How to develop intergenerational values-based giving in your family

Mar 13, 2024

The ultimate goal in introducing children to the challenges and opportunities of philanthropic giving is to educate them about thinking strategically about the money they have, will earn and inherit. Many experts call this intergenerational values-based giving—but in order for it to be effective, the process needs to be learned.

Most experts agree that the discipline of wealth distribution is no different in principle than the discipline of wealth accumulation. The key word is discipline.

Charitable and philanthropic giving is, or ought to be, an expression of your family’s core values. It’s a mechanism for transmitting those core values from generation to generation. And it helps your children grasp the impact that giving can have on the world in which they live.

Teaching those lessons starts early, by taking an incremental approach. Here’s some guidance—please contact us for personalized advice.

Step 1: Create a Giving Allowance

When you start offering your children an allowance, be sure to divide it into three buckets: spending, saving and giving. This teaches good saving habits and the value of generosity. Sit down with your child or grandchild and have a serious discussion about where each donation goes.

Step 2: Set up a Family Volunteer Day

Putting together a monthly package for your local food bank is a great way to start. Participating in clothing and toy drives is another. Many local parks advertise periodic clean-up days—take part in them! Learning the habit of donating—be it money, goods or a service—should be encouraged for all children as soon as they understand that there are others out there who need help. Be sure to participate as a family. All for one, one for all!

Step 3: Encourage Your Children to Support a Cause from an Early Age

Children are intuitively idealistic. They have a powerful innate sense of the difference between right and wrong. Appropriate causes (depending on age) range from helping those dealing with food insecurity to raising funds for cancer research or supporting a local women’s shelter. Help your kids or your grandchildren find a cause they believe in and encourage them to get involved. It may be an annual charitable walk or volunteering at the local SPCA!

Step 4: Introduce Your Children to the Idea of Discretionary Giving

As your children and grandchildren enter their teens and their allowance expands, or they take on paying jobs, encourage them to allocate a part of those funds towards discretionary giving. The cause(s) to which they give can be theirs to choose but encourage them to be systematic about the effort.

Step 5: Involve Your Children in Your Own Charitable and Philanthropic Efforts

In their mid to later teens, it makes sense to invite your children into a discussion of your own charitable and philanthropic activities. Encourage them to participate in the donation decision-making process, including selecting donation amounts and recipients.

Step 6: Suggest Your Mature Children Consider Committee Membership with Their Favourite Cause

Committee membership offers an unparalleled opportunity for young (and even not-so-young) adults to grasp the mechanics of charitable and philanthropic giving—not to mention the mechanics of money. By introducing them over the years to Steps 1 through 5, you’ve given your children a great grounding in the fundamentals. Now with Step 6, their efforts are poised for take-off in adulthood. Well done!

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