Using Philanthropy to Pass Values to the Next Generation

Most Americans recognize the value of family giving. According to the 2000 Cone/Roper Raising Charitable Children Survey, 85 percent of the respondents said they believe children should be introduced to philanthropy—and that parents play a key role in getting kids involved. Fully 96 percent agreed that parents’ charitable giving and volunteer activities are good ways to teach children about helping others.


Family philanthropy provides a focal point for parents to transmit their values. By engaging several generations, children have an opportunity to learn from an early age that giving back to their communities is an important endeavor. Giving also offers the opportunity to create a family legacy, ensuring that important values extend beyond parents’ lifetimes.


There are many ways to involve younger family members in philanthropy. Children can be given small sums of money and guided in choosing how to donate it. Young children can also be encouraged to make donations of clothes, shoes, and toys, and travel with their parents to deposit the items at a shelter. In addition, school-age children can be encouraged to volunteer their time.


Teenagers, meanwhile, can be tasked with researching nonprofits, either as potential grantees or as a place to volunteer their time. Some parents give their children an allowance based on their volunteer hours.  Families can intensify their charitable giving programs with the creation of a mission statement and a discussion of family values. Every member of the family can participate by listing the issues they hold dear, such as peace, compassion, or equality, and specific areas of interest, such as humanitarian aid, soup kitchens, or civil rights. Areas of focus for family philanthropy often emerge from discussions about the values that family members share, or the values that decision leaders such as parents or grandparents may hold in special favor.


Families can use the various fund tools at the Morris Community Foundation to increase their strategy about philanthropy.  To support causes and issues in general, a family can create or contribute to a Field of Interest or Designated Fund.  As the amount of charitable gifts and family size increases, families may find it helpful to establish an advisory committee and establish a Donor Advised Fund.  The family can contribute a large sum to their fund and then, over time, use the family advisory committee to decide by vote how and when to make charitable gifts.


Family philanthropy is a rewarding way to bring change to communities. With some careful planning, it can also tighten family bonds, transmit family values to future generations, and create a lasting family legacy.



Ten Ways Families Can Encourage Kids’ Spirit of Generosity


  1. Model abundance or sufficiency, not fear, secrecy, and inadequacy
  2. Talk about giving, volunteering, and service and demonstrate each.
  3. Be a mentor with your children about money and giving or find one early on.
  4. Set giving, volunteering, and work ethic standards early on.
  5. Teach responsible budgeting, planning, and checkbook and credit card management.
  6. Set up a giving account for contributions and seed it with money, and give ongoing age-appropriate advice.
  7. Provide motivation for anonymous gifts and generosity.
  8. Balance needs and wants with global understanding and consideration. Know where your family is on the economic spectrum, and help your kids to understand what it means.
  9. Create a family giving plan and include your kids’ values and priority issues and concerns for their (and your) communities.
  10. Increase your community service hours. The national average for Americans is more than 150 hours per year. More volunteering and less TV or computer time might open the hearts and minds of your whole family.


Source: Council on Foundations