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Family giving strategies: Getting everyone involved in living generously

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When you live generously, it can inspire people around you to do the same. Particularly if your family includes children: The more they see you living out your values, the more likely they'll be empowered to make charitable choices themselves.

One of the best ways to strengthen and encourage this trait is to involve your kids in your family giving strategy and even let them take the lead as they explore their own generosity.

Here are some ways to make this happen while also building your family bonds.

Point out good opportunities to help others

Kids—just like grown-ups—can be resistant to doing something if they're made to do it without explanation. So take the time to introduce the idea of generosity in your family before you dive into a charitable project. This kind of stage-setting can happen very naturally. In addition to modeling and explaining your own generous actions, try to spot everyday moments that can be conversation starters.

Holidays that involve service or gift-giving offer some of the easiest opportunities to discuss why doing things for others feels good and propels a positive community. Local, national and global events can prompt these discussions, too. When a neighbor loses their home to a fire or an area is devastated by a hurricane, you can talk about and show your kids how giving your time, talent and treasures can help others.

Even when you're reading a book or watching a show together, you can point out when a character's generous action or trait lines up with your family values.

Find practical ways to weave giving into your family lifestyle

Generally, charitable behavior falls into three categories: giving your money, giving your possessions and resources, or giving your time. Every family shows generosity differently according to what makes sense for them. But it can be advantageous to encourage family members to try some form of each kind of giving. It can help them realize there isn't just one way to build their own charitable legacy.

Charitable activities with young kids

Young children may have few personal resources, but they often have time, energy and creativity to spare. When they do show charitable and generous impulses, you'll want to follow their chosen direction. Some kids, for instance, may latch onto the idea of giving their toys to less fortunate kids or doing tasks for people in need.

While kids' big hearts and imaginations are typically an asset, you may need to redirect your child's ideas from time to time. For example, if they're an animal lover and want to bring home every creature in need, you could suggest instead asking the local shelter if there are kid-friendly tasks they could do. Or you could see if an elderly neighbor would appreciate you and your child walking their dog.

This life stage also can be the perfect time to start sharing the organizations and causes that matter to you and letting your child jump in whenever possible. You might look for volunteer opportunities at your church or local community center that allow kids to participate in a pint-size project while you or their older siblings do the heavier, more complicated jobs.

Here are some other ideas for engaging young children in charitable giving:

  • When children identify people in your community who are falling on hard times or who don't have the same luxuries you enjoy, take the time to engage. Explain that not everyone has the things they have, and ask for their ideas about how to help those around them.
  • When you're planning to give a donation, offer two or three options to your young children and ask them what they think. Even if they end up deciding to divide the donation evenly among the choices, it still lets them feel ownership because you consulted them. They also may be inspired to add a small, age-appropriate amount of their own savings or allowance to the total.
  • Look for organizations with group-based charitable projects, such as Thrivent Action Teams, that specifically offer support roles for the whole family. Whether it's an online group or one that's physically in your area doesn't matter; the idea is to get your little ones excited to have everyone join in a project together along with other kids and families.

Charitable activities with older kids

Older elementary school, middle school and high school children have enormous potential to live generously, and they even may be starting to put their own money principles into practice. If you choose to offer an allowance or pay children for doing chores around the house, you can teach them about budgeting—not just saving and spending but why it's important to first set aside a portion for giving.

Here are a few ideas to help get older kids thinking about generosity:

  • If your kids have the time to volunteer for something that really matters to them, the experience could shape their lives for years to come. Encourage older youth to explore opportunities that line up with their individual interests. It can help them make their own space in the community and look toward the future.
  • Continue with and level up participation with any organizations you've enjoyed working with as a family. Teens even can gain experience leading projects through a parent-sponsored Thrivent Action Team, allowing them to see how their role fits into a bigger community of giving.
  • Beyond teaching kids how to budget for needs, wants, saving and giving with online tools like BalanceWorks, help them understand how to maximize the impact of their monetary donations. Introduce simplified ideas about giving different types of money and assets and show them how programs that match donations help make the most of their contribution.
  • Involve them more with the details of your own giving. For instance, when it's time for you to pick organizations for your donor-advised fund or end-of-year giving, consider asking your teen to help you research charities. Your child may disagree with some of your priorities, but talking through your reasoning or opting to compromise can help you connect as you make an impact together.
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Develop family giving strategies & your charitable legacy

When you've given the kids in your life a strong foundation of living generously, it opens the door for multigenerational family financial planning. You can explore with them what it means to plan for and build a lasting legacy.

While certain financial tools can be complicated, exposing the teens and young adults in your family to your strategies can get them thinking it's something they can do someday, too. For instance, once your teens see how your donor-advised fund helps a meaningful cause, they may be interested in learning more about it and its tax advantages. Or, if you explain how your charitable trust or charitable gift annuity plays a role in your big-picture giving, it may plant the seeds for them to establish their own legacy when they have the means.

Support your family values with financial expertise

Every time you make a generous choice, you're helping your most impressionable family members see what it looks like to live their values. There are a variety of ways you and your loved ones can forge a mindset of giving and commitment to creating a legacy.

To learn all the ins and outs of maximizing your impact on your chosen causes, you may need to lean on some expertise. A knowledgeable Thrivent financial advisor can help you navigate the options and connect you to the charitable advantages of being a Thrivent member.

Member benefits and programs are not guaranteed contractual benefits. The interpretation of the provisions of these benefits and programs is at the sole discretion of Thrivent. Thrivent reserves the right to change, modify, discontinue, or refuse to provide any of the membership benefits or any part of them, at any time.

Thrivent Charitable Impact & Investing™ is a public charity that serves individuals, organizations and the community through charitable planning, donor-advised funds and endowments. Thrivent Charitable Impact & Investing works collaboratively with Thrivent and its financial advisors. It is a separate legal entity from Thrivent, the marketing name for Thrivent Financial for Lutherans.

Thrivent, its financial professionals, and Thrivent Charitable Impact & Investing, do not provide legal, accounting or tax advice. Consult your attorney or tax professional.