It’s Never Too Early to Teach Kids about the Power of Giving

…..And adult children are never too old to relearn. First in a series

Key Takeaways:

  • Listening and communication are keys to successful giving.

  • Children as young as five or six can be introduced to the power of giving.

  • Philanthropy can help bring families closer together.

  • It’s okay if a family has a main philanthropic mission that not everybody agrees with.


The concept of “philanthropy by design” is gaining traction as charitable organizations increasingly understand that successful giving starts by tapping into the donor’s passions—not the funding needs of the organization.

Let’s talk about the next generation a little bit and how to get the kids involved. Where do you start and at what ages, and then how do you step up as they get older?

Children can start giving at any age. It doesn’t have to be formalized philanthropy. A client of ours had a child who started giving when he was five or six. The son was playing T-ball and our client, his dad, was trying to teach his son the concept of philanthropy and helping other people. He said, “I want you to think about what we can do to help someone else.”

The boy had a kid on his T-ball team who didn’t have a mitt, so he was borrowing a glove from everybody else. Our client and his son went out and bought a glove and gave it to the kid. Just that concept of helping someone else and getting the adrenaline rush of seeing the difference you’re making in somebody’s life can start really early.

Stake your kids so they can set their own charitable goals

Next, giving kids a small amount of money and letting them decide what to do with it can be very powerful and rewarding. I had another client who started this practice when his kids were about 6 and 8 years old. Each child received $500 to give away, not to spend on themselves. They had to do research on the worthy causes and they had to bring their intended organizations to the family “grant committee,” which was mom, dad, grandma and grandpa. They talked about it Christmas afternoon or the day after Christmas.


Children have things that they’re concerned about. One of my clients had a son who was 15 when he started talking about giving. The boy was concerned that some kids at his school couldn’t hear well and that it was affecting their grades. The teen actually created a nonprofit and went to the audiologists in town and got them to volunteer to give [hearing] exams to the affected kids. Then they hearing experts got the teen in touch with the people who sell hearing aids for school age kids.

The point is, you don’t have to wait until your kids are old enough to understand money from the standpoint of having a part-time job or having to pay for some of their own expenses like gas, movie tickets or trendy clothes. No, they don’t have to be 15, 18 or even 20 years old. You can start at a much younger age, and the earlier you start, the more they’ll start identifying things that are important to them. By the time those children reach their teens, they can be pretty serious about giving.

So, what happens when Generation Two in a family is already in their 20s or maybe even their 30s?

If they’re in their 20s and 30s, those are kind of interesting years because normally they’re just getting started with adult responsibilities like budgeting and paying rent, utilities, credit cards and other bills. It’s almost like you’re starting over with them. It’s like when they were little and you were giving them small opportunities to make a difference. But it makes it easier in terms of the family situation because there are limited resources, and so together they can make a bigger impact than they would have been able to do separately.
So, if as a group, if there are two or three siblings, they can decide together about a couple of things that they really want to make a difference on, then by pooling their money they can do something that will really make a difference rather than just give a little bit to different charities. In many ways, you use the same process with those in their 20s and 30s that you use with teens.

It’s never too early to teach your kids and grandkids about the power of giving and it’s never too late to remind your adult children about philanthropy. Even if their current financial situation makes it difficult to give a lot—the act of giving will make them feel better, will help those in need, and will set a great example for their own children.

By the way, you can give all year round, not just during the Holidays and before end of year tax deadlines.

Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail

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