The Only Gift Guide That Doesn’t Involve Buying More Stuff

The Fatherly Giving Guide is produced with the support our partners at the United Nations Foundation and Johnson & Johnson’s Donate A Photo initiative.

Having kids significantly tightened your wallet, but it also significantly increased your motivation to make the world better (assuming you’re, you know, not a misanthrope). Since they stand to inherit said better world, get them invested in the process of charitable giving early and often. You may as well start right now — last year, Americans donated more than $258 billion and 30 percent of those contributions came in December. It’s a good reminder that December is a season for generous kids and giving, no matter how many awesome robots they might be receiving.

As Melinda Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation explains, “We try to raise our children … to see and understand the world around them, to respect the dignity of every person, and to think about what needs to be done to make the world more fair and equal.” You can definitely get behind that, and you don’t need the largest philanthropic budget in history to do so.

generous kids

But you’re not just doing this for altruistic reasons. Ron Lieber, the New York Times columnist and author of The Opposite Of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, And Smart About Money, uses charitable giving as a means to improve kids’ financial literacy. He recommends parents teach their kids to bucket their hard-earned cash in one of 3 jars: “Save,” “Spend,” and “Give.” Make that the rule early on, and your kid won’t ever know a world where they’re not always thinking about who else can get some of that cheddar.

See? Change really does start at home.

How To Encourage Kids To Be Charitable

How To Encourage Kids To Be Charitable -- generous kids

  • Help Them Understand Why: If your kids are old enough to understand complex stuff like famine or natural disasters, don’t shrink from that conversation. And if they’re too young for it, simply explain that everyone — kids and adults — need help from others at some point. Then mutter under your breath about the help one particular adult needs with the chores he gave them last week.
  • Make It Tangible: Abstract concepts like “organizational overhead” or “international lobbying efforts” are tough for a kid to get excited about, but you know what’s easy for them to get excited about? Cows. If they know their donation to Heifer International, for example, is buying an actual cow, they’ll get a much more direct serotonin rush of having done someone some good. Or, just give them a snack every time they donate something. Kids are suckers for snacks.
  • Follow Their Lead: Ask your kids what causes they relate to or are passionate about, then talk about organizations that help. Hunger, wildlife conservation, and health are examples of worthy causes. “Batman” is not.
  • Do Your Due Diligence: Make sure the organization you give to is effective. GuideStar contains the records and ratings for 1.8 million nonprofits. It’ll takes less time than you spent vetting your kid’s piano teacher, and they only went once.
  • Take It To The Next Level: Organizations such as Girl Up and Charity: Water provide opportunities for kids to make their giving social by starting their own fundraisers with friends and classmates. Why play “make believe” when you can play “tangible socio-economic impact?”

11 Great Parents On Organizations Their Families Donate To

heifer international -- generous kidsMelinda Gates recommends supporting Heifer International, which helps lift communities out of poverty by providing livestock and training to people in need.

A $100 Donation Provides: A family with a gift basket of geese, ducks, chickens, goats, cows, and rabbits. Or, go for the whole damn water buffalo. Donate here.

baby buggy -- generous kidsJerry Seinfeld‘s wife, Jessica (hey, same initials!), is the founder of Baby Buggy, which provides clothing, gear, and services to families in need nationwide. In 2010, Baby Buggy launched a fatherhood initiative that provides dads in need with a variety of support tools.

A $100 Donation Provides: A portable crib, play area, or stroller to a family. Donate here or support through Donate A Photo.

american himalayan foundation -- generous kidsClimber and filmmaker Jimmy Chin recommends the American Himalayan Foundation, which provides education, healthcare, and cultural preservation to the Sherpas, Nepalis, and Tibetan people who help crazy people like him do crazy things like ski Everest.

A $100 Donation Provides: Educational opportunities and safety from exploitation for an at-risk girl in Nepal. Donate here.

the uso -- generous kidsFashion photographer Nigel Barker supports the USO, which keeps U.S. armed services members connected to the people, places, and things they love — like Louis CK, discussing the finer points of men’s underwear.

A $100 Donation Provides: A holiday care package to a service member, and a matching donation from Johnson & Johnson when you donate here. You can also Donate A Photo to support the USO.

vision spring -- generous kidsBefore entrepreneur Neil Blumenthal started Warby Parker and made everyone you know look a little more like Ira Glass, he worked for Vision Spring, which provides glasses to people in the developing world.

A $100 Donation Provides: Access to glasses for 25 people in the developing world, and $23 of economic impact for every dollar donated. Donate here.

operation smile -- generous kidsSurgeon Daniel Pyo is supporting Operation Smile, a global network of medical professionals who donate hundreds of thousands of hours toward the care of children around the world each year.

A $100 Donation Provides: A pre-surgery station stocked with toys and materials to make procedures a little less terrifying for kids. Donate here or support through Donate A Photo.

charity:water -- generous kidsThe do-gooder mogul and founder of TOMS Shoes, Blake Mycoskie, supports Charity: Water, which is run by a guy who turned his back on a successful career as a nightlife impresario to bring clean water to everyone. Tell that story to your teenager.

A $100 Donation Provides: Clean water to at least 3 people in need, with 100 percent of your donation going directly to projects. Donate here.

girl up -- generous kidsShervin Pishevar, a leading entrepreneur and venture capitalist, has been a long-time supporter of Girl Up, a campaign that helps empower girls in far-flung cultures around the world, where “empowering girls” doesn’t necessarily fall on their daily to-do list.

A $100 Donation Provides: A a bike, spare parts, maintenance training, and a chance for a brighter future for a girl in Guatemala. Donate here or support through Donate A Photo.

surfrider foundationSinger Ben Harper recommends the Surfrider Foundation, which helps protect the world’s oceans and beaches through conservation, activism, research, and education — or, as your kid calls it, “Nemo’s neighborhood.”

A $100 Donation Provides: Preservation and protection for a quarter-mile stretch of U.S. coast, which will instantly become your family’s go-to summer vacation beach. Donate here.

save the children -- generous kidsActress and mom Hilary Duff supports Save The Children, which supports kids in the U.S. and 120 countries with everything they need to grow up happy and healthy, including …

A $125 Donation Provides: A full stock of books to a library — 2 if you donate here and access Johnson & Johnson’s dollar-for-dollar match. You can also Donate A Photo to support Save The Children.

national student nurses' association -- generous kidsJournalist and nurse Jamie Davis supports the The Foundation of the National Student Nurses’ Association, which awards scholarships to qualified student nurses.

A $100 Donation Provides: Support to NSNA’s scholarship program, which you should not confuse with your child’s Space Camp fund. Donate here or support through Donate A Photo.

About Our Partners

Johnson & Johnson
Johnson & Johnson recognizes the impact that future generations can have as global citizens helping children and families around the world, which is why they created Donate A Photo. Now, the simple act of sharing a photo allows individuals to raise money and awareness for causes they are passionate about. Join Johnson & Johnson by donating a photo here.

The United Nations Foundation
The United Nations Foundation links the UN’s work with people around the world, mobilizing the energy and expertise of businesses and non-governmental organizations to help the UN tackle issues including climate change, global health, peace and security, women’s empowerment, poverty eradication, energy access, and U.S.-UN relations. You can support the UN Foundation and its campaigns here.

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