How Youth Gain Philanthropic Experience and Confidence from 12 -14 years

Your children and their friends may need extra help and support to adjust to the emotional and social challenges of adolescence. Talk to teachers and school counselors. Encourage your adolescent to become involved in service-learning opportunities related to issues for which they have a passion or deep belief.

Philanthropic Concepts for the Middle-School Age Child

  • Philanthropy as the sharing of time, talent, and treasure, throughout history and from around the world.
  • The “ common good” and examples of it
  • The roles of the government, nonprofit, and business sectors
  • The relationship of a market economy to philanthropic giving
  • Why and where people have sacrificed for the benefit of an unknown other person or group
  • How the separation of church and state has placed all religious institutions in the independent sector
  • Organizations in the independent/nonprofit sector that speak for minority groups (advocacy is one of the many important roles of the nonprofit sector in a democracy—protection of minority groups from the potential tyranny of the majority)
  • A corporation that has provided a philanthropic service to the community
  • Different jobs available in the nonprofit sector
  • Concept of civil society

Ideas for You and Your Children

Volunteerism and Development

Middle-school youth are very concrete in their thinking and do well at tasks that use their talents and strengths. Because middle-school students are developing adult-like capabilities, these are the ideal years to stretch their experience and thinking through volunteerism. For example:

  • Serve as a nursing-home aide.
  • Deliver meals, cut food for residents, and assist with eating.
  • Provide activities of interest to senior citizens.
  • Help with your local parks and recreation department.
  • Assist with spring flower planting and upkeep.
  • Assist with park clean up.
  • Develop and implement activities for younger children.

Preparing for Citizenship

Encourage children to be involved in or run in school elections. Be careful to talk about the difference between popularity and platform: “find out what is important to your classmates, and your platform could be getting that thing done.” While not every child will want a position of leadership, each child can become involved in student government in some way. For example:

  • Make posters in support of a candidate.
  • Write newspaper articles for the school paper.
  • Organize a “get out the vote” program in school.
  • Write and complete a survey on school issues.
  • Develop a Web page for the candidates.

Involve Your Child in Giving Decisions

Your support for your middle-school child's volunteer efforts is especially important. Volunteer experiences at this age are most successful when they allow the child to make a personal connection with someone needing help. Developing a relationship with someone who is “different” may cause discomfort, fear, or confusion, yet these experiences help develop the ability to empathize with others.

Encourage Charitable Giving

Your children's cognitive development now allows them to understand how abstract concepts (e.g., organizations) represent concrete things (like their favorite cause, animals). With a little help from you, they can identify charitable organizations supporting their causes. Encourage them to interview local nonprofit organizations, or write for information prior to making small gifts.

Give Them Control

You should support your children's giving even if it is to a charity, purpose, or cause that you might not support. Your middle-school children need some real control over what they are doing. If you subvert their power at this vulnerable point, you may discourage future charitable giving. These must be your children's gifts, from their resources, freely given to things that they care about.

Support New Experiences in Youth Organization Involvement

At this age, your children want new challenges, new responsibilities, and to be taken seriously. They also want to spend more and more time with friends. If they are already involved in a youth organization, there may be new programs to address these needs. For example, Junior Optimist International has clubs for Junior High students and promotes interest in government and leadership. Leadership skills can be developed through Boy or Girl Scouts . New groups may also fill these developmental needs. Your children, previously involved in 4-H , may now turn to Future Farmers of America ( FFA ) because of its strong focus on leadership and preparing youth for a career in agriculture or food production. Investigate the wealth of possibilities at the National Youth Development Information Center (a project of the National Collaboration for Youth ) Web site and its member organizations.

Talk! Talk! Talk!

Continue to talk with your children about why it's important to care, why your family cares, and why youcare. Help him “make sense” of giving and serving.

Questions to Stimulate Reflection - Ages 12-14

  • What did you like about the service experience (helping/giving/sharing)? How did it make yo u feel? What do you think you accomplished? What else could you have done? How could the experience have been more meaningful?
  • What did you like about the nonprofit organization you visited? What did you dislike about it? How did you feel about receiving help or services? What purpose do you think the organization or its volunteers serves?
  • What did you like most about the person you helped or to whom you gave? How do you think they felt? Did you feel you made a difference? Would you do anything differently next time?
  • How does it feel to be a citizen of the United States? Our democracy gives us many rights, do we also have responsibilities? How can you and your friends make a difference as citizens?
  • What is the difference between a hero and a celebrity? Who do you respect and how have they made a difference because of their actions?
  • How does it feel to know your family supports certain causes? Has your family had an impact in making your community a better place?

Activities for Middle School Youth

  • Read books with philanthropic content about giving and sharing. 
  • Involve your child in a nonprofit group
  • Hold family discussions on issues related to philanthropy
  • Become involved in a regular planned, volunteer experience
  • Encourage high-quality service-learning in schools both for your child and other children
  • Talk with your child about why your family cares
  • Encourage involvement in student government