Giving that is selfless is an act that portends a lot of benefits that necessarily cannot be measured, and is often referred to as Philanthropy. When we think “Philanthropy” we often think religious bodies, adults, rich people and foundations. We fail to realise that philanthropy is not relegated to these groups of people alone. Now we know you don’t have to be rich and most importantly that children too can be philanthropist.
Increasingly though, children from a spread of socio-economic backgrounds are participating in and learning about what it means to be philanthropic, both at home and at school.
As well as helping those in need, the evidence shows getting children involved in philanthropy has positive effects for the children, their families and society more generally.
It might just be the key to helping your children be happier, smarter and more successful.
Why should children learn philanthropy?
The younger the child is when the discussion begins about giving, the more it becomes a matter of practice and habit that continues into adulthood.
According to developmental psychologist Marilyn Price Mitchell, children who perform acts of kindness experience increased wellbeing, popularity and acceptance among peers. This, in turn, leads to better classroom behaviour and higher academic achievement.
There is a place for both families and schools to teach philanthropic values and encourage related actions. A recent UK Study, Growing Up Giving: Insights Into How Young People Feel About Charity, found that young people are interested in and positive about charities and have “great charitable expectations”. Interestingly, the report finds that schools “lie at the heart of the bond between young people and charities” and is the primary means by which charitable giving is encouraged.
However, the report found that amongst 9-11 year olds, three times as many children felt that discussing philanthropy with their parents would encourage their increased philanthropic engagement.
When and how do you start teaching?
it is never too early to start. so many ways children can be incorporated into philanthropy. It actually begins from home. The recipients of their philanthropy are everywhere. The househelps, the security men, children in the neighborhood and in churches, mosques and schools who are obviously less privileged, etc.
There are an unending number of causes, activities and means by which children can become involved in philanthropic acts, regardless of financial means. Beyond individual acts of volunteering and fundraising, families are increasingly becoming involved with groups of like-minded families in “giving circles”.
One of such growing circles in Lagos, Nigeria is the WellBaby Friends Network (WFN).
“Giving circles”, like the WFN power a series of quarterly project tagged the Q-Project, which offer opportunities for individuals, families and organisations, who may not necessarily be able to afford large donations, to combine their funds with other members to create a single or series of impactful givings.
Giving circles necessarily promote discussion, as decisions about what cause to support, how much to give, what activities and workshops to organise, are made jointly by all members in consultation with their children.
What are children learning?
Through the experience of family based philanthropic organisations donor children are benefiting, just as the recipients are.
They learn about worlds beyond their own experience. They also learn confidence in public speaking, how to make a case, how to choose a charity, research skills, fundraising and entrepreneurial skills, tolerance and empathy. They also learn how to organise through setting up soup kitchens, garage markets, bike-a-thons and walk-a-thons.
Through this experience they can then define what philanthropy means to them and what change they would like to see in the world. They learn, just by small acts of giving, how to become change makers, what it means to be good people and model citizens as well as learning from and teaching others how to collaborate and make a difference. They learn about how varieties of small acts can hugely impact their communities and bring about the change they want to see.
From an educational perspective, these skills reflect what children learn at school
There are many valuable models for encouraging children’s involvement in philanthropic activities. Time will tell how these programs impact individual donor children and beneficiaries. But it is clear that beginning at a young age in the family context will have positive flow on effects for the world in which these children live and give.