“I want to give to animals so they can find homes and be happy. And I want to give some money to kids so they can grow up strong and healthy.” My ten-year-old grandson was answering my question. I had asked where he wanted to give the money that I had given him at Christmas time to donate to a charity of his choice.
I believe it is important for children to learn early about the importance of charitable giving or philanthropy. My belief is rooted in my own childhood experience as well as my observations as an adult. As a child, raised by parents who often struggled to pay the bills, I knew that they always gave their tithe (10% of income) to the Methodist Church and a few other community organizations. My father frequently reminded me that we had many blessings and that it was important to give to others who were less fortunate. I have had many wonderful opportunities in my life, both personally and professionally. I can still hear my father’s voice reminding me how important it is to give back to my community and to those who have less opportunity.
As an adult, I have returned to the practice of my parents of tithing although I am no longer active in a church. I give to organizations and causes that deeply reflect my values. I truly believe that I get more benefit, more reward as a donor than if I spent that money on myself. I have the comfort and reassurance that I am actively contributing to the improvement of my community, my country and my world, that I am sharing my “wealth” to increase opportunities for others, and that I am supporting the health, learning, social justice and environment for all of us. Of course, making financial contributions is not the only way of supporting causes and organizations that reflect my values. I also volunteer my time and donate my skills.
As I volunteer to raise money for organizations I support financially, I am often surprised at the reluctance of some with solid financial resources to make major gifts. They often come from families who did not model tithing, making contributions or giving to those less fortunate. This learning has influenced not only my own parenting but also my role as a grandparent. I decided, with my daughter’s help and support, to give my oldest grandson a cash gift at Christmas some of which he could spend as he wished and some was to go to charities of his choice.
We had a special time together selecting the organizations that fit what was important to him. He wrote a letter to each one explaining why he was sending this gift and we prepared them and mailed them together. The smile on his face when he got his first letter of acknowledgement told me he was beginning to understand the rewards of giving to others. The homeless shelter for families was so touched by his letter, they printed it in their newsletter. He is a budding young philanthropist.