Let’s Empower Them to Change the World
Published: November 22, 2023
On an evening not long ago, I settled into my couch, awaiting my husband so we could begin the all-important, nightly Netflix decision. He joined me and quietly smiled, trading in the usual sigh of relief after a long day. “I loved watching the kids build that fort and make up games today; it showed me what they’re truly capable of on their own.”
Ah, that familiar yet magical light we feel inside of us when we witness our children’s excitement for original ideas, and their boundless energy to tackle a challenge. The idea of giving kids the space and tools to create is simple but profound. And it got me thinking – what if we applied the same principles that foster creativity and independence in our children to our approach to philanthropy?
As a philanthropy consultant working with both nonprofit organizations and families, I’m constantly considering ways to effectively support those in need. I’ve observed a significant shift in the way charitable giving works in our country over the last few decades. Today, more philanthropic dollars come from a smaller number of ultra-wealthy individuals and families than ever before – in other words, our reliance on relatively few families to fund considerable needs at nonprofits is noteworthy. And it’s a stark contrast to what previous generations experienced, including that of my grandfather, who believed in helping anyone who asked for support if he could manage it. “They need it if they’re asking. That’s what you do when you’re part of a community,” he used to tell me. But times have changed, and I find myself, along with the majority of my peers, admittedly more selective in how I allocate my resources.
Traditional fundraising methods such as golf tournaments, auction balls, and mass-mailed letters have struggled to keep up with the evolving and entrepreneurial landscape of philanthropy. So, I find myself wondering, how and when will the tide turn? Can we empower our children to become a force in philanthropy?
This question led me to an exciting experiment. I made a gift to a local school in downtown West Palm Beach, funding a project with the tenth-grade class. The project’s goal was simple: I provided them with a sum of money, shared insights on philanthropy, and guided them on charitable giving. Their task was to select a deserving charity together and use the funds to make the donation. In essence, I asked them to do something impactful with my money and get real-world experience as philanthropists along the way.
The students’ responses energized me. On the first day, a student brought up the challenges she knew of homelessness and workforce housing in our city, which the mayor had recently discussed with their class. It was a profound moment of thoughtfulness that made me realize these young minds could contemplate the impact of their actions. As the discussion unfolded, students built off of one another’s enthusiasm, and their ideas became more considerate. They were innovating – not just around their own areas of interest, but also around how to solve the challenges of their community.
In my own family, an innate love for philanthropy runs through the soul of my seven-year-old son. He’s deeply intrigued by the plight of those seeking asylum and refuge in our country after learning about a nonprofit dedicated to this work through our own family giving. He can’t fathom how people can undertake such a perilous journey with nothing but the clothes on their backs (and I admit that his questions and compassion leave me reeling, joining him in a struggle to comprehend how anyone overcomes these challenges). Our son doesn’t just want to donate to asylum-seekers; he wants to understand the root causes and find solutions. He envisions a world without this problem.
Of course, my son may not be able to solve the world’s problems single-handedly. However, collectively, children like him, who grow up believing they are philanthropists, can and will have a transformative impact. Their creativity and enthusiasm can help us tackle challenges in ways we may never have imagined. I’m witnessing the boundless potential of children, and it fills me with inspiration, motivating me to stay steady on my quest to empower the rising generations in this space.
Teaching kids about philanthropy empowers them to become creative thinkers, social innovators, and compassionate leaders, including the following considerations:
- When kids learn about generosity, they discover the power and joy associated with giving back. It’s not just an abstract concept; it’s a tangible experience that shapes their worldview.
- Exposure to philanthropy unleashes creativity in children, motivating them to find innovative solutions to community and global problems. It encourages them to think critically and creatively about the world’s challenges.
- Philanthropy shows children that they can be social innovators, actively contributing to their communities. It transforms them from passive observers to proactive problem-solvers, instilling a sense of agency and responsibility.
- Philanthropy ignites enthusiasm for action in youth. It goes beyond just giving back; it helps children understand their personal, familial, and community priorities. This understanding becomes a driving force for positive change, fostering a passion for making a difference.
The truth is that young people are more than just future philanthropists; they are change agents, problem solvers, and passionate community innovators. They possess the power to reshape our world, one charitable act at a time. All they need is that initial guidance, followed by the freedom to let their ideas flourish. After all, they are not just the future, they are the present, and their ideas have the power to shape a better world for all of us.
Meg George is an author, speaker, and philanthropy advisor. As the president of a philanthropy consultancy, George Philanthropy Group, which she co-founded with her husband, Phil, she advises nonprofit institutions and families on impactful, outcome-driven philanthropy through meaningful avenues. Her debut book, What is Philanthropy to Philomena? centers around the power and joy of giving back. Her passion of empowering young people to understand and embrace generosity is realized both through this book and her work with multi-generational philanthropist families. Meg and her husband are working hard to raise their own little people as good humans and split their time between South Florida and Upstate New York (because extreme weather variety is key to happy + fun lives).