Start ‘Em When They’re Young: Summer is a Great Time for Philanthropic Lessons

Start ‘Em When They’re Young: Summer is a Great Time for Philanthropic Lessons

By Christine Kutnick

Taught early on that repairing the world is part of Jewish responsibility, many Jews are generous people. According to the Connected to Give report, 92 percent of Jewish families give in some form to charity. It is thought by many to be the responsibility of Jewish parents to be role models of giving, so the next generation carries on this tradition.

As summer approaches, many parents begin hearing the same old statement, “Mom, I am bored!”

Because of this, summer is a great time to start talking to children about philanthropy.  It is never too early to begin the concept of sharing the gifts one has been given. Starting at a young age helps children build a deeper relationship with the idea of giving. In addition to teaching family values, this lesson can also play a major role in boosting children’s personal development.

Ideas for younger children:

Younger children can raise money for their favorite nonprofit. If children set up a lemonade stand, an adult can provide the supplies if they donate at least 25 percent of their net to the charity of their choice. When my children were young, I offered to match their gift so that the donation was more significant. I took them to their favorite charity office so that they could see the impact their gift would make.

Suggest that they start a collection drive for their favorite nonprofit. This could be something as easy as old towels for animal shelters or school supplies. Children can create a flyer and deliver them to their neighbors letting the neighbors know that they are collecting items. Be sure to include a contact method and a due date on the flyer, and to count the items or weigh them so that they can feel the impact that they are making.

Have your child start a tzedakah bank. Take children to a craft store for materials to decorate a can or box. Once they embellish their money container, have them go around the house and find spare change to put in the box. To make it more fun, hide some cash around the house so they have an excellent start to collecting money for their favorite charity.

Volunteer together. Generation Serve helps families volunteer together. Children can begin volunteering with a parent as early as 3 years old. Generation Serve’s website lists volunteer opportunities.

Donate things children no longer use. Have children go through their toys. Donate those they no longer use to a children’s shelter.

Ideas for older children:

Get out there and volunteer. Many local nonprofits need help during the summer. Just a few examples where children can volunteer include the Thinkery, JCamps, a library or as a youth leader at Generation Serve.

Offer them a grant. Tweens and teens can research organizations that address their favorite issues. Have children present their findings and pitch why some family philanthropy should go to their favorite organization.

Create a donor-advised fund at the Jewish Foundation of Austin and Central Texas. Tell children about the family’s generosity and invite them to suggest gifts.

Do not just focus on teaching this important lesson over the summer. Continue it after school starts and as things get hectic again. Being charitable has so many benefits. A person who is a philanthropist tends to be more empathic, happy and aware of the world’s issues. An additional advantage is that it is always good for the college resume. ■

Christine Kutnick serves on the Jewish Foundation cabinet. For more information about the Jewish Foundation, visit

The Shalom Austin Jewish Foundation provides an opportunity to make a lasting impact through philanthropy in the name of the Jewish community, at home in Austin and around the world.

Gifts to the Jewish Foundation can be arranged in several ways: in the form of cash or stock, a will or living trust, donor-advised funds, bequests, life insurance policies, retirement plans, or real estate.

For more information, visit, email or call (512) 735-8010.


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