Change the World

Talking to your children about charity

Making change ... with change
Making change ... with change

CNBC Senior Personal Finance Correspondent Sharon Epperson is passionate about informing the public not only about making and managing money but also giving back.

It's a mission that she follows in her own home with her two children. "I like to expose my son and daughter to experiences where they are giving back and having an impact," she said.

A few years ago, Epperson and several of her friends purchased piggy banks for their children and challenged them to save for charity. Over the course of six months, with diligence, the children saved more than $375. "From there, I guided them to various organizations that would make their funds even more impactful and made sure that they could receive a matching contribution," Epperson said. As a group, the children donated more than $750 to their charity of choice.

Teaching kids about money

"It's especially important for kids to experience fulfillment from giving back, because it lays the groundwork for them to grow up to be empathetic and philanthropic adults," she said.

If your child wants to donate to a charity, there are a number of great causes that are available.

School toy drives, winter coat collections and food basket donations around the holidays all aim to include children, specifically, in charitable causes.

And in this digital age, you can also consider helping your child learn about worthwhile causes and donate online. Today, 13 percent of donations are made on mobile, according to Joanna Lambert, the vice president of global consumer product and engineering at PayPal. Contributions are quick, easy and effective.

"Young people today have been raised on phones and tablets in a way no other generation has. This does not preclude young people from being engaged in charity — in fact, the opposite," noted Lisa Tomasi, the founder and CEO of YouGiveGoods, an online platform for starting food or supply drives. "Kids can start their own campaign and track its progress. It's a method they are familiar with and are engaged in," Tomasi said.

The best ways to give money to charity this holiday season

Still, just talking to children about giving remains the most effective way to encourage philanthropy, according to a study by the Women's Philanthropy Institute at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

Children whose parents talk to them about giving are 20 percent more likely to give to charity than children whose parents do not discuss giving with them, the study found.

"This research provides a clear, effective path for parents who want to encourage their children to be generous and caring," Debra Mesch, director of the Women's Philanthropy Institute, said in a statement.

Good, old-fashioned volunteering works, too, said Daniel Borochoff, president of charity watchdog group CharityWatch. "Volunteering is a great way to expand their world," he said. Borochoff particularly recommends programs that bring together kids from different communities in a way that helps children realize there are other people out there like them that might need help and where their presence would be greatly valued.

Kathy Collins, chief marketing officer for H&R Block, advises parents to make it a group effort when teaching their kids about giving back during the holidays. Donating time together, such as lending a hand at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter, or donating used clothes or giving money to a charity are some of the best examples, she said.

"Hopefully, by planting the charity seed, your [children] will continue to use the holiday season for giving as they grow into adulthood," Collins said.

Epperson says that is just one of her lifelong financial goals: teaching her own children about the importance of giving back throughout their lifetimes.

This story is part of NBCU's Season of Kindness. Follow the series on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. #ShareKindness