There are probably many words we hope will describe our children when they become adults: confident, ethical, happy, responsible. And, according to research, 90 percent of us also want our children to be charitable. Giving exemplifies kindness, compassion, sharing, and empathy—traits we work hard to instill in our children as they grow toward adulthood. However, while we teach our kids to work hard, respect others, earn good grades (among a multitude of other life lessons), research reveals that we don’t teach them how to give.
A recent report found that a shocking 77 percent of children under the age of 17 are either totally unaware that their parents give charitably, or they are clueless about how and to whom their parents give. When asked about how their parents support causes or organizations, only 10 percent knew that their parents give money, and the overwhelming majority (64 percent) had no idea. Raising charitable children—children who will grow up to be caring, generous adults who make a difference in their world—is important to us. So where is the message getting lost? More
Our children will be the next generation of everyday philanthropists. They’ll be the ones who ensure that the homeless are cared for, cancer research is funded, deserving students go to college. They will step up to make their world a better place because they’ve seen their parents do it. In fact, researchers have recently confirmed that our children are listenting to us – and their future charitable decisions are being shaped by what we do and say today.
Heart of the Donor, a study of how Americans interact with nonprofit organizations released this March, found that parental influence was a major factor in determining future charitable activities and nonprofit giving. Children whose parents modeled volunteering and philanthropy and/or talked about their reasons for charitable behavior are over 125 percent more likely to become involved philanthropically as adults. “Nonprofits can encourage today’s donors to talk to their children about giving and volunteering, model the behavior, and share the experience with them,” said Lisa McIntyre, who was an integral part of the study. “The data clearly shows that when these things are done, it has a long-lasting effect on kids.” More
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Whether you realize it or not, most of us are philanthropic. On average, 84 percent of Americans give and more than 75 percent of philanthropic gifts are made by individuals and families. It’s a big part of our culture and we give because we feel it’s the right thing to do. Giving is a value that exemplifies kindness, compassion, sharing and empathy – traits that we look for as today’s youngsters grow into tomorrow’s leaders. And the benefits of raising charitable children are immeasurable, both to them personally and to the future of our communities.
But are we teaching them?
When’s the last time you had a conversation with your children about the organizations that you support financially? Are they included when you decide who you will support and why? Do your children know why giving is important to you and your family?
It’s the latest Xbox game. It’s the newest Android phone. It’s another pair of designer jeans. Whatever it is, your kids want it — and they want it right now. Our consumer culture encourages materialism by training children to crave “the next thing.” Juliet Schor, who studies the impact of materialism on children, believes that “contemporary American tweens and teens have emerged as the most brand-oriented, consumer-involved, and materialistic generation in history.”
Even more sobering are statistics that document a soaring increase in narcissism during the last thirty years. Since the 1980s, college students have become increasingly entitled, self-absorbed, and less empathetic. The level of need hasn’t dropped, but this generation’s concern for others has. These alarming trends indicate that today’s kids are experiencing a grave disconnect between their consumer lifestyle and real world need. In fact, 70 percent of parents believe that young adults feel they are financially entitled — that is, they expect to have money for whatever they want, whenever they want it.