Getting My Nephews Hooked!

Getting My Nephews Hooked: How do I engage my family in philanthropy?

I love my nephews.  These two amazing boys are part of the reason I took a job here in Houston.  During my first year living in here one of my nephews asked about my new job.  As I began describing my work in organized philanthropy I saw both boys’ eyes glaze over.  This caused the birth of an idea that would have made my teacher mom quite happy.

Many of my earliest memories of the holidays included the one big item I’d hoped for and several practical things like fruit from our church (always a bag with two oranges, an apple and peppermint), clothes and socks. These were not items at the top of my list when considering what to give my nephews. Every year it gets harder and harder to find the right gift for two now teenage boys who are blessed to have both things they need and want. As I begin preparing for the holiday season I started thinking about what I’d give my nephews. Books, gaming programs, sports memorabilia were on the list but nothing really excited me. I also tried to recall what I’d given them the last two holiday seasons and much to my disgust I couldn’t. I then remembered the glazed eyes and realized that I had not been more intentional in being a model for giving. I decided to create an “I am philanthropist” experience for them.

I decided to provide them with the opportunity to be intentional philanthropists. This experience was done with a $150, a timeline and a guide book.

  • I determined the amount of cash because I wanted it to be significant and provide options for a single or multiple gifts.
  • I placed a time limit on their decisions because that is what happens in real life and I also didn’t want this experience to get lost in the midst of their busy lives.
  • Finally I prepared a bonded and personalized handbook. The creation of the guidebook including defining philanthropy, setting out the parameters of the experience and providing information on several non-profits. I chose organizations that were connected to children, had tangible results, geographically close or were issues impacting our family. I curated ten groups and provided a short description of who they were, who they helped and why/how.

When the boys opened their gifts, confusion and not joy was on their faces. After I cleared up the confusion they wanted clarification that all of the money had to be given away (and not to each other). I spent lots of time curating the list and in the end they were influenced by other factors – including the heavy rotation of a powerful commercial on animal shelters.

When their thank you letters arrived they were surprised too receive them and it sparked an additional conversation on how the money was being used, if they’d like to make this an annual tradition and if they were happy with their choices. My nephews are also now on the donor list of these organizations. This means they receive newsletters and new requests to continue supporting the organizations. What was their learning? It made them more aware of the role individual contributions play in organizations that help communities thrive.

Would I do it again? Yes. My hope is that the guidebook becomes unnecessary and my financial gift includes their own contribution. My recommendation would be that habits require practice. Engaging my nephews in philanthropy is not a one-time event. Please check out our guidebook. The creation of it was fun and inexpensively bond at an office supply store. If you’ve done something similar or decide to give it a try we’d loved to hear about your experience and how it was received.