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It is critical to instill a sense of responsibility in children by helping them understand how they can contribute to the betterment of the world around them by being good stewards of their resources, which includes the practice of gifting or tithing. We should never allow our children to feel powerless to make a difference. Instead, we should guide them to understand the people, enterprises, and systems around them and look critically for opportunities to make a difference.
Stewardship may be taught by involving the children we love in helping us with our decisions about what and how we donate within the family and community. One might, for example, give a young family member responsibility for directing and managing a portion of the family’s donation budget.
- Popsicle Index Challenge: The Popsicle Index is the Solari “rule of thumb” for the health and well-being of a place. It is the percentage of people in a community who believe that a child can leave their home, go to the nearest place to buy a popsicle or other snack, and come alone safely. Phi Cubeta, the proprietor of Gifthub.org, who holds Sallie B. and William B. Wallace Endowed Chair in
Philanthropy at the American College, suggests that we might divide a child’s allowance into three parts: one portion for discretionary spending or saving, one for investing, and one for giving. Why not invite the children in your life to organize their investments and donations in a manner that identifies and exploits opportunities to improve the Popsicle Index in their community? This, of course, begins with engaging in a process to understand what makes the Popsicle Index goes up and what makes it go down, and how that relates to the flows of financial resources in our communities.
- Microloans: For children with computers, provide a credit for loans to entrepreneurs in other countries through Kiva.org. Such a loan does not carry interest, but it is a good way to learn about small businesses and entrepreneurship around the world and to share the lending experience with other investors from both the United States and other countries.
- Gifts to Schools: My attorney gave a glockenspiel to her son’s public elementary school seven or eight years ago, and the music teacher still raves about it. Funding a field trip for a class in public school with a tight budget would enrich the lives of many children and support and energize its teachers. Such a gift could encourage other community groups to follow suit. A key part of the success of Walnut Hills High School, an inner-city Cincinnati college-prep high school rated this year as #36 of all public high schools in the country by test scores (according to the U.S. News and World Report “Best High Schools” list), is due to the involvement and generosity of its active alumni foundation, parent board, and various booster clubs. In a school district with scarce funds, teachers at Walnut Hills are able to obtain funding for special books and other school-provided supplies, via requests to the onsite alumni foundation office.
- Mission/Service trips: Funding trips abroad to serve as part of a church or other charitable group could be combined with or preceded by foreign language instruction. Some high schools offer such programs during school breaks ans summer vacations. Or a child who plays a musical instrument or is an active choir member could be supported to take advantage of a foreign touring opportunity that his or her parents cannot afford.
- Caring for Animals: Many children love animals and would be interested in programs that protect and care for wild animals and birds or that help abandoned or stray animals and livestock.
- Helping Friends: Children often have friends with special needs. Discreet intervention to help these friends or their parents can make a big difference at important times and would be a gift for your children as well.
- Community Organizations: Our communities are full of organizations that make a significant difference in our quality of life. Helping children to understand how the donation process works in these organizations—such as churches, food banks, libraries, and homeless shelters—allows our children to recognize the critical role these play in our communities and economies.
- Advisory Board: Does your business tithe, donate, or have a charitable foundation? Do you run or participate in an active organization in your community? Why not add young people to your advisory board or other committees to bring in a new, fresh point of view while you help them aquire real experience. Perhaps you can join with children in your place for an expanded Popsicle Index Challenge!
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