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Legacy Matters
BlogsPublications | November 14, 2022
3 minute read
Legacy Matters

Charitable Giving – Make It a Family Discussion

While modeling your charitable nature for your children is important, studies have shown that the impact is even greater when role modeling is combined with meaningful discussions about charitable giving and its impact.

A recent study published by the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University analyzed the means by which parents teach children about charitable giving. Their findings indicated that regardless of the parent’s income level, “focused, intentional teaching by talking to children about charity is what works” to help children learn to be philanthropic.

Opportunities to Talk with Children about Giving

Armed with this knowledge, parents can look for, and attempt to create, opportunities to talk with their children about giving. Prime opportunities to chat could occur when you volunteer, attend a charity event or write a donation check. Discussing what you are doing gives children an opening to ask questions and allows you to discuss why you chose to support a particular charitable cause with your time, money or both. Your children also might be interested to know what you hope to accomplish, how you know your efforts are making a difference, and how it makes you feel to be able to help others.

Asking children questions is another way to initiate a conversation about philanthropy. Ideas for questions to start conversations include:

  • Are food, clothing and medicine important? How would you feel if those things were not available to you?
  • How would you feel if you helped someone who needed food, clothes or other important items?
  • Have you seen events in the news or problems in your school or community that you would like to help resolve? How could you use your time or resources to help with this situation?
  • How does our family show you that giving to others is important?

You can create additional questions, or make questions age-appropriate, by substituting other words for the word “giving.” You could ask about kindness to others, sharing what you have, offering your time or bringing attention to a problem.

If the family has a foundation or donor-advised fund, you could use this to prompt conversations about giving. Tell children your “definition” of philanthropy. Share your giving priorities if you have documented these. Let your children know that the family has set aside money, and possibly time, to support groups or causes that are important to the family and invite the children to participate in discussions about what to support.

Family meetings can also provide opportunities for parents to discuss philanthropy. Parents could choose a charitable discussion topic, or the family could discuss an article, podcast or video featuring an aspect of philanthropy that would be interesting to the children. Inviting a guest speaker from an organization could also spark discussion.

November Events Provide Discussion Opportunities

November provides two great opportunities for family discussions about giving. The first opportunity is Thanksgiving, and the second happens on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, known by many as GivingTuesday.

According to, this day was created in 2012, making this year the 10th anniversary of “a day that encourages people to do good.” If last year is any indication, this year’s GivingTuesday will be heavily publicized and supported. Children will likely hear about this event, making it a wonderful opportunity to talk to them about what they have, what they see in the world, ideas that are important to them, and how they would like to make a difference in their school, community or world.

Talking to Children Significantly Affects Giving Behavior

Studies have shown that discussions about giving provide the best outcome in parents’ efforts to create empathetic children who grow into charitable adults. Warner attorneys can help you talk to children about your foundation or your giving plan, and we can help you incorporate discussions into your next family meeting about giving. Contact your Warner estate planning attorney, or Beth O’Laughlin at or at 616.396.3118, for help creating opportunities for family discussion about philanthropy.