In February 2021, The Giving Square’s executive director and founder, Amy Neugebauer, was featured on the Urban Institute’s Critical Value podcast. This episode, called “Teaching Kids How To Give,” explores how we traditionally involve kids in philanthropy and discusses ways in which we can improve how we empower kids to give back. The podcast, hosted by the Urban Institute’s Justin Milner, also features guest speakers Shena Ashley, the vice president of Urban's Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy, and Dr. Alison Body, a lecturer in philanthropic studies at the University of Kent. Both Shena Ashley and Dr. Alison Body's contributions emphasize the importance of teaching kids how to give and corroborate The Giving Square’s mission.
The guests on the podcast discuss different ways we can define philanthropy, why how we traditionally involve kids in philanthropy might have negative impacts, and how we can involve kids in philanthropy in more meaningful and impactful ways.
We learn three main takeaways about kids and philanthropy:
1. Giving isn’t just about the transfer of money.
Kids don’t have a lot of assets, so focusing on giving through social justice, empathy, kindness, and compassion allows kids to understand the scale of impact. Kids can play philanthropic roles in our communities - not just by raising money, but by using their brains, by speaking up and speaking out against injustice, and listening. By validating these behaviors, kids can really become authentic civic actors.
2. Parents can have a significant influence on their child’s philanthropic identity, attitudes, and behaviors towards giving.
Children are more likely to give to charity as they grow older if their parents are actively and regularly giving. If parents actively include their kids in their own personal philanthropy - such as asking kids what cause they think their parents should donate to, or explaining why parents care about the causes they give to - kids will be more likely to be philanthropic as they grow older.
3. Engaging kids in the goals of giving is another way to build those philanthropic identities.
Demonstrating that we’re all givers and receivers will help to chart a course of lifelong philanthropy. Philanthropy can benefit the giver as much as it benefits the receiver. When talking about philanthropy with kids, we often tap into pity, which sets kids up to view the world hierarchically, and creates a "stigma" that we are fundraising for someone poorer than us. If we constantly focus on the transactional nature of giving (giving in exchange for a reward), it can override the intrinsic benefits we get from giving.
Dr. Body's research shows that when 150 young children were asked about their experiences with charity, all of them could remember engaging in charity, but less than 20% of them could remember why they took part in it, or what the cause was that they were fundraising for.
Dr. Body encourages us to have conversations with children about the underlying issues for why philanthropy is necessary. Children are naturally curious and want to know why these issues exist in our society. Instead of tapping into pity for others who are less fortunate, we should tap into children's natural, altruistic, empathetic behaviors and nurture their "critical curiosity."