Nurturing Generosity in Children

The future of society may depend on our ability to make sure our children have the capability for empathy and the inclination toward generosity.                           ~Patricia O. Bjorhovde

Religious teachings have been highly influential in the development of philanthropic culture and giving practices around the world.  Throughout American history, religious philanthropy has prompted social change by addressing the major issues and ills facing society of the times.

Congregations and faith communities fill an important role in today’s society by providing the worship and learning environments to convey the virtues and values of generosity, giving, stewardship and volunteer service.  These communities provide a set of religious values and theological teachings to which young learners can link and reflect upon their daily lives.  This is part of a our faith formation process as human beings, continuing throughout our lifetimes.

There are three key ways that children learn about generosity and stewardship:

  • Modeled voluntary behavior by a parent or trusted care-giver with the intention to help others.  This begins in infancy, through the infant’s experience of caring and sharing which leads to the development of empathy.
  • Cognitive learning opportunities that include thinking, reflection, and discussion on the part of the learner.  These stimulate understanding of the cause and effect of giving behavior.
  • Experiential “learning by doing” on the part of the learner—opportunities to engage in giving and serving activities from which they can draw emotional satisfaction and meaning.

How is this done?  Through an intentional educational process that includes:

  • Presenting the concepts and stories that promote understanding of giving, generosity, and stewardship in the life of a community.
  • Identifying the reasons why people choose to give and practicing generosity, and the methods for stewardship and the careful tending of resources.
  • Providing the experiences and opportunities for individual and communal reflection.

Caine & his arcadeNathan Dungan, former financial advisor, marketing VP, author and creator of the Share, Save, Spend system for personal finance suggests that the marketing message directed at our children is “see money, spend money,” with the emphasis on the micro impact  of satisfying their own needs.   They rarely get the macro impact message that balances their spending with saving and sharing in intentional ways:  “the choices we make with our money can change the world.”  Dungan has devoted a website to teaching people of all ages to take responsibility for their money and their sharing, saving and spending choices.

There are a variety of helpful materials to help parents and educators create learning experiences and activities that nurture generosity and stewardship in their children and teenage youth.  Games and stories, combined with experiential activities to learn these values by doing, are particularly effective teaching tools.  The Stewardship Game and links to online resources below offer a starting place for engaging this learning process.

Enjoy!                    13035650-multiracial-group-people-hands-together

STEWARDSHIP RESOURCES FOR FAMILIES:

Stewardship Game for Unitarian Universalist Children & Youth created by Dr. Bobbie Poole, Credentialed Religious Educator, Master Level (shared with her permission). email:  bobbiepoole@comcast.net

The_Stewardship_Game_Rules    

Stewardship_Game_Board

Stewardship_Game_Cards

Tapestry of Faith the Unitarian Universalist Association’s online curriculum series, particularly the Moral Tales for children and Virtue Ethics for youth.  http://www.uua.org/re/tapestry/children/tales/index.shtml and  http://www.uua.org/re/tapestry/youth/virtueethics/index.shtml

Learning To Give features learning and teaching resources to use for all ages, with focused materials for school educators and religious educators.   http://learningtogive.org/

Share, Save, Spend founded by Nathan Dungan  http://www.sharesavespend.com/   The website features articles, tips, and resources for all ages, particularly useful for parents, educators, and organizations.

Six Tips on Raising Philanthropic Children, an online article featured in the Family Giving News (July 2005, Volume 5, Issue 7), http://www.ncfp.org/FGN

Bjorhovde, Patricia O., Editor.  Creating Tomorrow’s Philanthropists:  Curriculum Development for Youth,  New Directions for Philanthropic Fundraising, #36, Summer 2002, Jossey-Bass Nonprofit and Public Management Series, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Stewardship as Ministry

Balancing money & heart

Regardless of religious affiliation, there are things that are being learned about congregational stewardship that can be of great help to us—particularly in managing the realities of today’s economy.  There is much wisdom to be gleaned from current research about congregational giving, fundraising, and stewardship.

  • Stewardship is a ministry.  It is much broader in scope than fundraising, and requires a highly relational and pastoral approach.
  • All of the resources of the congregation or faith community are involved in the broadest scope of stewardship:  money, property, people, time, and energy.
  • Hospitality, careful tending and management of resources, and a clear vision and mission are key aspects of stewardship in the congregation.
  • Giving and generosity are matters of the spirit and are at the heart of stewardship.
  • Giving is a spiritual discipline at its core, a practice that reflects one’s faith as well as spiritual depth and maturity.
  • Becoming a generous person involves a lifelong, developmental process which begins in infancy with receiving love.  Generosity evolves with mutually-reinforcing experiences of giving and receiving.
  • There is a direct relationship between one’s deepest held values and the motivation to give.  We contribute our time and resources to those things that matter most in our lives, as reflected in our bank statements and budgets.
  • Our religious leaders—particularly ministers and religious educators—must take an active role in modeling and teaching good stewardship in order for the concepts and principles to take root in their congregations.
  • Regardless of the economic context, congregations with the highest household giving levels focus on an inspiring mission and vision, engage in a visible, year-round stewardship program, and ask for levels of financial support that are proportionately appropriate for each individual or family.
  • Generous congregations provide a safe environment in which to talk about money and its role in peoples’ lives.  They offer training and support in personal financial planning and giving choices so that generosity can be practiced.
  • Generous behavior in faith communities is often expected but cannot be taken for granted.  It is important to express appreciation and gratitude for all that people  contribute and for all gifts received.

