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Engaging the next generation in giving

Banks such as this one can help young children learn how to divide their funds into three categories: savings, spending and charity.

As parents, we have hopes and dreams for our children. We want them to be happy, healthy, kind and responsible members of society. As Jews, we want to raise our children in our age-old tradition of tzedakah and share with them the obligation and joy of giving back to our community.

As the executive director of the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Kansas City, I know that instilling charitable values in the next generation is a high priority for many in our community. We recently wrapped up a “listening project” in which we surveyed thousands of community members about their philanthropic needs. Engaging children and grandchildren in charitable giving was the highest rated need reported by respondents.

The heart of the Jewish Community Foundation’s mission is to engage, educate and inspire multiple generations of givers within the Jewish community. We’ve developed creative tools that help family members of all ages define charitable priorities, put philanthropic values into practice, and establish generous family traditions. One such tool is a Donor Advised Fund, a charitable giving account that can be used to support all of a family’s favorite charities. The Porters are a wonderful example of a family using a Donor Advised Fund to encourage charitable behavior and create a legacy of giving. Many years ago, Ed and Karen Porter established a special family fund at the Foundation for their children, Dave, Barbara and Debra. Dave explains, “One of the ways I became aware of Donor Advised Funds at the Jewish Community Foundation was through a fund that my parents set up. They seeded it and they matched our gifts up to $500 each year. It was a real incentive for me and my sisters and now our spouses to get involved in the community and to give. Now we are starting to do the same thing for our kids. It created a meaningful giving platform for all of us.”

Another tool we offer at the Foundation is a B’nai Tzedek fund, a teen philanthropy account that introduces Bar and Bat Mitzvah-age youth to the joys of giving. A fund can be created for a minimum contribution of $125 to which the Foundation adds $375, giving the teen philanthropist a fund balance of at least $500. Once a year, the B’nai Tzedek fundholder can “grant,” or give, 10 percent of his/her fund balance to a Jewish organization, locally or in Israel. The program also includes philanthropic educational and social components. As part of our “listening project,” we discovered that 90 percent of parents of B’nai Tzedek fundholders reported that the program helped teach their children about the importance of tzedakah, and more than 80 percent reported that the program had helped them initiate a conversation about philanthropy in their homes.

Here are some other practical ways to teach children charitable values:

• Give younger children a three-compartment tzedakah box with dedicated “spend,” “save,” and “give” sections, making it easy for children to divide their allowance for different uses. It not only reinforces the importance of giving, but is also a practice in money management.

• Routinely volunteer together. Discover a hands-on community service opportunity your family can get excited about and make volunteering a regular family affair. Bonus points if your children are able to see with their own eyes the impact they are making on others.

• Have family meetings to discuss the motivations behind your giving. Why do you give? Which organizations do you support, and why? How do you decide how much to give? Be sure to not only share, but listen, too. And if you’d like assistance facilitating such a meeting, the Foundation is here to help.

• Create a giving circle with peers. Find other families with charitable values and similar interests and pool resources to make a bigger impact and to learn from alternate perspectives.

• Most importantly, be positive role models. Children often mirror parents’ actions and attitudes. If they see you helping others and feeling good about doing so, they likely will too.

At the Foundation, we’re currently developing some new and exciting community programs on the topic of next generation philanthropic engagement that will take place next spring. Be sure to look for more information about these programs in the coming months. In the meantime, we are always available for a conversation about how the Foundation can help engage your family in philanthropy or achieve other personal charitable giving goals. For more information, please contact me at 913-327-8245 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. To hear more of what Dave Porter and other fundholders have to say about giving smarter through the Foundation, visit jcfkc.org/smartergiving.