How to Raise Charitable Kids

Tips for raising little philanthropists.

By Chelsey Lucas September 1, 2015 Published in the September 2015 issue of Sarasota Magazine

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Nationally renowned fund-raising consultant Carol Weisman, president of Board Builders and author of the book, Raising Charitable Children, brought her message about generational philanthropy to the Community Foundation of Sarasota County’s annual Fundraisers Forum in July. Weisman, a mother of three and grandmother of three, has served on 38 boards and has been president of eight. “If you don’t have a child, rent one. Get a niece or nephew involved in your giving,” she told us. “[Or] there are organizations such as Big Brothers Big Sisters that need philanthropic role models to work with children.”


What was your philanthropic experience growing up?


“My parents, both physicians, never turned away a patient if they couldn’t pay. My father was born in the U.S. to a Russian Jewish family and he was the beneficiary of three sisters going to work so he could go to school. He started his life as a philanthropy recipient rather than a giver. And this is [something to explain to] children: We always see ourselves as the donors yet so much of our lives we are the recipients.”


When is a good age to introduce children to philanthropy?


“A child’s first exposure should be joyful and not a sense of loss. When my oldest son turned 5 we let him choose a charity and give a gift in addition to his regular presents. We asked, ‘What made you happy in the last year? What made you sad? How would you like to change the world next year?’ Five-year-olds can be articulate.”


What are your top three tips for raising charitable children?


“First, bring your child along when you donate your time. Whether a charity walk or a visit to a sick neighbor, make it a family affair. Second, share your philosophy of giving with your child. For instance, maybe you give to street people, maybe you don’t. Whatever you do, explain how you have reached your decision. Third, when you meet with a family wealth adviser to discuss how and what you are going to give, include your child in these discussions. Your kiddo will not only learn about how to give money, but will learn what you value.”


What can nonprofits do to help children become involved?


“They have to have volunteer experiences for children, which is hard. Nonprofits are understaffed, so they don’t [always] have the resources to vet the adult [employees or volunteers] to make sure they can work with children, but the more you can get kids involved the stronger your organization will be. [Also,] parents all want to work at food pantries on holidays, but I urge them to pick a day that’s meaningful for the family instead, so as not to overwhelm the nonprofit on a single day of the year.”


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