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The Money Messenger -- Getting Started on Giving Back
July 03, 2009


Welcome to Issue #020 of The Money Messenger!

The Money Messenger brings you the latest on your kids and money.

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The Money Messenger

In This Issue

Getting Started on Giving Back This month's articles focus on teaching kids the value of helping others through volunteering as well as donating money

A reader's question on helping kids get started in volunteering when they are younger

What's new and what's next?

Note from Jennifer

It's July! Happy Independence Day to those of you in the US. In addition to celebrating the 4th of July, you can also celebrate National Hot Dog, Ice Cream and Grilling month. All great summertime treats to enjoy in this hot month.

Summer isn't usually when you think of volunteering, though. Often winter holidays are a time when we think of volunteer work or donating money to charities. But giving back in any form can be a year-round activity, and summer might just be a great time to start. There are options for kids and families to get involved in lots of different ways. You might even be able to plan something around your vacation.

Sound interesting? This month's articles are focused on giving you some ideas on how to get started in volunteering and choosing charities to donate either your time or money to.

Grab your grilled hot dog and cold ice cream then enjoy the rest of the newsletter!

Feature Article
Getting Kids Involved in Volunteering

When it comes to teaching kids about money, giving back isn't the first thing that pops to mind. There are so many other things to think about from counting money to their first savings account. How do you fit in the subject of giving back - either in time or money?

For younger kids, it can be easier. Most kids want to help others out. They like being nice and making others feel good. Explaining to kids that they are helping others can be the icebreaker you need. Helping them understand that sometimes others need help can work best if you can give them an example from someone they know. Have your family or friends needed help after a fire or natural disaster? Do you know anyone who has been sick or hurt? Giving back includes small acts of kindness for family, friends and neighbors so this can be a great first step for this age group.

Tweens and teens are old enough to understand more about why charities exist and how they can help others. These older ages can be the right time to help preteens and teens find causes or groups that really interest them. Does your preteen daughter love animals? Volunteering at a shelter or collecting tennis balls for toys might be for her. Can your teenage son repair bikes with his eyes closed? Helping fix donated bikes for underprivileged kids may be the volunteer work he enjoys.

Of course, kids can also give money but volunteering can be a better option for a couple of reasons. First, kids usually don't have much money to donate - and they might not want to give it away. While might seem greedy, it's normal and can be a great way for them to think of other ways to give back instead of using money. Second, volunteer work is hands-on and can be more fulfilling to kids than giving money. They can see the results of their work and contribute to a cause they enjoy.

You can also get involved as a family. Whether it's having a garage sale where the proceeds go to charity or volunteering together, giving back as a family can be a important part of your overall family focus and helps kids further understand the ways they can give back as they grow.

The key to successful volunteering or donating is to make it enjoyable and meaningful. Not everyone in the family will like the same things (I bet you know this already!), and volunteer work is no different. Take the time to find what clicks for your family and the kids and you'll be off to a great start!

Feature Article
Unique Opportunities for Giving Back

Part of the fun in giving back is finding new ways to do it. Your kids could even start their own ideas if they can't find one that fits or that's not being done. Here are some things to explore in your own backyard and around the world.

  • Check out non-profits in your area. If your kids love animals, there are sure to be opportunities at a local shelter. Depending upon their ages, kids can help walk dogs or help collect needed supplies.
  • Contact national organizations. Well-run national organizations such as the Red Cross often have local programs that are run by volunteers. Teens could learn to do a CPR and first aid presentation to give to youth groups. Or kids can help assemble first aid or school supply kits for kids overseas.
  • Volunteer globally. Whether it's Habitat for Humanity International or Cross-Cultural Solutions, there are many options for families to learn about different cultures and parts of the world through volunteer work.
  • Visit a state or national park. State and national parks take lots of work to keep up. Volunteers who love the parks and the outdoors can help keep these parks beautiful for others and the future. And you can even work into your next vacation! A great place to learn more is at Charity Guide.

These are just some ideas to get your started. Now, it's time to make your own list with some basics in mind.

  • As with all things in the family, not everyone will want to do the same thing or enjoy it equally. That's fine. You can trade-off on who gets to pick the volunteer activity so that everyone gets a chance to focus on their favorite or you can find parts of each volunteer option that fit everyone.
  • Don't take on too much at once. Just like exercising, it can be tempting to overcommit to the volunteer work that you and your family can do. Don't do it. Between family burnout and not being able to help as much as you thought, this can result in a mess.
  • Really think about how much of your giving back you want to do as volunteering and how much you want to donate money or goods. While the focus of this article has been on volunteering, charities will often need money to do basic things like paying utility bills. Ensuring that your charity of choice is using these resources the best way possible can be made easier by using charity ratings.

Once you have your list, you can get started. Take a test drive by volunteering for an hour or so to start. Once you have a better idea of what your volunteering involves, you can try out new options or expand on your first one.

Ask the Editor!

Here's where I answer your questions. Noni writes that both of her kids are under age 11 but would really like to get involved in volunteering. The problem is that they seem to be too young for most things. Are there good volunteer opportunities for kids? Here's the advice:

Getting kids involved at younger ages is a great idea - and can be a challenge. Many kids love animals and would like to volunteer at an animal shelter. But many shelters require kids to be age 12 or older for many tasks. Other organizations can have the same limits.

What's a kid to do?

Get creative. Finding ways to help can come down to thinking about it differently. Try these ideas.

  • Look at what kids can do, not what they can't. They might not be able to walk dogs at the animal shelter or help groom them. They can collect old tennis balls and towels for those same dogs.
  • Find small parts of bigger projects they can do. Habitat for Humanity's youth program is a great example of this that may already be working in your community.
  • Think of kids in need and find ways to help them. Organizations that serve kids appreciate other kids who want to help. The Ronald McDonald House or children's hopsitals often have such opportunities, ranging from entertaining other kids to actually doing small tasks.
  • Have your kids run a lemonade stand or garage sale and donate the proceeds. These things can seem less like work when there is a bigger goal. My daughter's service group recently held a garage sale that made over $80 for the local animal shelter. They loved presenting the check donation and getting a tour (plus their picture in the newsletter).

Using these ideas, sit down with your kids and brainstorm on all the options you and they can think of. You might be surprised with the inventive things they can come up with!

If you have some great ideas for kids volunteering, share them here.

What's New?

The latest updates to the site have focused on giving back with several different resources.

Coming soon...the next issue of The Money Messenger

August's issue will focus on getting back into the groove as school rolls around. Transitions can be challenging - especially when you feel like you were just starting to master the summer schedule. You can find some tips and ideas to help you through it in next month's issue. If you have questions you'd like to see addressed for that issue, just use the Contact Form or email me at

Talk to you soon!

Comments or suggestions?

If you have any comments or suggestions for future newsletters, please let me know. I want to be sure that this newsletter meets your needs. Feel free to provide your comments using this contact form.

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