The word “philanthropy” often brings to mind the establishment of trusts, scholarships, or research institutes worth hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars. It can feel, to many people, like something that is restricted to those with access to vast amounts of wealth. But the truth is that the majority of philanthropic giving is done by middle- and working-class people. So, how do you establish a spirit of philanthropy that endures for generations to come?

Start at home

Teaching your children the value and importance of charitable giving and philanthropic work is essential to creating a legacy of giving. It can begin by teaching children to be charitable to each other, family, and friends, and can extend to the wider community as children mature. Teach children that doing things for others is rewarding and the right thing to do. Involve your children from an early age in community work and set up a family tradition of giving that will last their whole lives.

Create traditions.

You’ve likely heard of families that annually volunteer at soup kitchens or homeless shelters during the holidays. For them, it is as much a part of the holiday celebration as turkey or gift-giving. Other families have a tiny charity box in the house where children can put a few coins every week, and then donate to the cause of their choice at the end of the month. Annual Fun Runs to raise money and awareness for charitable efforts, school supply drives, and other community-wide events can become yearly traditions for your family. Make giving back to your community a regular part of your life by establishing charitable 

Understand “community”

What issues are you passionate about? What motivates you? Volunteering, fundraising, and raising awareness about issues in your local community can help you connect with others in a deep and meaningful way. Planting trees, working in a community garden, volunteering at the library or even walking dogs for sick or elderly neighbors are all great ways to establish a habit of giving back to the community while connecting with those around you. As is often the case, one charitable effort leads to another as you discover how many issues are connected and how your local community is connected to the wider world.

It’s never too late to start a tradition of giving. Even young children can and should get in on the action. Involve your whole family in deciding which projects to take on and find ways to get involved as a group. Leaving a philanthropic legacy isn’t just for the one percent.