Tips on Teaching Your Grandkids
To Help Others
DONATIONS & VOLUNTEERING
by Jack Jonathan
Besides spending, saving and investing money, your grandchildren
can also donate it to their favorite causes. Many times, this
is the most rewarding option. Kids love to feel like they are
helping. Giving is exciting and energizing to children.
Exploring Your Grandchildren's Giving Style
Your children may already be giving in many ways. To help them
explore and expand their giving options, notice what inspires
their sharing and generosity.
See what sorts of situations and problems at their school, in
the community or in the world interest or concern them.
Here are some questions your children can answer to learn more
about themselves as givers:
• Why do I want to give?
• What do I like about giving?
• What kinds of causes do I feel strongly about?
• What kinds of charities do I want to know more about?
• What kinds of issues do I think need my support and help?
• Do I know anyone who's involved in those charities or
• Can I give time, money or material goods?
Talk through these questions with your grandchildren to help
them find a direction and manner in which they can give. Some
grandparents find asking themselves these questions can heighten
their own charitable passions. Don't be discouraged if your grandchild
says, "But I only have $10! I don't want to give any of it
away. I need it all!" Like sharing, giving may not be something
your grandchild naturally wants to do. However, the more you discuss
and explore giving opportunities, the greater the chance your
grandchildren will become interested in charities and issues that
spark their generosity.
To instill the habit, some parents require that 10% of their
children's allowance be set aside for charitable giving. Other
parents invite their children to decide what and how they will
Many people think that giving to charity requires writing a check.
But it is not necessarily just about money. Giving can be just
as valuable when you share goods, services and your time. For
instance, some children choose to donate some of their own toys
to other children in need. This type of donation can be just as
meaningful to the recipient as a check, and just as valuable a
lesson in giving for your children.
One Passion Inspires Another: I had spent
some time talking about charitable giving and volunteering with
my twelve-year-old son, David, but I wasn't sure the conversation
had really gone anywhere. He didn't seem too interested in any
of the possibilities I brought up, so I dropped the idea. I continued
my own giving, which at that point was just writing checks every
month. Then David saw a program on TV about illiteracy and suddenly
he wanted to do something. I was impressed that David, who was
fairly self-absorbed, was interested in something outside his
own world. I found a family-oriented volunteer program we could
both be part of. Even though David wasn't usually that keen on
being seen in public with me, he was eager to learn the skills
so he could help other kids learn to read. Initially, I was motivated
simply by David's enthusiasm, but soon, I got swept into the program.
My own passion for giving got rekindled and David's work teaching
others to read made him aware of his own blessings. The experience
was rich for both of us and it deepened our relationship as well.
— DeAnne, mother of two
Finding Causes Your Grandchildren Like
Whether they're donating time or money, it's important that your
grandchildren find causes that are meaningful to them. The more
strongly they feel about something, the more likely they may be
to give of their time and money. Your grandkids may already have
a cause or charity in mind. If not, have them make a list of things
that interest them. Your grandchildren may be drawn to:
• Preserving the environment and wildlife.
• Helping homeless animals and pets.
• Improving other children's reading skills.
• Sending less-advantaged kids to camp.
• Feeding the hungry.
• Helping behind the scenes with a theater or musical group.
• Working at an art fair.
• Walking for a health cause.
• Helping other children in need, at home or abroad.
• Supporting activities and organizations they enjoy, such
as scouting, sports, music or the arts.
Once you and your grandchildren have made a list of causes, you
can find organizations and associations that support them through
the Yellow Pages, the Internet, news reports, stories in the media
or by asking friends and family members.
After you've pinpointed charitable organizations that your grandchildren
want to support, show them how to find out more about the organization
before donating their time or money. The results of their research
will help assure them that their donations are going to the best
possible places. To find out more, contact the organization and
ask for their informational brochures or annual reports. If possible,
talk to the executive director or development person at the organization,
review their Web site, talk to other volunteers and donors or
check with the Better Business Bureau. The Better Business Bureau's
Web site (www.betterbusinessbureau.com
is a wonderful resource for tips on donating, as well as specific
information on many charities.
