reinforcement is essential.
3. Model sharing for your kids. Give them your focused time. Let your child see you sharing, giving gifts to others, giving of yourself, like giving time at their school or observable volunteering. Play a “sharing” game like cutting something in half, giving it to your child and asking him to give the other half to dad, or big sister, or a playmate.
4. Children in grade school discover their personal power. They begin to have their own interests and desires. The parents try to set boundaries and the child tests them. Patterns are set, including the perception of entitlement, based on desires being continuously met. For example, receiving gifts without giving them sets an expectation, not easily reversed. Yet, children can easily relate to “get a gift, donate a toy or game or stuffed animal.”
5. Create a $5.00 Money Kit: 1 dollar, 4 quarters, 10 dimes, 20 nickels, 100 pennies. A child old enough to differentiate and make change is old enough to understand the concept of spend one, save one, give one. And they need experience doing all three, which means they should have an earnable allowance. They will make mistakes and learn from them, sometimes painfully, but having responsibility for money is the only way they will learn to value it. It is good for developing their math skills too!
6. Positive Feedback is critical. If a child expresses an interest in animals and the desire to save them, or notices people asking for money because they are hungry, and they want to give them food, validate the passion and explore with them how to help. These are teachable moments. Match your response to the age of the child.
7. Parents can facilitate their children’s giving, and match their gifts to reinforce their decision. This can be strong motivator and teaches leverage.
8. Older children can begin to understand impact and organizational accountability by volunteering at the organization for direct learning and asking questions about how their donated money can/will be spent. Gathering information will give them ownership and can become foundational for future charitable intent.
9. As children progress on the continuum of awareness and involvement in philanthropy, parents can begin to include them in family philanthropic decisions. Eventually, they might have their own allocation from which to make their own recommendations.
10. Part of legacy planning can include a donor-advised fund or family foundation that will empower the next generation’s experienced, transparent and accountable involvement. They will not just make allocation decisions, but investment decisions and even make their own additions to grow the family’s philanthropic fund.
Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chang’s daughter Max will no doubt learn about giving through her parents’ extraordinary charitable intent, sophisticated planning, and their family’s early, generous and strategic philanthropic journey.
Enid M. Ablowitz, CFRE, CSPG, is a veteran advancement professional, author and consultant who is dedicated to educating and guiding donors and non-profit organizations on the art and science of strategic philanthropy.
Originally published in the Boulder Daily Camera on December 14, 2015.
‘Til next time — Give Well, Give for Good.