Chances are good that over the course of the last year, you have done something charitable. Maybe you donated, maybe you took action, maybe you used your voice. We give of our resources, time, voice and energy because we know it is the right thing to do. We know that in a world that is increasingly more connected, giving matters.

Those of us that are parents probably also try to encourage our children to givers as well. We hope to inspire them to do good, to help others and to learn to appreciate the world around them. But for many parents, just like we ask ourselves how to guide and support our children in school, the question of how to raise children to be charitable can seem daunting or nebulous.

Except that it isn’t. Or at least, it does not have to be.

Teaching our children to use their voices for good- as change agents- and to be charitable is a gift that we can give them. And as it turns out, research proves that what we say and do, matters when it relates to empowering children to be charitable.

The United Nations Foundation recently supported a first-of-its-kind study conducted by the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy to investigate this question of how parents can raise children to be charitable.

The study reports that 9 out of 10 American youth between the ages eight and 19 give money to organizations dedicated to charitable causes. (Don’t believe me? Read it here)

9 out of 10. As in 90%. As in…that is a lot of tweens and teens taking action to do good.

Youth are committed to change | LiveDoGrow

The study confirmed what the UN Foundation already knows from experience through programs like Girl Up: young people want to be involved in the world around them. They want to create change. They want to have an impact. But what the study highlighted that was so critical to the evolution of children and social good is that the key factor that impacted whether or not children were charitable -was parents.

Talking to children about giving

Parents who talked about giving, intentionally and frequently. While the idea of being a role model is thought to be important, the even more critical piece of the puzzle is the conversation that happens when we talk about giving with children. About our actions and behaviors. Conversations about questions like:

  • Do my children know that I give to charity?
  • Do they know which charities I am supporting?
  • Do they know why I choose to give specifically to this charity and the impact of my giving?

During Moms+Tweens+SocialGood we learned from moms and tweens that allowing children to be the masters of their own giving decisions was crucial. We know that our children have topics that they care about, for reasons that matter to them. We know that the magic happens when they take action because they want to, not because we want them to. But the conversations that have around the dinner table or in the car on the way to the grocery store or sports practice…they are listening. Even when they pretend not to be. They are listening when we talk about giving because they see the importance, when making a difference is a family habit and priority.

Giving is about making a difference | LiveDoGrow

Jackson Merrick, a 5th grader from Virginia, chose to get involved with Nothing But Nets because he saw a sign at a basketball tournament and thought that the name was “cool.”  When he learned more about the group that sells $10 anti-malaria bed nets to help end deaths from Malaria in Africa, he decided that getting involved  “was a good thing to do.” It was that simple–it was a good thing to do. Along with a few friends, Jackson decided to sell African themed bracelets, keychains and necklaces for $2 each with a goal to raise $180 to purchase 18 insecticide-treated bed nets to protect a classroom of kids and their families. They surpassed their goal in just one week.

Why raise charitable children?

Here is the reality. Learning about others and caring about others impacts everyone. Our 21st century children are entering a world with the understanding that what impacts one child, far away, has a ripple effect on all of us. Dr. Debra Mesh of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute reminded us that families, communities and international relationship are the beneficiaries of raising charitable children. By talking to our children starting at an early age about giving, Kathy Calvin reminds us, we are helping them realize that they are not just making a donation, they are making a difference.

How to empower youth to give

Another truth about giving is that we have chances to give or have an impact every single day. It does not have to be hard or complicated. Not only that, but giving SHOULD be a part of every day lives and conversations so that it is more than something we do at the end of the year for a tax donation or because of the holidays.

Helping our children get involved in advocacy is easy thanks to tool kits provided by organizations that spell out ways to introduce campaigns into classrooms and community organizations as well as ways to connect with lawmakers or fundraise. Sometimes though, ideas come simply by listening to our children talk.

Resources and ideas to start giving 

Explore the resources and ideas for families to get involved with Giving Tuesday .

Read Five ways we encourage our kids to give back by Chrysula Winegar for the UN Foundation.

Join the conversation to grow global citizens on Facebook to keep up with resources, campaigns and ideas.

If nothing else, talk. Talk, talk and talk some more about how and why you give. Your children will listen.

Read the Kids Give report by the United Nations Foundation and Indiana University’s Women’s Philanthropy Institute.

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Written by Elena Sonnino

Elena Sonnino

Chaser of Dreams. Life coach, wellness and travel writer, yogini, former teacher, adventure seeker, hiker, foodie …and oh right, cancer survivor. Elena writes about finding everyday wellness in far-flung lands and in her own backyard in the Washington D.C. suburbs.


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