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Jim Gibbons

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Philanthropists of Tomorrow Start With the Work We Do With Our Kids Today

Posted: 07/26/11 05:21 PM ET

Most parents look to the holiday season as a means to teach their children about gratitude. But as a parent of three children, including teens and tweens, I can tell you that there are many other opportunities to teach your children about helping others and expanding their mindsets beyond their own needs. As parents, we take on the challenge of instilling manners and respect in our children while teaching them to care, share and give back to others. Although compassion, fairness and empathy are qualities that come naturally to children, we must foster their growth, otherwise those very important virtues could be lost.

There are three ways in which to teach children about giving back. One is obvious: encourage your child to give back through volunteering. Not only does volunteering allow you to spend more time with your children, it gives you the chance to work for a cause that is meaningful to the both of you. Another way to give back is to make a financial donation. Budgeting for financial donations helps instill in children an understanding of how to manage their money -- a lesson they will take with them into adulthood. The third way to give back is by donating the things you no longer use. Donating, whether you give away gently used clothing, electronics, furniture, household goods, toys, or other items that are no longer needed, doesn't take a lot of time and it doesn't involve an expense. In addition, the act of donating their stuff teaches kids that just as they should carefully consider where their financial donations go, they should also carefully consider where they are giving their hard goods donations. The revenues from the sale of donations across the United States fund numerous charitable causes, including animal welfare, domestic violence and job training, to name a few.

From toddler through teenager, encouraging regular charitable giving is a great way to instill awareness of a greater good. Kids get tremendous satisfaction in being able to say they helped someone, while parents feel rewarded in teaching their children such an important value. Good parents are always looking for ways to help their children learn social and emotional skills. As they grow, children also have the ability to research and commit to specific causes that might be of the utmost importance to them.

In tough economic times, charitable giving is even more needed than it has been in the past, but it's also more difficult. Teaching our kids early that even the smallest contribution impacts the greater good helps bridge this difficult gap -- and it helps foster lifelong philanthropists. As you may know and as I've stated in the past, I'm the chief executive officer of Goodwill Industries International, a nonprofit social enterprise that uses the revenues from the sale of donations to fund job training programs and support services in communities throughout the world. When you donate the things you no longer need, it helps others and builds stronger communities.

That is why I'm excited about Goodwill's partnership with Family Circle magazine, which is now in its third year and allows us to encourage children to be generous and compassionate toward others. Goodwill® and Family Circle have partnered for back-to-school donation drives since 2009. In total, Family Circle readers contributed to an increase in donations of approximately 20 million pounds over the past two years. As with other years, families can donate clothing at any Goodwill store or donation center across the country or encourage their schools, faith-based organizations. or friends and neighbors to run their own donation drive. In addition to this traditional partnership, we are running a co-branded Facebook photo contest for the first time.

Donors can snap creative pictures of their families donating to Goodwill and upload it through Facebook's Donate, Share and Win application. Facebook users will be able to vote on the submissions, and the applicant that gets the most votes will win a $5,000 back-to-school shopping spree.

Such an initiative allows children to see what it feels like to give back to the community and how donations positively impact both people and the planet. Donating diverts billions of pounds of goods from landfills while also helping people earn jobs.

To me, the greatest part about Goodwill's partnership with Family Circle is that children are able to have a first-hand visual of the payoff. By visiting http://donate.goodwill.org, they can calculate the community impact of their donations using the patent-pending Donation Impact Calculator and see a real-life translation of their donation into a service for someone in their community. For instance, five sweaters, one lamp and two bikes can provide 2 hours of career counseling.

Charitable involvement has been shown to help raise self-esteem, develop social skills, foster an introduction to the greater world and encourage kids to appreciate their own lifestyle. I hope you will join me in teaching the children in your life what it means to give back while making sure they feel appreciated for making these contributions.


 

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