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Why I'm making a family giving plan in 2012

by Meagan Francis on December 30, 2011

The commercial says that just a couple quarters can change a child's life. But you have to know where your quarters are to give them away.

The wrapping paper is finally picked up – well, all besides a few errant scraps littering my living-room rug. The stockings have slowly been depleted of their candy stash. The kids’ gifts have migrated to their bedrooms and the toy box (except for the Captain America and Thor masks, which Owen and William have not removed in days.)

In short, though our tree still stands and school is out of session for another week and a half, life is getting back to normal.

Which leads me to wonder if my kids really realize how, well, abnormal our version of “normal” is?

I know that, though we work to keep our Christmases relatively simple, I have come to rely on being able to provide the kids with gifts that, in other cultures, would be nothing short of extravagant. Not even just world standards: there are families right in our community who would find our “scaled back” holidays unthinkably luxurious.

I want my kids to understand just how lucky they are, even when money is tight. But it’s not so easy to make my children understand it when I can’t quite wrap my brain around it myself, and frankly, sometimes don’t want to. Even knowing that there is true, desperate need in the world doesn’t make my first-world “problems” completely disappear. And it can feel so starkly hopeless when I consider that, even if I gave away every last penny I owned, I still couldn’t solve that true and desperate need the world over.

I’m reminded of a lovely post that Tsh of Simple Momwrote last summer. Tsh had been blogging about her trip to the Philippines with Compassion International, and acknowledged that it can be difficult to read and watch and learn about huge need, like the kind of need she witnessed on her trip, when we feel powerless to really change things. But she also stressed the importance of letting that discomfort spark action. From Tsh’s post:

The thing I’ve realized this week, though, is that there’s a difference between guilt and conviction. The guilt is what causes that lump in your throat, where you can’t decide whether to swallow down your apathy or puke it all up in anger.

But conviction is that stirring deep inside you, when you acknowledge that guilt-like feeling, and instead of letting it fester, you mold and shape it into something productive.

I’m generous in principle, but I’ve always been disorganized about giving; which has led to not giving enough when I could make a real difference, and at other times, impulsively giving too much. I think I’ve always had this sense that giving should be something you do from the heart, spontaneously. Something that should just happen, without having to think a lot about it ahead of time. It takes the romance out of giving to plan it and research it and budget for it.

Well, true. It’s not terribly romantic to spend hours researching a nonprofit or entering charitable giving line-items into the budget, but it turns out, it’s kind of necessary. I can say “sure!” when the cashier asks me if I’d like to donate a dollar to the charity du jour, but if I don’t even know anything about the organization, is it really a smart use of my money or just a way to feel good about myself for a few seconds and then go about my first-world business once again?

The fact is that unless I make a concrete, organized giving plan with my family, I’ll never give as much as I know I could, or as much as I’d really like to. And it’s time to stop being so sloppy about something so important.

I know many of us will be thinking about New Year’s resolutions and goals and intentions this weekend. I’ve got a lot of plans and hopes for 2012, some of which are relatively frivolous, others that are purely selfish. And I think that’s just fine. But while I’m thinking about my personal and professional and family goals, this year I’m taking a sharp look at our charitable efforts and making a real plan.

Because if there’s one thing I want to help my kids learn, it’s how to give: not just to want to give, not just why to give, but how to actually make a plan and make it happen. Just like any other goal, a plan is essential. So I’m making a detailed family giving plan for 2012. Would you like to join me?

I’m so glad I’ve had the chance to work with Kidworth, a free online service that helps kids learn to save, spend, and share wisely, on this series of sponsored posts. Learning to use Kidworth has really encouraged me to become more intentional in teaching my children about money…especially the “sharing” part.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Jenn @ I Am Not Superwoman December 30, 2011 at 6:50 pm

This is such a great idea. We give often but do not have a formal giving plan either. I just wrote a couple blog posts about Training Up Your Children to give and be compassionate and another post about my word for 2012: Gratitude. Even those with so much less here still have so much more than so many others. I will be going on a trip to Africa in February with a humanitarian group and I am planning that I will be changed considerably from this experience. You will have to check out my blog during that time for post and pictures. Love reading your blog and really need to comment more. Hope your family has a wonderful and safe New Year!

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Ruth December 31, 2011 at 10:22 am

Great post–you put words to a feeling that has been welling up inside me lately as well. The challenge of teaching our kids to count their blessings while also encouraging them to help those who have less is a big one. I love the idea of making a plan!

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Barb @ A Life in Balance December 31, 2011 at 12:42 pm

I love the idea of a family giving plan. I’ve been thinking about concrete ways for my kids to experience giving to others. We collect food for our parish every month, but the kids don’t see what happens with the food. I’d like to do our own food collection monthly and take it to the local food pantry and meet the families who need help.

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Adventures In Babywearing December 31, 2011 at 1:37 pm

I need to do this, too.

Steph

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Elizabeh December 31, 2011 at 2:12 pm

Great idea, Meagan. To focus my giving, I have a personal long-term relationship with a local charity; in my case, HelpOneChild.org, which supports foster families. Before I became a mom, I had more time to volunteer and used to provide respite care. Now, I write more checks and try to educate people about how they can help foster kids—without being a foster parent (prayers are a great way to start). When Carter cleans out his gently used toys, he “shares them with Judy [volunteer coordinator] for kids who don’t have toys.” He goes with me to take them to her and sees the photos of kids on the office bulletin board. It’s good for him to see that he can make a difference.

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Emily December 31, 2011 at 5:30 pm

My husband and I have planned monthly giving to charities that we believe in, but since that is pretty abstract for young children, we’ve found a local “life center” and help our kids give there. That might mean helping them choose some of their (still nice!) toys to give to the children there. Or we take some of their allowance and buy baby shampoo or wipes. Sometimes I have them help choose baby/toddler clothing from a clearance rack and we take that over. We try to take something nice over there about once a month, and we ALWAYS take the children with us. They’re the ones who hand over their gifts, and the volunteers at the center know them and are SO encouraging and appreciative of their gifts. I think our boys will have a very deep understanding of what it means to give, because of this experience in their early years.

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Edmund Marek January 1, 2012 at 5:55 am

I’ve been thinking about concrete ways for my kids to experience giving to others. We collect food for our parish every month, but the kids don’t see what happens with the food, keep sharing, thanks for the post.

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Crunchy Con Mommy January 1, 2012 at 6:37 pm

I am not sure I’d be up for planning out the year like that-who knows what our finances will be 6 or 9 months from now? And it’s just not how we roll (aka I couldn’t get Hubby on board so it’d be pointless)
But I definitely need to be more ACTIVE in my giving. I love sewing so I’m thinking of maybe starting to sew baby blankets for the local crisis pregnancy center. You’re a great writer and seem to understand marketing & the internet well-have you ever considered offering to revamp a website for local church and/or charities? Some I’ve seen are terrible, but I’m sure they don’t have the resources to hire a pro!

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