Is it ever too early to start teaching philanthropy?

Dan CosgroveDan Cosgrove
Director of Operations + Senior Consultant

The short obvious answer is an overwhelming “No”.  Repeated studies have demonstrated the powerful effects on people that merely witness an act of kindness performed by a stranger. The “Random Act of Kindness” isn’t a new idea yet seems to be a new darling of the social media world.  I find that extremely exciting as the social media world is populated primarily by the emerging leaders of our world and they are the ones spreading the word about selflessness, kindness and philanthropy.  

 Planting the seeds of philanthropy is easy.  Try starting by just paying for a stranger’s lunch in full view of one of your children.  However, don’t explain it or even mention your intentions. Just let them observe and wait for the child to ask about the action. Then explain, very simply, what your intentions are and why we must always be mindful of others. And above all else, that a random act of kindness is to be accomplished without “chest pounding”.  The chest pounders are those people that only seem to be charitable when there is a photo op or as an opportunity to preen about their generosity.  Random acts of kindness performed quietly and with humility are most effective.

Every other week at 7am, I find myself in front of a group of middle school students for the purpose of educating them on the “business side of philanthropy”.  Yes, I sometimes question my sanity explaining concepts such as 501c(3) formation, 990 filings or effective board governance to  sleepy students.  However, every year, without fail, I start to see the light bulbs flicker on and I know the seed has been planted for a future philanthropist.

This time of year our mailboxes are full of requests from various non-profit agencies soliciting year end gifts.  Perhaps, you can use this as dinner table conversation and empower the family to help set the charitable giving strategy for the year.  Include in your discussion the importance of time, talent and treasure.

We don’t need parenting experts to tell us that leading by example has dramatic influence of the youths around us. 

So, start demonstrating early and often the power of philanthropy. Many blessings and Happy New Year.

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