Fostering Little Philanthropists

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By: Heather Thornton, Project Manager

I was rushing into WalMart last weekend, attempting to cram a week’s worth of shopping needs into a twenty minute mad dash around the store.  List in hand, I grabbed a cart, ready to set the World Record for the fastest shopping trip known to man, when I heard a tiny voice behind me exclaim excitedly, “Hiiii!  Would you like to buy some chocolate?”  Wait – did someone say “chocolate?”  That caught my attention.  So, I turned around to see a little girl, who could not have been older than five, pitch a chocolate bar, the proceeds of which would go towards supporting a local charity.

Despite the outrageous price, I bought two bars, since I am sucker for cute kids, chocolate and a good cause.  This got me thinking about how kids can be encouraged to become more philanthropic and volunteer-minded, which may seem like no small feat in today’s social media and video game-heavy culture.  Coming from a family with young kids, this is of particular interest to me, and below are some ideas for engaging youngsters at an early age:

  1. Make it fun – Encourage volunteering and giving back from a young age by making it something they will enjoy. Plant a small garden at a local senior center, sell lemonade and donate the proceeds to a charity of the child’s choice, or donate old toys and books to a local shelter.
  2. Make it educational – Practicing philanthropy with children can teach them valuable life lessons, such as giving to those less fortunate and helping others in need.
  3. Make it a family affair – Involve everyone, children and adults alike.

Fostering volunteerism and giving from an early age can be fun, educational, and help to build the foundation for philanthropically-minded adults.