By Anna Hargrave, Executive Director for Montgomery County

“How can we get our children involved in giving?” This is one of the questions we hear frequently from our donors, especially around this time of year. We hear it about children of all ages—because parents never stop thinking about how to pass on their values.

And we have plenty of ideas to offer from our many years of working with individuals and families to maximize the benefits and impact of their giving. Here’s a taste:

TAKE YOUR CHILDREN WITH YOU when you volunteer or attend an event sponsored by an organization you care about, such as a site visit, presentation, or fundraiser. The rides to and from the event provide the perfect opportunity to prepare them for the experience and then to debrief. Be sure to tell them why you care, and ask about their reactions.

HOLIDAY GATHERINGS are the ideal setting for starting a conversation. With multiple generations represented at the table, it’s a fine time to introduce and discuss what each of you, and each generation, share in common and where you differ. Two simple ideas:

  • Storytelling - Many families tell treasured stories at each holiday. (If you need to jump-start the storytelling, check out these questions from StoryCorps.) Consider adding a new chapter to each story, telling how it makes you think about what you are most grateful for, and how you might express that through your giving.

  • Family giving circle - Invite everyone to join in giving together. For example, adults might all chip in an amount that the under-18 set are tasked with distributing. The kids can discuss and then report out to the whole family about their selection and what inspired them to choose that specific nonprofit. (Tip: The Catalogue for Philanthropy offers a browsable directory of local charities that are vetted by experts.)

Through a kid-to-kid giving circle, local middle school students got to experience the fun of discovering and making grants to great nonprofits.

Through a kid-to-kid giving circle, local middle school students got to experience the fun of discovering and making grants to great nonprofits.

ORGANIZE A FAMILY MEETING to deepen intergenerational ties and develop a plan that expresses your family’s core values. In our fast-paced culture it’s easy to skip straight to reviewing a list of potential organizations to support. But whether the next generation is six or sixty, it’s important to first carve out time for the kids and parents to uncover the values and life experiences that shape your giving priorities. Talking through a few key questions enables everyone to coalesce around a shared vision, help avoid conflict later and make it easier to get everyone to a resounding “yes” when you find the exact right causes to support.

The Community Foundation’s professional staff can design a meeting around your particular needs to write a family mission statement, identify goals and grantmaking priorities, and we can facilitate one-time or annual family meetings.

In working with hundreds of families, we’ve often seen most parents discover that giving helps them achieve more than one goal.  Conversations about philanthropy provide a platform for passing on values and can spark a passion so that the next generation experiences the joy of making a difference. Philanthropy can also keep family members close even as the kids grow up, move away, and get busy with careers and starting their own families.

Best of all, when you see your children thoughtfully and joyfully engaged in giving, you’ll know that your family legacy is in good hands.