Four Ways to Start a Charitable Tradition


Four Ways to Start a Charitable Tradition

Spread the spirit of giving from generation to generation.

July 29, 2015

In a classic experiment by psychologist J. Philippe Rushton, two groups of children watch a teacher play a game either generously or selfishly. The teacher preaches about generosity to both. The result: The children modeled the behavior they witnessed, regardless of what they were told. Are you modeling generosity for the people who matter in your life? Here are fun ways to engage the different generations of your family when it comes to paying it forward.

Matching gifts
Best for: Children and teens

Ask your child to pick a charity and start setting aside money to donate. To motivate them, offer to match the donation once they reach a fundraising goal. That way you show support for their ideas, while fostering a spirit of giving.

Tip: If your child or grandchild is having trouble picking a cause, the firsthand accounts on might help.

Collaborating via a donor-advised fund
Best for: Teens and adults

A donor-advised fund is a charitable giving account that you can contribute to now (receiving an immediate tax deduction) and decide later to recommend grants to a qualified charity. Until then, the money in your fund can be invested and grow tax-free. That allows you time to involve family members in grant-making, sparking a feel-good discussion about what matters most.

Tip: To start an account, the minimum contribution is usually $10,000. Families can pool their charitable donations using the fund.

Volunteering as a family
Best for: All ages

If you're seeking a unifying force for your family, this is it. After volunteering together, you'll not only have a shared experience – you'll have demonstrated shared values.

Tip: With young children, try visiting seniors or collecting toys and clothes for donation. Teens and adults can work in a homeless shelter or distribute meals to the homebound. Visit for more ideas.

Advocating through social media
Best for: Teens and adults

Many people want to give to a charity, but don't know which ones to trust. By telling your giving story on social media, you can inspire family members – and others – to support your cause, or to find a cause of their own and keep the cycle of generosity going.

Tip: This approach works best if you're willing to explain the personal reasons behind your giving.

For a wealth of information about the long-term impact of charitable giving, contact your advisor. Then resolve to share the values you'd like to pass on during your next family gathering. Whether your goal is to teach your children and grandchildren about the value of philanthropy or perhaps involve them in decision making, consider some of ways below to engage a multi-generation discussion and set an example around paying it forward.


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