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Get Your Grandkids in the Giving Spirit by Volunteering Together

Spending time together helping others is one of the greatest gifts a grandparent can give their grandchildren, and it pays off in so many ways. Here are some ideas to help get you started.

You can’t discuss handling money responsibly without discussing the concept of giving.

Charitable giving is a subject close to my heart and something I have emphasized to my children, and now with my grandchildren, since they were young. It is an opportunity for you to impart your personal values to your offspring. My mantra is: You are not your money, you are your values.

A charitable donation can be made in many ways. It can be as small a gesture as giving spare change to a homeless person on the street – offering a powerful visual lesson for a child, to see that there are people less fortunate than themselves. It is also important to give to a specific charity that you and your grandchild have selected together.

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While giving money is important, perhaps the most precious gift of all is the gift of time and consideration. “Volunteerism” is a crucial concept. When your grandchild volunteers to help others, they become empowered by their acts and very aware of their link with the community. And as my Four Jar Budgeting Allowance System shows us, charity is a key element of managing your finances responsibly.

Giving of Yourself

Explain to your grandchild that volunteer work together can be fun. This is a great activity that can become cherished memory of the precious time you will spend with them.

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With that in mind, you may want to look for something that matches your grandchild’s talents or interests. For instance, if your grandchild is interested in soccer, they could find a preschool program that needs help supervising the children. When my kids were young, on Christmas morning, we went into a local hospital and helped to serve meals to folks. Now my granddaughter and I make candles and toy “slime” together. There is a local store that will sell our goods. We have set up a “company” we call Grandma and Me.

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A portion of our sales goes to a charity that my granddaughter has selected, Freedom from Fistula, which provides care to women in Africa injured during prolonged and obstructed childbirth. I explained this charity to my granddaughter and said I am so passionate about it because I gave birth to her mother by caesarean section. If I had been from an African village, I may not have been so lucky to have my daughter. If my daughter had not been born, I wouldn’t have my granddaughter. She is now passionate about this charity, as well, and our personal connection to the issue formed the basis of our business Grandma and Me.

How to Start

Watching the news together, talking to friends, or just helping your grandchild observe the world around them can help uncover volunteer projects that are appropriate and will interest them. You can research opportunities online. It doesn’t have to be complicated. For instance, some nursing homes welcome people to come with their friendly dogs who just love to be petted by the people in the facility. What an easy way to spread some joy.

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There are kids’ volunteer groups are in every school and house of worship. And, there are dozens of places right in your town where your grandchild can work a few hours with you to help others. I bet it will only take you one or two phone calls to locate something in your community.

My son volunteered at a senior living facility to play Scrabble with the residents. He did get “fired,” however, when the seniors felt that he was just letting them win. He was really upset when he got back home and exclaimed, “They thought I was throwing the game their way; they didn’t understand that I just can’t spell.”

Stop Complaining and Be the Change

Empower your grandchildren to know that they have the power to do something to make positive change. Start the discussion by letting your grandchildren know the organizations you have donated to and where you have volunteered. They can also make a commitment right in your community. Let’s say your grandchildren want to raise money for a local cause. Make sure your young ones just don’t complain about a problem or expect someone else to do something about it. You want your grandchildren to decide that they can make an impact and that they are dedicated enough to work to do something about the problem.

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Next, set a goal. Have your grandchild spell out, in one simple sentence, what their goal is. For example: “We, the kids of Chester, N.J., want to raise money for a children’s playground in Newark so kids there can have a place to play.”

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Your grandkids need to set a date to accomplish their goal. (This is important; imagine if their teacher said, “Just hand in your homework whenever you’d like!”) Have your grandchild set a realistic date for completion and a timetable for sub goals to be met along the way.

The Pitch

Your grandchild might need to convince people that a new playground is needed. Maybe they could poll the kids in the neighborhood to see where they are playing or hanging out now. They could write down their stories, describing how they are now playing in a parking lot, and use that information to support their plans.

It is challenging to raise money. It’s time to hit up your friends. Brief them before your grandchild makes the pitch. Make sure that your young ones also know that raising money is not just collecting money from your friends; they also need to earn money for their cause.

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You can give them odd jobs to do to also earn money. For instance, they can rake leaves, water plants, clean out the garage or attic, change light bulbs (as you hold them on the chair), plant your garden, etc.

Keep It Simple

Volunteer projects can range from painting and repairing neglected homes, helping older neighbors with home maintenance, teaching someone how to use the computer, or volunteering at the local library. I’ve seen young volunteers with their grandparents at community charity runs, handing out drinks to the runners. Last year, I saw a group of kids weeding a public garden.

Remember, it’s important to get permission to do any public project you’ve planned. Most communities have volunteer programs, as do civic organizations, churches, mosques and synagogues. If you’re having trouble coming up with a project, give one of them a call. They will love to hear from you.

Focus on the Teachable Moments

Most of all, remember that volunteering to help others instills positive values in your grandchildren that will stay with them their entire lives. You are showing your grandchildren that they can make a difference. By volunteering, they can learn what it feels like to give of themselves and be part of the community. What a great gift!

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About the Author

Neale Godfrey, Financial Literacy Expert

President & CEO, Children's Financial Network Inc.

Neale Godfrey is a New York Times #1 best-selling author of 27 books, which empower families (and their kids and grandkids) to take charge of their financial lives. Godfrey started her journey with The Chase Manhattan Bank, joining as one of the first female executives, and later became president of The First Women's Bank and founder of The First Children's Bank. Neale pioneered the topic of "kids and money," which took off after her 13 appearances on "The Oprah Winfrey Show." www.nealegodfrey.com

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