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5 Reasons to Encourage your Child to Donate to Charity

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5 reasons to encourage your child to donate to charityThe following article is by Kristi Muse, our staff writer. She is a freelance writer, blogger, police officer’s wife, and stay at home mom of two. To read more about how she tries to live a balanced life visit her website at Moderate Muse.

Personal finance websites, investing companies, and money management gurus all highlight the benefits of teaching children early and often about how to manage their money. A common method for helping children to understand money management is having them parcel out their money into four different accounts: Save, spend, donate, and invest. You can even buy your kids a partitioned piggy bank for just this purpose. 

Most people agree that teaching about saving, investing, and spending are all crucial for a child to develop great money-management skills. Not everyone agrees about the importance of donating though. This is a shame, because donating money teaches so much more than just giving some money to others now and again. Here are five reasons you should strongly encourage your child to donate to charity. 

1. Giving instills the valuable trait of empathy

Empathy is innate, but it is best when nurtured. The world would be a much better place if more people felt true empathy for those less fortunate than themselves and acted accordingly. Having children donate their money from a young age teaches them that even the smallest child can make a big difference in the lives of others. They will learn that you don’t have to have experienced personal or physical tragedy to have compassion for others. Many professions, like doctors, nurses, and psychiatrists, require a strong sense of empathy. By nurturing this trait in your child from a young age, you may actually be helping them be successful in their future career. 

2. Charity work produces grateful kids   

By exposing your kids to different charities from an early age, they will learn that there are all kinds of people and life experiences in this world. They will begin to see and truly understand that there will always be someone less fortunate. Grasping this concept early will help your kids to grow up with a grateful attitude. Children who truly appreciate what they have will be far less likely to be swept under by consumerism debt in the future. 

3. Donating encourages your child’s passions  

Have your child pick their own charity to donate to. If your kid loves to read, suggest that they donate their money or new books to Books for Africa. If they love the outdoors, suggest donating to the National Park Trust. Whatever your child is most passionate about, steer them towards a related charity. Children will develop a sense of pride in earning money to give to something they love. It will simultaneously encourage their passions while getting them involved in projects which could someday lead to their chosen profession. Kids who donate to animal charities may end up as veterinarians. Those who donate to wildlife conservation groups may end up as biologists. You never know what effect their charitable donations will have on their life.

4. Donating teaches basic math and money management skills

The simple act of deciding which percentage of their money to donate is a lifelong skill in money management. Learning how to separate their money into different accounts is a great way to teach about percentages, fractions, and decimals. Physically handling their money, doing the necessary math, and figuring out how much goes into each account is a skill that even some adults struggle with. 

5. Philanthropy work is essential for college applications 

Even if none of the above reasons could compel you to strongly encourage your child to get involved in donating to charity, eventually they will have to have some sort of charity work listed for their college applications. Whether it’s hosting a toy drop off during the holidays, putting together a charity event, or simply donating their time and money to the local homeless shelter and food pantry, colleges want to see prospective students list philanthropy work of any kind. The longer your child has been involved with philanthropy work the better it will look on college applications. Kids who have been donating their time and money to charitable organizations from a young age will be excited to list that activity as one of their activities, and charity work won’t be contrived when it’s time to fill out those forms. 

Donating to charity has so many benefits outside of the obvious. Along with nurturing their empathy and instilling money management skills, they will also learn integrity and social responsibility by giving away a portion of their money. Helping others and contributing to something outside of themselves will teach kids how to become honorable and respectable adults, and it will help give them a bigger sense of purpose. Learning from a young age to have concern for others could even help direct their careers in the future. 

Do you encourage your child to donate to charity? If you do, what organizations do they like to give to?

Image credit: Flickr by HowardLake

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{ 20 comments… add one }
  • Lily June 30, 2015, 4:52 am

    #5 is completely unfounded. Yes, it’s a nice thought, but the majority of universities have a focus on ACT/SAT Scores and High School GPA. Having assisted with a charity *might* be glanced at, but it is not necessarily even considered as part of the application process unless you have those other pieces in place already. Of course, the higher the admission standard of the school, the more inclined they may be to look at charity work, but reality is, philanthropy is far from essential for college applications.

    • Kristi July 1, 2015, 7:01 am

      If you are enrolling in community college or attending a state school with high acceptance rates, then no, you’re right. You won’t need any sort of charity work.

      If you’re looking to apply to highly competitive, prestigious colleges where applications from perfect SAT score, 4.0 students are a dime a dozen, then yes, you will need to have more than academics to set you apart. Colleges want to offer acceptance to well-rounded students, and charity work is absolutely a part of that.

  • Luke Fitzgerald @ FinanciallyFitz June 30, 2015, 5:22 am

    All great points! Our first child is only 5 months, but the wife and I have already talked a lot about different ways to make giving a big part of their life. Whether it’s giving toys, money, or time. There are many benefits but i think #2 is most important. Being grateful is the key to a successful life. Hard to do have as a child living these days.

    • Kristi July 1, 2015, 7:03 am

      Thank you, Luke. I agree. Even if kids don’t have money to donate, giving their time or their belongings is a great start for creating a grateful attitude.

  • Adam @ AdamChudy.com June 30, 2015, 8:50 am

    No kids yet, but I think that’s great advice. My parents didn’t have any rules about our allowance or spending and I think I could have gained from being forced to think in terms of those buckets.

