Giving Back:
Volunteer Work and More

Giving back is a key aspect of money education that we don't usually think about.



It's not that volunteer work and charity donations are low on our lists. It's more that we don't think about those activities as part of a financial education or teaching kids about money.

But they should be.

Giving back is a big part of the overall financial process even if it doesn't involve money. Charity volunteers help organizations who are fulfilling a need in the local or worldwide community. They either need money or help to keep their work going. In that way, they are very much a business with staffing and financial needs. Instead of relying on the standard profit model, though, most of them obtain the resources they need through volunteer work and monetary donations.

Making volunteer work or deciding to donate to charity part of your child's financial education is easy to do. The hard part (as with most things) is just getting started. Your child's budget or your family budget may not be able to handle contributing money. You may also feel that you'd rather be involved instead of just writing a check. That's great! There are so many volunteer opportunities that you can choose what you want to do. Here are some ways to get started.

Be a Youth volunteer
My daughter and several of her friends started a service group this past year. There have been some things that they wanted to do, such as volunteering at the local animal shelter, that they have been too young for. But there are many other options that have worked out wonderfully.

If your child is interested in being a youth volunteer, here are some things to consider:

  • What are their interests? It is easier to get excited about anything when you have an interest or a passion about it. It's also more likely that he will stick with it and see how his volunteer work is making a difference.
  • What is the commitment? Volunteer opportunities can range from weekly schedules year-round to a one-time trash pickup activity. Think about your child's interest and their other activities (and the rest of the family's) when considering what she can do.
  • Is the charity well run? Some charities make really good use of their financial and donated resources. Other don't. It can be disappointing to find out that all your hard work isn't providing the help you expected. This seems to be more of a problem with larger organizations that have lots of overhead costs. You can learn more about how to check out charities and charity rating systems here.

If you and your kids still seem stuck, it can help to see what other people are doing. Check out some kids and teens who started their own charity efforts.

Family volunteering
Getting the whole family involved can be a great way to spend time together and have a common goal. Whether it is helping paint your church or taking volunteer vacations, there are many options. Your family needs to look at the same questions you answered when deciding on the youth volunteer activities.

If family members have different interests, you may need to choose a couple of activities instead of having an ongoing volunteer commitment. One way to do this is to focus on events that need volunteers such as a 5K race that is raising money for breast cancer or supporting the local food drive. You can find more tips on getting the family involved at this page.

Donate to Charity
Most charities need monetary support no matter how much volunteer work gets done. There are still electric bills to be paid and supplies to be bought. We get calls week after week asking for donations to charities that seem like wonderful causes. It can be hard to say no even if your family budget doesn't have the room for another $10 contribution. How do you decide which ones to contribute to? Start by checking out the charity to see how it rates and if it's one of the top charities.

Your volunteer stories
Do you have a great idea or story to share about a youth volunteer or what your family is doing? Share it here!


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