Charitable giving and community service: How to teach your kids well

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We as Americans are the most generous people on Earth. That’s not just an opinion — it’s a fact!

Recent research from the Charities Aid Foundation found U.S. citizens give the most money to charity relative to our nation’s gross domestic product.

In the modern age, much of our charitable giving has moved from church pews and charity kettles to the online arena.

Yet for as much as technology has helped our life, there can be a disconnect between what you do behind the keyboard and how it manifests in the real world. This is especially true among children and teens.

So how can you teach your children about the value of charitable giving and service to others in an increasingly digital and virtual world?

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Clark: Teach your kids by example

Parents have a responsibility to teach values to their kids so they can grow into productive and fulfilled adults.

Money expert Clark Howard has long had his children participate in his charitable work to teach them important life lessons about helping those less fortunate than themselves.

Clark has a number of charities that are near and dear to his heart. Chief among them are Habitat for Humanity and Clark’s Christmas Kids.

Through the former, the consumer expert has teamed up with listeners of his radio show for 25 years now to build homes that help revitalize neighborhoods in his native Atlanta.

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Habitat for Humanity is considered a hand-up, not a handout kind of program.

The homes that are built aren’t freebies for potential owners; the homeowners have to put sweat equity into the deal by helping build the home themselves; take financial education courses; and pay their zero-interest mortgage on time each and every month — or they’re out on the street.

Back in 1993, Clark began volunteering with Atlanta Habitat and found he loved it. Three years later, he started sponsoring homes. Today, he’s built 74 homes in total. Sixty-five of those homes are in metro Atlanta. The remainder of the homes Clark has sponsored and helped build are in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Meanwhile, each Christmas marks the annual Clark’s Christmas Kids toy drive event, which will enter its 28th year in 2018. This past year saw Clark team up with his listeners to provide gifts for every single one of the 9,100 children in foster care in the state of Georgia.

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Over the years, Clark has brought his children to many of his Habitat builds and Christmas Kids drives, as well as to other events like Care-a-thon and his involvement with The Ronald McDonald House.

In Clark’s estimation, bringing them and letting them get involved — rather than sit behind a keyboard and donating money — teaches kids that life is more than just about them. It teaches them that they are there to serve others.

Last winter, the consumer champ says he and his son encountered a homeless family in the cold when they were going to an event downtown. So Clark and his son gave up their coats to help the family. This was a great teachable moment. You could see the benefit of giving right before your eyes.

Many organizations help create this tangible experience for kids so they see the direct effects of charitable giving. Forbes has a list of charitable organizations that can directly engage your child in this way, including Watsi.org, Oxfam Unwrapped America and the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

Listen to Clark discuss kids and charitable giving on the Clark Howard Show podcast

Things to consider when talking to your kids about money

Decide if you’re going to give your child an allowance

Allowances can be a controversial topic. Clark has always given his kids $1 a week according to their grade level as long as they complete their chores. The chores are detailed for them on a chore wheel so everybody knows what they’ve got to take care of.

Try the three jars system

Each jar is marked with a red, green or yellow heart. One jar contains money that is earmarked for charity; another jar is for current spending; and the third is for longer-term savings. This system provides a very simple, clear, and tangible lesson about money management for children.

Check out USAA’s youth banking options

If you’re eligible for USAA, they have a variety of youth banking options. There are no monthly fees, but a $25 opening balance is required.

Get your child started investing

Charles Schwab has their MoneyWise Investment Accounts for Kids. Check it out.

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Theo Thimou About the author:
Theo has co-written several books with Clark Howard, including the New York Times #1 bestseller Living Large in Lean Times. As a single widowed parent of two young children, he strives to bring savings tips to that unique subset of individuals. He can be reached at theo@clark.com.
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