With your research materials in hand, look for the following
Visiting Organizations: If the organization
your grandchild is interested in is near you, visiting can be
an ideal way to determine its suitability. Before you visit, call
to set an appointment or to find a convenient time. Make sure
your grandchildren are prepared with questions that will give
them the information they'd like to learn. Hopefully, your visit
will give you firsthand experience about the people and causes
it serves, its needs, staff and volunteers. Often, such a visit
offers a powerful emotional experience that an annual report or
promotional brochure cannot.
Call to Caring: My daughter and I went
to visit a local organization that provides childcare for disadvantaged
children. At age eleven, my daughter loves little kids and had
read about this organization in the newspaper. We met the director,
the woman who actually started the organization. She described
the background of many of the children and told us how much they
had been through, even though they were under five years old.
My daughter was shocked and sympathetic. Then we visited the children.
My daughter got to play with the two-year-olds and they seemed
delighted with the extra attention. My daughter left impressed
with the organization and its staff and feeling like she'd made
a difference. She began volunteering one day a week after school
and also began donating small amounts of money. This volunteer
connection has helped my daughtergrow into a kinder, more compassionate
person. — Patsy, mother of one
Opening Up By Going In: Our family
participated in a special visitation program sponsored by the
Salvation Army. Our visits took us to different neighborhoods
and introduced us to fascinating people. Our children learned
other sides of life from meeting these people, and they learned
how rewarding it was to give their time. As an extra bonus, my
wife and I learned about the Salvation Army and were very impressed.
We both began volunteering for them and had many wonderful hours
helping. — Jill and Lee, parents of four
Discovering Volunteer Opportunities
If your grandchildren decide that volunteering their time is the
best way for them to give of themselves, there are steps you can
take to make their experience a rewarding one. Your grandchildren
may already volunteer their time through church, school or various
other programs. Like other types of work, volunteering can help
your grandchildren develop skills such as:
• Working together with others.
• Following directions.
• Developing patience.
• Handling responsibility.
• Becoming more tolerant.
• Developing flexibility.
Before your children pursue volunteer opportunities, ask them
the following questions:
• What kinds of help would you like to give? (If they don't
know, that's fine. That's part of the discovery process).
• What kinds of people do you want to work with?
• What kinds of projects interest you?
• What are your time and transportation issues? What are
the limitations on the number of hours you can spend volunteering?
• Do you want or need to work with family or friends? (Depending
on the age and needs of your children, a parent or adult chaperone
may need to accompany them during their volunteer activities.
You may need to commit along with your children).
• Could this volunteer job be a springboard to a paying
career in the future?
After discussing these issues, if you and your children are still
in need of some volunteering ideas, consider exploring some of
• Visiting seniors in retirement communities.
• Picking up trash in public parks and along highways. (There
are even "adopt-a-highway" programs available in some
areas across the country).
• Petting and walking abandoned pets at animal shelters.
• Helping during a charity's fundraising events.
• Reading books or playing games with children in hospital
• Serving meals at homeless shelters.
• Organizing a food or clothing drive at their school.
• Beginning a letter writing campaign with the military
• Helping maintain a community garden.
There are numerous ways your children can express their desire
to give. Finding the way that will be most meaningful to your
children may require discussion, research and also follow-up.
Once they've spent time with their charity, make sure your children
are getting the most out of their volunteer time. Ask them the
• Do you like the work the organization is doing?
• Do you feel welcomed and part of a group?
• Do you have something to do?
• Do you feel useful?
• Is there a different kind of work you'd rather be doing?
• Is your volunteer work keeping you from doing your schoolwork
and extracurricular activities?
