Fostering a Spirit of Philanthropy at Home

philanthropy Donations to the VCU Children’s Hospital (2012) and Community Clean Up (2010)


Do what you can, with what you have, where you are

-Theodore Roosevelt

If the word Philanthropy connotes an act of giving reserved only for the wealthiest or most privileged families, think again!

To be a Philanthropist simply means to DO GOOD by sharing your talents, interests, and resources of time, money, or voice. Acts of giving will look different for every family, but any effort, big or small, which blooms with intention to directly or indirectly improve the human condition now or for future generations, that’s Philanthropy!

How wonderful that no one need wait a single moment to improve the world.

-Anne Frank

Ready to get started? Here are a few ways you can cultivate a philanthropic spirit in your home:

Practice: The best way to begin to establish a new routine is to practice the desired behavior or skill. Integrate a tradition of giving, and communicate and nurture in your family life a value that says giving back is an important and worthwhile responsibility. Let the seasonal changes inspire your opportunities to give back, but don’t save all your love for the Holiday.

Lead by example: Invite your kids to observe and participate in your grown-up acts of philanthropy, whatever they may look like. Demonstrate your personal commitment to the causes your family chooses to support and work alongside your kids to accomplish shared goals. By working together you’ll foster a deeper connection with each other and develop a greater sense of purpose and belonging within the context of your community.

Identify or create an opportunity: Consider the shared interests of your family members, your combined availability, and the amount of time or money that you feel you can give. Let your child decide how he or she wants to get involved. Think big! Think small! Think local! Think International!  The opportunities you choose should encourage a sense of awareness, appreciation, curiosity, and compassion for others. Above all else keep it fun and age appropriate.

Document and celebrate your efforts: Keep track of the work your family does, the causes you contribute to, the events you volunteer for, or the small acts of kindness that you offer to others. Maybe you’ll take photos or video clips, keep a family journal, or create a wall hanging or poster to display in a common area of your home. However you choose to document your adventures, regularly review and celebrate all the ways your family works together to make your world a better place to live.

Life is a gift, and it offers us the privilege, opportunity, and responsibility to give something back by becoming more.

-Anthony Robbins

Now that you’ve considered your family’s capacity for giving back you are ready to choose an organization, cause, or activity to invest in!

  • Check out the HandsOnNetwork to find a HandsOn Action Center near you and identify existing volunteer opportunities in your area. Richmond’s action center can be found here. Once you’ve typed in your zip code, you can refine your search by a number of variables including age of volunteer. Last I checked there were opportunities for kids as young as 1 year to participate in a range of activities from holiday food and clothing drives, meal delivery, adopting residents and families, the list goes on! There are so many ways to make a difference.
  • Use an online database like Volunteer Match to find a worthy cause or to inspire a service project of your own.
  • Consider the local organizations and nonprofits that you value in your community and contact them to learn more about ways your family can contribute to their cause. Visit to learn more about an organization’s mission, legitimacy, impact, reputation, finances, programs, transparency, governance, and so much more. Search by name, keyword, or location to find organizations that specialize in the causes you care most about and to find those that serve your area.

Other Resources and Inspiration:

If you’re looking for simple, family friendly activities that you can carry out on your own, check out this eBook about Family Volunteering. It’s full of great ideas from A to Z.

Also visit GenerationOn for online resource guides that cover topics like how to engage your family in local volunteer opportunities, how to plan a community service project for your family, instructions for at-home family service projects and more!

And here are a few books to add to your library:

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.
-Dr. Seuss