By Betsy Brush Hahn
EDITOR’S NOTE: “Give Well” is a weekly column written by Dawn Franks of Your Philanthropy, Betsy Brush Hahn of the Women’s Fund and Kyle Penney of the East Texas Communities Foundation.
Giving together, whether as a family or a set of like-minded friends, can create meaningful ties and powerful memories. A boy in my son’s baseball league was diagnosed with cancer. When we first heard about the illness, parents were sad and worried. The boys didn’t know what to say or how to act towards their friend. In that first moment, we all felt helpless. One thing was clear immediately. The family needed money for all the costs associated with treatment. They also needed the love and support of a community.
The families playing in the league joined together to raise money and help. They sold t-shirts which showed support as well as earned money and held a special tournament. Parents, players, siblings, friends and teams from other leagues all pulled together.
The boys still wear those t-shirts and talk about how their friend is doing. Their faces are serious as they contemplate what it is like to spend weeks in a hospital enduring chemotherapy. The empathy they feel brings tears to their eyes and they quickly start throwing balls back and forth to help deal with the emotion.
Talking about money stirs strong emotions including happiness, relief, fear and embarrassment. People often avoid talking frankly about money, even with their closest family members. This is most true when the financial conversation affects us as individuals or people we care about.
Put most simply, money is a measure of value. We use money for things that are important to us. A quick look at your family or personal budget can show what means the most to you. Research tells us that people are happiest when their actions and activities align closely with their values.
Two more examples demonstrate how giving as a family can be an effective tool for teaching the next generation.
A father wanted to teach his children how to handle money well and how to work together once he was gone. He sat the family around the table and gave the children, as a group, a set amount of money to give to charity. The rules were that they had to decide together, they all had to agree and they had to give it away.
This led to family conversations about the needs of others and what it would take to help. As they worked on the project, each child articulated what was most important to them and shared that with others in the family. They talked about why particular situations and causes moved them and which were urgent. Together, the children had to compromise because their interests were different. They learned what was on each other’s hearts and minds and more importantly they learned why.
Another family wanted a concrete way to teach their kids how to manage the family business. When the children were in high school and college, they were given a set amount of money to invest together. Whatever they earned would be used for family vacations, which the kids had to plan together using what they had earned. That first year, the family went camping. However, over the years they had many fruitful conversations and by the time they inherited it, already had experience handling business within the family.
There are many different philanthropic opportunities during the holidays. Consider making a gift of building relationship through giving.
Betsy Brush Hahn is President of The Women’s Fund. The mission of The Women’s Fund is to leverage the philanthropic capacity of women as a catalyst for positive change. All women are welcome to join. To learn more, visit www.womensfundsc.org .