Earning Volunteer Time: My teenage son,
James, told me he wanted to go with a school group to Central
America to work with Habitat for Humanity. "And it won't
even cost that much to get there!" he enthused. But the cost
of getting there turned out to be more than I could afford. So
I challenged James to earn his own transportation money and, to
my surprise, he did. It was the first time he had earned money
for something that wasn't just for him. The week he spent working
with Habitat and helping others made a powerful impact on him.
He learned new skills, made great friends and learned about working
as a team. He also learned how lucky he is. The experience was
life changing and opened my son up to giving and sharing in a
dramatic way. Since then he has regularly given to charities and
has volunteered at camps for disadvantaged children. —
Dan, father of three
Whether donating their time or money, make sure your children
do not overextend themselves by giving too much. Help them find
the amount of giving that is right for them and you.
Using Family Funds for Giving
For families who have the money and desire, setting up
a family fund or foundation can be a great way to teach your children
about responsibility, setting priorities and charitable
giving. The amount of money in the fund isn't as important as
giving your children the experience of discovering how and where
those funds can be distributed. For example, one grandmother set
up a fund and had her five grandchildren work as a team to figure
out how to distribute the income each year. Another family of
four gave each family member the opportunity to direct one fourth
of the family's giving for each year. Each person had to research
the organizations to which they wanted to donate and explain to
the others why their gift was important and worthwhile.
Talking About Money Through Giving:
When my children were in elementary school, I set up a family
fund as a way of demonstrating my value system and opening up
money conversations with my children. We started talking about
money through giving. My goal was to make yearly contributions
to causes the children liked. The fund was also a reminder for
all of us that money can go for things outside everyday wants
and needs. The fund inspired conversations about financial statements,
which the foundation sent out annually. The fund continues bringing
up new financial topics. In a year when the stock market was not
kind, the conversation turned to: Do we dip into principal and
keep our same level of giving? Or do we cut back our contributions
and maintain our principal? I view this fund as a way to "groom
my successors." Why wait until my children are in their 30s
to talk about giving? I hope my actions and our conversations
will help them discover their own ways to share resources. —
Rusty, father of two
Giving to Family and Friends
Giving doesn't always have to be to charitable organizations and
causes. Sometimes your children may want to give to people they
know who are in need. The following are some families' experiences
in giving to family and friends:
• One parent advised her children, "Give to the people
who inspired and helped you this month or this year."
• Another parent gives part of her charitable donations
to people who are going through especially hard times. After seeing
her do this for years, her eleven-year-old daughter decided to
give a special gift to a girl in her class whose parents were
getting a divorce. "Sally seems too quiet and depressed.
She hardly ever talks to anyone anymore," her daughter, Anna,
explained. Anna did extra chores to earn money to buy Sally a
lovely diary. That gift transformed Sally. She started coming
over to the house and she and Anna became close friends.
• One father sets an example by surprising hard working
people at traditionally low-paying jobs with a little extra money.
He'll give an extra $5 to a great waitress or $10 to a nurse's
• Some families have a container where everyone drops their
extra change. At the end of a couple months, the family decides
together to whom they give the money.
In giving to someone close to them, your children may have the
chance to see firsthand the joy their giving can bring to others.
This joy, in turn, can prove to your children how rewarding the
act of giving can be.
Charitable giving and volunteering can be an ideal opportunity
to discuss with your children the things in their own life that
cause them to be thankful. Whether it is their own health, financial
security, a clean environment or a stable home, your children
may appreciate their own good fortune more while helping others.
Use this opportunity to continue to talk with them about their
charitable experiences, what they've seen and heard and how it
all makes them feel. Consider comparing and contrasting the situations
of those they helped with their own lives. Compliment them for
sharing their time and good fortune with others.
Excerpted from Yes, You Can! Raise Financially Aware Kids
Jack Jonathan. Copyright © 2002 Stowers Innovations, Inc.
Excerpted by arrangement with Stowers Innovations, Inc. All rights
reserved. $19.95. Available in local bookstores or call 800.234.3445