The Value of Giving, Part II


The Value of Giving, Part II

A Web site makes it easy and fun for children to give to a cause that interests them.

Last week I wrote about four tips help your children focus on helping others. The best way to teach children the joy of giving is to encourage them to make their own donations. And the more hands-on the gift, the easier it is for them to appreciate.

Thanks to Eric Garfinkel, kids (and their parents or grandparents) have a new way to make hands-on gifts that are both fun and effective. Garfinkel is the founder of Back to Basics Toys. Financially secure and looking for a way to give back, he came up with the idea for a Web site where kids could "make their own statement."

The result is Markmakers. Parents and other gift-givers buy children gift cards (there's a $10 minimum) that they may "spend" on causes that interest them.

Kids navigate the site with a shopping cart and may purchase, among other things, vaccines for children vulnerable to disease, a cow or goat for a family in Kenya, or books for families who can't afford them. The kids decide how to parcel out their money.


From the gift-giver's standpoint, 100% of the amount on the card is tax-deductible, and all of the money goes to the charities chosen. To design Markmakers, Garfinkel relied on his brain trust -- his four children, ages 21, 19, 14 and 6. Make it fun, they told him. Use animation, not text. Pick issues that are on the minds of kids.

Markmakers is a good way for kids to ease into grown-up charitable responsibilities under the guidance of their parents. It should come as no surprise that the key to raising charitable children is for parents to lead by example, and that applies to older children as well.

Knight Kiplinger, editor in chief of Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine, feels strongly about encouraging philanthropy in young adults. And in his personal giving he has taken steps to do just that.

Kiplinger is a big fan of donor-advised funds (DAFs). With a DAF, you set up an account with a community foundation or financial-services firm, and direct where your money goes. The foundation or company makes it easy by taking care of all the paperwork for you.

In addition to setting up his own DAF, Kiplinger has named his three twentysomething children as successor trustees. And in their estate plan, he and his wife have set up individual DAFs for each of the children. "We want them to know this is something that's expected of them," says Kiplinger.