A Tradition of Holiday Philanthropy
By: Barrett Krise, Senior Philanthropic Officer, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta
It’s the season of giving and often our thoughts turn to time with family, delicious meals and exchanging gifts. But it’s also a time when we think of giving back to others in our community, not just those in our immediate circle. I’m proud to be a member of The Junior League of Atlanta, Inc. (JLA), where giving is a part of the member experience. We volunteer our time throughout the year and help support many of Atlanta’s most impactful nonprofits.
Now that I have a toddler who is starting to realize the wonder of the holidays, it’s a busy time for my family in a new way. It can be easy for children, and even some adults, to get caught up in the material aspects of the holidays. One of the traditions that we have with our nieces and nephews, and hope to begin with our daughter soon, is to have one gift be a check with no payee written in. The direction is they can write in any nonprofit organization they want to support: the local shelter, their school, a museum or any other organization of their choosing. The idea is that for a few minutes during the frenzy of opening presents for themselves, they stop to think of someone else. This tradition also begins to instill the idea of giving to others and philanthropy.
In my work at the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, I interact with families who are very generous in their giving. For many of those families, giving is a multi-generational practice. It is a really special experience for children to hear their grandparents talk about the way they grew up and to start seeing traditions that weave through the generations.
Children who grow up seeing their parents and grandparents volunteering their time or donating to worthy causes are more likely to model that behavior. Even young children can start to learn valuable lessons about sharing and giving to others, especially when it’s a family activity. They can learn through storytelling or by doing simple things that are an act of kindness.
During the holidays, take some time to talk as a family about what you value and causes that are important to you. Reinforce the message that giving is fun, and it makes the giver feel so good. It’s not something you have to do, it should be something you want to do. But don’t stop there, make a commitment as a family to keep up these new traditions around giving all year long. It’s a tradition that could very well be your family’s lasting legacy.