    • Kristi July 1, 2015, 7:06 am

      I too would have benefited from being forced to separate my money into different categories. Now I know to get started early with my own kids, though!

  • Mike July 1, 2015, 8:09 am

    On point number 5, it is always good to show that your child has participated in things outside the normal realms of academia. However, it is probably not as important as some have made it out to be. I even went to a nicer private college in my area and it wasn’t ever looked at.

    • Kristi July 1, 2015, 1:00 pm

      Charity work isn’t essential for all college admission processes. It does help set you apart if you’re applying to a highly competitive school.

  • Stockbeard July 1, 2015, 10:16 am

    There’s one thing though, where I think American society has a biased vision on the problem. You say:
    “By exposing your kids to different charities from an early age, they will learn that there are all kinds of people and life experiences in this world.”

    To me, a better way of doing that is for kids to go to public school. I went to public school as a kid. It was obvious to me very early that not everyone has the same background. There were bullies, people of all colors, races, and religions. People smaller than me, taller than me, smarter than me, dumber than me, richer or poorer than me.

    People who send their kids to “the best private school”, ensuring their kids will only be with the “best neighborhood”, and who’d use your argument of “learning that there are all kinds of people and life experiences in this world” to donate to charity… well I’m sorry but this sounds like a lot of hypocrisy to me. And I’m seeing that a lot in the US.

    I’m not saying donating to charity is bad, just that argument #2 feels really weird to me, based on the people I know around here, who do their best for their kids to actually avoid “middle to low class” kids, as soon as they have the money to do it.

  • Kristi July 1, 2015, 1:12 pm

    I’m not sure where public vs. private school had any part of my number two point. I can’t afford to send my kids to private school. Children will see bullies, different skin tones, religions, and different social classes no matter where they live and what school they go to.

    Children who start out investing in the lives of others from an early age will learn to appreciate what they have from the beginning. Even children whose families are on food stamps can take part in helping others by donating their time or efforts. Charity isn’t always about sending in a check. You don’t have to be wealthy to make a difference in the world.

  • middle class July 1, 2015, 2:44 pm

    I definitely agree that it’s a good thing to encourage your kids to donate to charities. At the same time, volunteering is probably more beneficial than simply handing over a check.

    • Kristi July 1, 2015, 5:40 pm

      I agree that donating both time and money to charities is important.

  • Smart Money MD July 1, 2015, 3:38 pm

    At what age do you consider old enough to understand to donate to charity? For instance, my niece and nephew are 7 and 5, respectively. They get all of the toys they’d ever want and all of the activities they ever want. My nephew appears to understand the concept of “sharing”. At some point, I’d probably donate to charities on their behalf, but even at age 7, it’s sort of borderline whether they’d appreciate it.

    • Kristi July 1, 2015, 5:46 pm

      The three and under set are probably a bit too young to quite grasp what giving to charity is all about, but you should still encourage it from an early age. My daughter is 4. She understands why we like to give to other families by donating groceries to the food pantry. She enjoys putting money her money in the donation plate at church, and we try to explain to her that our church will use that money to help people in the community and across the globe. Like with all things, true understanding will have to grow with time, but I think kids have a much better grasp of things than we think they do.

  • Chella July 1, 2015, 3:41 pm

    Yes I do teach my kids the importance of learning to give. My church priest says that it is through giving that we can receive. Giving to a less fortunate may not mean a lot to you, but it means a whole new world to that person. If my children learn that at a tender age, their world will be a better place.

    • Kristi July 1, 2015, 5:48 pm

      Too right, Chella. Each small act of kindness and charity helps make the world a better place, one person at a time.

  • Nelson July 1, 2015, 10:12 pm

    I think donating time and effort is more valuable. If children get to see the results or their actions, I think the lessons set in more. I see too many kids these days fixated with their mobile devices.

  • Abigail @ipickuppennies July 2, 2015, 1:09 pm

    I don’t have kids. But my mom would always take me to hit holiday sales to buy presents for kids on the Angel Tree. (A Salvation Army drive, I believe.) She always made a big deal of it, so it impressed upon me just how many luxuries I had.

  • Diane July 2, 2015, 3:28 pm

    We’ve always donated to specific charities and the ‘why’, ‘where’ and ‘how’ discussed but I’ve tried to spend more time discussing why there’s a need in the first place and how that need can be resolved. Charity by its very nature fixes nothing. I believe that thinking about how to solve the problems of poverty or abuse or [name an issue here] are where we need to be investing our (and our children’s) energy and focus.

  • Melanie July 3, 2015, 8:50 am

    Being more conscious about money, about our beliefs and the way we use it and think about it, is a lifelong endeavor. Starting young seems smart to me. Had I been taught from a young age to save, spend, invest and donate, I bet I’d have more money today. I think of donating as another way of sharing. What about encouraging the sharing of money person-to-person in addition to giving to a charity? Family friends could agree to practice letting their respective kids use their own money to pay for their friend’s ice cream at the park once in a while, for example, and the recipient could practice graciously receiving a gift. I think fostering an attitude of generosity and having some flexibility with money, rather than focusing solely on acquiring more money for oneself, is a happier way to be in the world.

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