Earlier this week, I sat down with the lovely and talented Tenille Bonoguore to talk about kids and giving. Tenille is the CBC-KW parenting columnist and was working on a story for the December 2, 2016 Sounds of the Season broadcast.
And just before that, I was delighted to join my son’s grade 6 class for a special #GivingTuesday tour of The Food Bank. Their class raised so much money during their food drive that the amazing people at the Food Bank wanted to show them their gifts in action. After our tour, I went back to my son’s class to talk about giving, fundraising and why it matters.
So I thought I would write a blog post about the amazing and important connections between kids and giving that we, as grown-ups of all shapes and sizes (parents, aunties, uncles, grandparents, coaches, teachers, neighbours…) can build and nurture.
When I talk to kids (mine included) about giving, I focus on 3 things:
- Giving feels good.
Kids LOVE hearing that the same part of your brain that lights up when you give is the same part of your brain that lights up when you eat chocolate. And for you grown-ups, it’s also the same part of your brain that lights up when you have sex. Your pleasure centre. Giving feels good and giving is emotional.
- Giving is about stories.
On our tour of The Food Bank, our host told the kids that over 8 million pounds of food pass through the warehouse. There was a “whoa…wow” factor, but I could actually see that information go in one ear and out the other. No kid—no person—can really visualize 8 million pounds of food. Can you?
But our guide then said, “and did you know that 1 in every 30 kids in our neighbourhoods use The Food Bank?” I saw them do that math. I saw that sink in. I saw them look around at each other, just as our guide said, “yes, that means 1 child in every classroom.”
Most powerful of all was when the kids were sorting food in the warehouse and got to meet Lina. They had watched her video in class. And right away, the kids liked her. She is cool, funny and open. She told them that when she was about their age, her family moved here from Iraq. She couldn’t speak any English and spent her days at school trying to learn the difference between a pen and pencil and trying to make friends. When she came home every evening and found a giant box of food, she had no idea that it was from a Food Bank. She didn’t even know what a Food Bank was. They all laughed when she told them she had never had cereal and didn’t really understand the difference between Froot Loops and Cheerios.
What will they remember about The Food Bank? Not the 8 million pounds of food in the warehouse. They’ll remember Lina.
Giving also tells stories about us.
When you ask kids about charities they support, you often hear the same few names. Humane Society, World Wildlife Fund, Red Cross, Plan. And there’s a distance there. They know the words, they understand a little bit, but they aren’t really invested or connected.
But if you ask them to tell you about any organizations or activities that they and/or their families are involved with, they’ll talk about volunteering. About how their mom or dad coaches their hockey team. About how every Christmas they go and sing at their grandma’s senior’s home. And they tell you stories about this. Stories they’ve experienced or heard.
It is a beautiful thing to hear kids speak with pride about volunteering. It says something about them and their families. About what they value. About what matters to them. These are the crucial and natural building blocks of philanthropy.
- You can’t measure help or kindness.
When a friend needs help, you don’t consider how badly they need it. You just help.
We encourage our kids to be helpful and kind (and, as they get a little older, empathetic). Holding the door for our classmates. Inviting the new kid to play at recess, or just sitting down beside her at circle time.
When you give half your birthday money away to the Humane Society or The Food Bank, that gift is just as meaningful as the old, rich white guy who has his name on the new wing of the Hospital. His capacity is bigger, but the significance of the gift is equal. Kids light up when you tell them that every single gift is precious and important. Don’t you?
In our family, we sit down every month and choose a charity to support. The kids are an active part of the discussion, sharing stories about what happened to us and our loved ones recently, what’s happening in the world and we decide as a family who to give to. Here’s where I get to gently scold you, charities. We give a healthy gift every month, online and unsolicited, and I always include a message that shares our family story. With very few exceptions (like, family friends who work at the charity) we have received a dismal amount of #donorlove. The auto bounceback/receipt is not #donorlove. That’s a transaction. It’s necessary, but vacant. My kids are plugged in, and they want to hear a story about how their money helped at the nature reserve or in the hospital. They don’t go looking for it, because they are kids and they are thinking about having a snack and playing video games. But I promise that if a letter arrived in the mail with a photo or a story they would be absolutely delighted.
Here’s a simple, beautiful example of what the Food Bank does for kids (and grown ups) who supported their “Summer Hero” appeal. Along with a heart-felt thank you letter, they sent a copy of a kid’s drawing of a superhero, representing the donors. The thank you letter invites donors to share a photo of themselves with the superhero, that they can use to inspire others to give…
Thanks, as always, for reading and sharing our posts. I would love to hear from you if you have something to add. What do you think?