making an offering

For more resources to promote generosity among individuals and households in your Unitarian Universalist congregation:

http://www.uua.org/leaders/stewardship/67537.shtml                                                 http://www.uua.org/leaders/stewardship/index.shtml

Ecumenical Stewardship Center, with links to a number of denominational stewardship websites:   http://www.stewardshipresources.org/

Lake Institute for Faith and Giving:  http://www.philanthropy.iupui.edu/Lakefamilyinstitute/

Alban Institute:  http://www.alban.org

Before Asking for Money–Listen!

Donner whispers

Everyday conversation in the United States begins with a customary greeting that goes something like this…

“Hi! How are you doing?”

“Fine.  How are you doing?”

“Fine.  Life is very busy.  Have a great day!”

“Yeah, you too!”

This is often where the communication ends, if it goes this far at all.   The greeting is automatic; listening–really listening–is rarely involved.  Research, however, indicates adults spend about 80% of their daily time communicating, with 93% being non-verbal communication.  It is estimated that adults engage in listening about 45% of the time.  This is the same proportion of listening time estimated in the 1929 research by Dr. Paul Rankin.

Interestingly enough, with the rise of mass media communication between 1950 and 1980, the amount of listening time increased to over 50%.  Since then, the advent of email and social networking has caused a slight increase in reading and writing over listening.

Seasoned fundraising consultant and author, Mal Warwick underscores the importance of listening in fundraising:

 Is she a good listener? I’ve never met a fundraiser who was truly successful without being a dedicated and effective listener.  In face-to-face solicitations, listening is essential to understand the way that a donor’s personal values and interests might be linked to a particular project. But listening is just as effective in direct mail, telefundraising, or other forms of direct response: how else could she really come to understand what a project or issue is about, or what motivates donors?

In congregational fundraising, face-to-face conversations are an effective way to build relationships and financial support.  Strong relationships are central to a healthy and flourishing community.  Money and energy flow in community.

Those who are gift stonesinitiating the conversations on the part of the organization must practice active listening, which is an essential practice in fundraising and annual stewardship.  One place to start is to find out more about what matters most to the prospective giver, listening for ways they connect with the mission and priorities of your congregation.  When we ask questions that elicit the positive emotions an individual has about the congregation and its faith values, the more likely he or she will commit to financial support.  Only after you listen and learn can you connect the person’s values, commitment, and monetary resources into a compelling reason to give.  This practice of intentional and positive communication is called Appreciative Inquiry.   Appreciative Inquiry should be a central aspect and practice in congregational stewardship and fundraising.

Listening Tips for Congregational Stewards and Fundraisers:

  • Focus on the people and relationships–learn what is important to them about their involvement, their interests, priorities, and values.
  • Listen attentively–let them know they are worthy of your attention and a valued part of the community.
  • Ask questions that elicit positive feelings about the congregation and the faith values–listen carefully for ways to explicitly connect their positive energy, time, and resources to advancing the mission and potential of the organization.
  • Be mindful that there are generational differences, theological perspectives, and tenure of membership factors that may affect your ability to listen and identify with those you talk with–be open to new perspectives and ask for clarification.
  • Take notes on key points for follow up–let them know their input is valued and will be taken into consideration.
  • Ask for their contributions and commitment, then allow time for them to respond.
  • Express appreciation–Thank!
  • Follow up on any key points and report back–this builds trust and accountability.
  • Thank again.

Resources to Develop Listening Skills for Fundraising:

Holden Leadership Center.   Active Listening.  http://leadership.uoregon.edu/resources/exercises_tips/skills/active_listening http://leadership.uoregon.edu/upload/files/tip_sheets/active_listening.pdf

Warwick, Mal.  Are You Getting Your Money’s Worth from Your Fundraising Staff? 2005.  Mal Warwick Associates.   http://www.malwarwick.com/

Wilson, Thomas D.  Winning Gifts: Make Your Donors Feel Like Winners. 2008.  John Wiley & Son.  An excerpt from the book devoted to the importance of listening in fundraising is found on the Association of Fundraising Professionals:  http://www.afpnet.org/ResourceCenter/

Appreciative Inquiry Resources:

Central East Regional Group (CERG).  Stewardship for the 21st Century.                                                                                                    http://www.sld.uua.org/pdfs/2011/SLDStewardshipFor21stCentury.pdf

Florida District UUA.  Rev. Kenn Hurto.  Appreciative Inquiry: The Power of Positive Questions                                                     http://www.floridadistrict.org/cms/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/3d-Tue-Webinar-March-2010-Appreciative-Inquiry.pdf

UUA Congregational Stewardship Services.  http://www.uua.org/finance/fundraising/index.shtml