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Kids: Making an Imprint
With a healthy dose of creativity, drive and pluck, kids of all ages are making a difference or at least dreaming about it – with kid-initiated start-ups, family businesses and charitable giving.

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Giving Inc. Vs Getting Inc.
Posted on June 5, 2013 by Sara Eberle

When kids go into business together—and actually turn a profit—do you encourage them to keep it or give it to charity? Here’s how two 8-year-old friends decided what to do with the cha-ching from their T-shirt business. 

 

Most times, when kids start a business, you don’t need to give much thought to the money they make. After all, roadside lemonade stands aren’t putting Pepsi out of business and backyard puppet shows don’t have the Man of Steel quaking in his cape at the box office. But when young entrepreneurs do launch a business that pulls down some serious cash, do you let them pocket it or urge them to do good by giving the money to a deserving charity?

 

Such was the quandary for Hank Whalen and his best friend, fellow 8-year-old Evan Eberle. The pair’s T-shirt company—which featured the positive message, “Don’t Go Below Zero”—was founded when their respective families were dealing with serious illnesses at the same time. Hank wanted to donate all proceeds to pancreatic cancer because his grandfather was diagnosed with the disease last year. Evan, on the other hand, wanted to deposit the funds and build wealth.

 

Both are respectable, important objectives, so for a solution we turned to Cindy Senning, EdD, great-granddaughter of Emily Post and the director of the Emily Post Institute in Burlington, Vt. “Similar to what adults do, it’s okay for kids to donate a percentage of their business income to charity and use the rest to pay expenses, put into their savings account or spend on something special.”

 

In the end, Evan came around to thinking that donating a portion of the profits to charity was the thing to do. But the initial impasse pointed to what time has proven:  Hank and Evan make good business partners because they complement one another. Hank has a generous heart, while Evan has the instincts to turn a profit and build a successful T-shirt empire.

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If your little money-makers are still resistant to giving some of their hard earned ba-bling away, try getting them involved in picking the organization they want to support, suggests Senning. “Encourage kids to go online and explore places that are relevant to what is happening in their life,” she says. “Teach kids how to research groups that aid children who want to play soccer in third world countries, for instance, or point them toward animal shelters if they love and can relate to animals.” Or tell them about World Bicycle Relief, a group that provides bikes to people in rural areas of Africa where two-wheeled transportation is a lifeline to clean water, education, healthcare, markets and jobs.  Kids get  the benefits of “bike riding” because it’s fun and something they do every day.

 

Convincing children they should give back has life-long benefits, says Katy Shamitz, partner, Skills for Living in Norwell, MA. “The amount you teach kids to give to charity varies from family to family, but it’s important to build in the concept of giving from an early age,” says Shamitz.  “In the long run, kids feel like they’ve contribute something meaningful.  It also sets up a positive habit for life.  Kids are natural helpers, and teaching them to help financially empowers them.”

 

Philanthropic work is also the basis for building character, something parents want to instill in their children.  “The act of giving from your business teaches kids to respect for others, which, in turn, builds self-respect,” says Senning.  “It also gives kids a chance to create non face-to-face relationships with other people across the nation and the world, which is the foundation of good manners and etiquette, and being a good person.”

 

Here are more tips for getting your budding business executive to give:

 

1.  Break it Down.  Suggesting that kids donate 10 percent of net profits to charity is a great place to start. Use simple math, such as $10 for every $100 earned goes to a charity of choice.  Increase or decrease as the business grows or declines.

 

2.  Guide by Age Younger kids will do better with limited, action-oriented choices.   For example, set aside a certain amount of the profits to buy groceries and then drop off those groceries together at a food pantry.  “This way, kids can ‘see’ and then ‘do,’” says Shamitz.  “Make donations a regular part of your family routine versus a big ‘hurrah’ moment of self-congratulation.”

 

3.  Point to Other Successful Entrepreneurs.  Show kids how billionaire Bill Gates donates his time and money to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which believes every person deserves the chance to live a healthy, productive life.  This could also inspire kids to create their own fund to support different causes each year or a single mission that’s a personal passion, such as rescuing endangered species.

 

4.  Suss out Charities.  In addition to letting kids pick their favorite charity, encourage them to research different organizations and determine if they are legitimate.  Kids can link to CharityNavigator.com to find trustworthy philanthropic groups.

 

 

5.  Make it Timely.  If an ongoing effort is too much, help with natural disaster relief efforts like those for Hurricane Sandy.  Or, determine “all proceeds this month” go to certain current events, such the One Fund in Boston to support the Boston Marathon bombing victims.  “Kids can be bothered by what they hear on the radio or see on television, and rather than be bothered by something, take action,” says Shamitz.

 

 

6.  Instill Business Acumen. Even though kids are giving money away or fundraising for a cause, they still have a business to run and expenses to pay.  Teach kids the nuts and bolts of running a successful business, so in the end, they have more to give.

 

How do you teach your kids to give?  Join the conversation at Facebook….