The Value of Volunteering

Volunteer_PowerI was a lucky kid growing up. I was fortunate in the sense that my parents had successful careers and as a result, I had the benefit of a lifestyle that afforded me lots of material things that I know other kids did not have.

Where I think that I am truly lucky is that my parents did not just blindly give me whatever I wanted. They worked hard to make sure that I understood both the value of money- and that not everyone had access to the same material goods that we did. The way in which this was accomplished was through a family commitment to charity work and volunteerism.

As a parent now, I agree wholeheartedly. When it comes to teaching kids about money, the sure-fire way to replace attitude with gratitude is to volunteer your time or to make charitable donations.

Choose a Cause that Resonates

What is your family interested in? Do they like animals, reading or sports? Perhaps older children are watching the news and have become aware of situations around the world- like natural disasters or famine-struck areas in need of support.

Pick a cause that matters to your family- because the lessons to be learned here are deeply personal and are only effective if they resonate on a connected level.

You don’t have to limit yourself to one cause either. You can choose say, to make a financial donation to one organization and then choose to donate time to another.

Time is Money

Money is an abstract concept for many kids, and can be even harder to grasp with our plastic debit and credit friendly society.

One way of helping to frame this concept is by linking the value of your time.  Even if you are a salaried employee, break down your wages by the hour to your kids. When you volunteer your time, explain that this is the equivalent of x amount of dollars of paid word, according to how you get paid.

You can extend this particular lesson on specific items for purchase when your kids are asking you for things. You can explain that, for your salary, this item would take x amount of hours of paid work to purchase.

What this does is lend context to this vague concept, and is grounding in terms of understanding value associated with dollars.

Your Place in the World

Volunteering and acts of charity not only help to quantify and qualify the concept of money, they contribute to helping children understand their place in the world- literally.

For kids, instant gratification is a major guiding force in their lives. By volunteering or donating, kids become aware of others- across the ocean, or across town that are not as lucky. People are people, no matter where they are- and it is largely circumstance and in some cases geography that influence affluence.

In this sense, for kids, volunteering is at once humbling and empowering.

Actions Speak Louder than Words

Really, as a baseline, parenting is about setting your kids up for success as adults. What more valuable lesson than teaching them the benefit of putting their money where their mouths are- literally.

There are talkers and there are doers. Which would you rather raise? Acts of kindness simply for the sake of kindness and an understanding of the positive impact of that gives kids valuable tools as they grow up.

Budget for Charity

Do your kids get an allowance? Make sure that a portion of their allowance is allocated towards charity, so that they can see the link between their earnings and goodwill.

If you don’t do allowance, allocate a “chore” on a regular basis that is charitable in nature. This can be shovelling a neighbour’s sidewalk, visiting senior citizens or collecting items for the local food bank- whatever resonates most and is age appropriate for your child.