You don’t need to be Bill Gates, Warren Buffett or George Soros to be a philanthropist.
In fact, to be a philanthropist you don’t need any money at all but a spirit of generosity and a sense of charity.
If you have plenty of money to give then great but social capital is something you can give too and that has enormous value.
What do children know about philanthropy? Ask them:
- What does it mean to give your time?
- What does it mean to give your talent?
- What does it mean to give your possessions?
- What does common good mean?
Many children won’t realise that they already engage in some form of philanthropy, whether it be donating loose change to a charity or giving their help to a community in need.
There are many different ways of being philanthropic that don’t involved giving someone £1 million – philanthropy is a portfolio.
Children can see that philanthropy is something in which they are capable of participating by focusing outwards and stepping into the shoes of others.
By building a range of opportunities for philanthropy into school and home life, children can see different ways they can help others and this can then become a part of who they are.
UK schools are good at talking about charities and communities in need but they could do more to make philanthropy an attitude, a mindset and a way of life. It can be small-scale or large-scale but it needs to be regular rather than just now and again.
Children might decide to act on something high-profile in the news (e.g. earthquake, flood victims, conflict) or something real and meaningful to them that resonates (e.g. a health issue, animal charity or environmental concern).
Philanthropy might be donating toys and unwanted items to make a Christmas shoebox gift, volunteering to help in a local community project or engaging in random acts of kindness and making them the norm. It’s about making the world a better place.
Although we need to be mindful of the mainstreaming of charities in schools and making children more aware of who they are donating to, as Power and Taylor (2018) say, “…getting young people to work together on collective endeavours for others – whether it is through baking cakes or having ‘non-uniform’ days – is an important aspect of citizenship education.”
As Young Citizens, and its parent charity the Citizenship Foundation, say, “Britain’s future depends on empowering the next generation to become active citizens.”
We have amazing opportunities to help shape a giving mindset and develop a sense of social responsibility, global citizenship and philanthropic leadership.