In a few months, the biggest giving season of the year will arrive. December isn’t just the time that kids are showered with wrapped boxes – it’s also the time when most charities get the biggest chunk of donations to keep their work going. And, it’s when many parents think about ways to encourage their kids to thinking about giving as well as getting.
That’s certainly true in our house. My kids have already started their lists for Santa. The choruses of I wants are getting overwhelming. So, we wanted to shift some attention to ways we can give and share, and to our blessings. We’ve been listing three things we’re grateful for each night – pizza, beautiful yellow leaves, the first sprinkling of snow that provided just enough raw material for a miniature Frosty – and now we’re embarking on our own little matching gift program.
Launching a matching gift program is a great way to kick-start a giving tradition in your house. A matching challenge makes giving more fun. It’s something that’s been proven to motivate adults to give, and can do the same in a family context.
How does it work? It’s easy!
Starting now, ask your child to set aside some of their allowance or found pennies each week. Then, tell them that you’ll match their money dollar-for-dollar, and you can send it all to a nonprofit of their choice. It could go to buy dog food for an animal shelter, or to the local Children’s Hospital, or to plant trees. If they save up $5, you’ll give them another $5, so they have $10 total to donate. More dollars saved equals more matched, and means more out to a good cause.
To make it even more fun, decorate a special container just for this money. A painted baby food jar makes a great mini-bank, or a shoebox covered in stickers. Your child can get into the spirit by decorating the box with things he or she cares about – pictures of animals, drawings of people, festive hearts.
My two boys, ages four and five, each decorated a wooden treasure box with jewels, glitter glue, and markers. As they worked on their boxes, we discussed how we can help our friends, neighbors, and animals. We visited the World Wildlife Fund site to learn more about which animals are endangered, and how we can help. We talk about the gifts that my husband and I are thinking about giving, and the causes we care about, to demonstrate that charitable giving is a strong value in our family, and something we feel lucky to be able to do.
After their treasure boxes were complete, my sons decided where to send their money. One of them is saving up for the cheetahs. The other, inspired by Heifer International, wants to buy a goat for a family. They’re excited about filling their treasure boxes, and the matching gift adds a little bit of excitement.
They may not save up quite enough for a virtual animal adoption this year, but every little bit helps. What’s more, they’re beginning, in a tangible way, to think about how they can help others and make a difference.