SHERIDAN — After selling eggs from his family’s chickens and helping out-of-town neighbors, 8-year-old Grayson Moore saved his hard-earned money to buy food to donate to The Food Group.
His mother and Food Group employee, Elizabeth Moore, said though she and her husband have always tried to talk to their three sons about the importance of serving others, the idea for Grayson to use his money on a donation to The Food Group was all his own.
“He sees kids going home from school with food bags and we’ve talked about what the purpose of The Food Group is and why there’s a need for it,” Moore said. “So he decided he wanted to save up his money to buy food for (less fortunate) kids.”
The Moores are one example of how families, schools and communities teach children to become philanthropic. Moore said they try to volunteer as a family, and have also used other means of teaching, like the idea of religious tidings, to teach their sons the larger lesson of what it means to give back and the role that takes in being a leader.
“Being a leader doesn’t mean telling people what to do,” Moore said “… Having a servant heart is a big part of being a leader and just shining a light to other people who maybe aren’t as fortunate as you are.”
When it comes to teaching children to give back, Center for a Vital Community executive director Amy Albrecht said one thing parents can do is be a model.
“As a parent, they need to see you volunteering,” Albrecht said. “They need to see you serving on boards, they need to hear you talk about the work that you’re doing and the work that the nonprofit that you are volunteering for is doing.”
According to the organization Learning to Give, youth are four times more likely to take voluntary action if someone they respect prods them to do so. Learning to Give provides lessons and resources that apply to children in kindergarten through high school. The Michigan-based group’s mission is to provide tools to help teachers educate, equip and empower students to be giving and caring citizens.
Another way to instill the give-back attitude in children is to figure out what their passions are and connect them with a nonprofit that is supporting the cause.
“I think that’s how you do it,” Albrecht said. “You model the behavior but you also plug them into the thing that they really love and show them how there’s a different way, you don’t have to participate, you can also support.”
Getting kids involved in activities that involve giving time also helps to show that philanthropy isn’t all about money.
“There’s so many nonprofits that have hands-on opportunities,” Albrecht said. “It’s OK if you don’t have an extra $50, but you know what we can do, we can go bring our shovels …or we can go and clear the trash off the side of the creek or the highway.”
Inspiring children to get involved doesn’t just come from home, though. It also comes from schools and peers, as well.
Big Horn High School counselor Tami Mavrakis said the school has different programs and opportunities to get students involved. Options range from organized clubs, like Key Club, to programs like Ram Mentors, where high school students work with elementary school students on campus.
Mavrakis said student-to-student programs, like mentoring and tutoring, also help students encourage each other to give back.
Teaching children to be philanthropic brings benefits to that person as well as larger scale benefits to organizations, communities and the nation.
For students, volunteering has educational benefits, as it’s something colleges and scholarship committees look for.
Moore said she thinks about it in terms of raising the nation’s leaders and stressing the role that serving others and having a “grateful heart” plays into that.
Additionally, Albrecht said getting kids involved early on helps them to understand what it takes to sustain the things they love and how they have a “stake in the survival and the growth” of these things, not just for themselves but for future generations as well.
“If they don’t see that they are impacted not just by the enjoyment of it, but also by its survival, and by its ability to continue on, if they don’t see that, then it will go away and they will lose those opportunities,” Albrecht said.