Parents want the best for their children. And when it comes to legacy planning, they often have two main goals: care for their kids’ financial future, and make a positive impact on their community and causes they care about. What about doing BOTH?
We pulled together some practical giving ideas for helping your whole family take a more outwardly-focused approach to how you live your life and spend your money now…so when the time comes for you to share your estate assets with your kids, they’ll know exactly where you stand and be able to carry on your legacy of generosity.
If you missed it, we had a panel discussion webinar on this very topic this week, featuring foundation and giving advisor Sybil Ackerman-Munson of Do Your Good, wealth advisor Aaron Larson of WaterRock Financial, and Stef Tschida, corporate communication guru and owner of MN College Essay Coach. They had some AMAZING ideas to share…plus, they’re fun! Check out the webinar recording here.
Without further ado, our top 10 ways to raise generous kids:
1. Live within your means.
This sounds obvious, but it’s a lot harder to be generous when there’s financial stress and a “scarcity” mindset in your home. Choose to cut back where you can so that there are funds available for helping others. Be open with your kids about why you’re making certain financial decisions or why you’re saying “no” to a non-essential item or experience.
2. Talk about your family “story.”
As our friend Stef knows best, our stories are so unique and core to who we are, and it’s most authentic and impactful when we make our decisions–especially our giving and serving decisions–based on our unique experiences and the passions they’ve created. Talk about the unique experiences you’ve shared as a family…the good and the bad…and consider how those might inform where you get involved. If you’ve had a loved one face cancer, maybe you can sign up to fundraise through a family 5K to benefit research. If your faith is important to you, how does that play out in your giving? Make sharing your story, and your own personal experiences, part of how you give back.
3. Make generosity one of your family values.
Post it somewhere, and talk about it. When someone needs a meal or a safe spot to sleep, make it the family default to ask them to stay. If you have non-financial assets to share, start there! Then, involve your kids in giving financially: when you give, talk about it. Hold a family meeting and let kids weigh in on nonprofits to support. When possible, let them in on what those nonprofits are doing in your community. For example, if you choose to give to a camp or school or your place of worship, talk about your experiences there and how you hope your giving will impact the organization. If it’s an organization combating climate change, helping those facing homelessness, or finding homes for at-risk animals, find opportunities to talk about those issues and how you might help those organizations do the work they do.
4. Set aside funds for giving.
- When your kids are little, start instilling in them that giving is a part of how you manage your family finances. That might start with a second piggy bank so your child can set aside a percentage of gift or allowance money for giving to others. Let them bring their donation in themself! When you’re ready, start a family Donor Advised Fund (DAF), which we sometimes call a “charitable checkbook.” It’s a great way to set aside funds specifically for charitable giving. Our friend Aaron and his family utilize one and at Christmas, allow each child to give a gift from it. They each do their research on nonprofits and write a hand-written letter to accompany their gift to the organization they choose. Often, the kids hear back from the president or development officer at the organization, which provides a deeply meaningful connection for both the family and the nonprofit! A DAF can also be passed down through a legacy or state plan…so if you involve your kids in giving from a DAF early, they’ll be able to carry on a legacy of generosity for you after you’re gone.
5. Explore experiential giving options.
You might sponsor a child through UNICEF, Compassion, or World Vision. Often, you’ll get updates from that child’s community and be able to correspond by mail or email. Post that child’s picture on your fridge and when their country is in the news, talk about the connection. Our son currently sponsors the endangered African lion at our community zoo, and he loves visiting that lion! The gift itself can be nominal and is largely symbolic, but it helps kids think about giving in a tangible way, even at a young age.
6. Go on a “volunteer mission” alongside your children.
- “Often kids under 16 can’t volunteer alone, but don’t let that stop you,” says our friend Sybil. “You can do a service-related activity with your kids and make it an interesting outing that you figure out together.” When the COVID-19 pandemic started, it was difficult for people–especially the elderly and those with health challenges–to get out. So she and her son volunteered for Meals on Wheels to deliver hot, fresh food to the homebound and help meet a pressing need in their community. It was a meaningful experience for both of them.
7. Be kind…give gifts in kind!
Is there a toy drive at school? A food drive through the local fire department? Know a family that could just use some help getting through a rough spot? Just do it. Set a budget, bring your kids, and let them help shop for items, wrap the gifts, and/or drop them off. Make it a fun thing and throw in ice cream or a special family dinner afterwards.
8. Give donations as gifts.
Give to a meaningful charity as part of a child’s birthday, and do it in their name. Or, for a young child who might not understand a financial donation, allow them to pick a birthday gift (or shop for one) to turn around and give to a local shelter or animal rescue. Highlight the joy of giving…and this might become their favorite part of future birthdays!
9. Celebrate giving together.
Once a child is of an appropriate age, bring them to a gala, auction, 5K, rally, or other charity-sponsored event. Let them see others in the community getting excited about giving, and they’ll get excited about it, too.
10. Think about intergenerational transfer of wealth, and how philanthropy fits into it.
Obviously we think a lot about legacy and how people can make the most of their assets as they pass them on to loved ones and causes they love after they’re gone. Two big questions to ask are “how much is enough?”…meaning, how much do you want to gift to your child(ren) or heirs, and how much of your estate do you intend to give charitably? And “how can you leave a legacy of generosity?” Make some of these items a part of your daily life with your family, and that’ll start today!
Does this list inspire you and make you want to do more? We’d love to be a part of shaping your legacy plan and help you think through how to infuse generosity into your family, whether that’s now or decades from now.
Check out our latest webinar, Raising Generous Kids, with special guests Aaron Larson from WaterRock Financial, Sybil Ackerman-Munson from Do Your Good, and Stef Tschida from MN College Essay Coach.