Liz and Jeremy Hitchcock want their children to understand the importance of giving.
Liz owns Bookery, Manchester’s independent bookstore, and serves on numerous nonprofit boards. Jeremy is a co-founder and former CEO of Dyn, Inc., and chair of the board of the Community College System of New Hampshire.
Matthew, Catherine and Benjamin (8, 6 and 5, respectively) are still in grade school — but they save a portion of their allowance every week to give.
Then, every Friday in December, the family has a “day of giving,” bringing food and donations to the NH Food Bank and other community organizations. They bring some “hard goods,” like purchased groceries, to help the kids understand the cost of what people need. And they also make cash donations — because support for nonprofit operations is critical. As the kids get older, the family will volunteer together.
“We hope it instills in them a piece of the ethos that Jeremy and I carry — that we want to give back to our communities and that it takes all kinds of people all different ways to affect change in their communities,” Liz said.
The Hitchcocks also involve their children in giving with their donor-advised fund. The family visits the NH Charitable Foundation together to learn about organizations working in New Hampshire communities and make decisions about giving. Jeremy and Liz have conversations with the kids beforehand, and foundation staff share stories about needs in kid-friendly terms. Then Liz, Jeremy and the kids talk about what’s most important.
The kids tend to focus on helping other kids. One year, Matthew asked “what about the kids without beds to sleep in?” The family was recommended to give a grant to Families in Transition-New Horizons to help those kids.
“I thought it was really important to get the entire family involved,” said Liz.
“So as they grow up, it is part of the fabric of what they do,” added Jeremy.
At the Charitable Foundation, we work with many generous families and businesses who make giving a part of their holiday traditions. Here are some more ideas to start or bolster your own giving traditions:
- Start a conversation about why giving matters in your family. Ask parents or grandparents if they remember a time when a nonprofit organization was helpful to your family. You might be surprised by what you hear. One friend’s grandmother talked about growing up poor during the Great Depression. A nonprofit brought the family a holiday dinner, with gifts for the children, every year. That family continues to give, every year, to organizations that feed the hungry.
- Match your children’s charitable gifts. Encourage children, teens and young adults to share what they can from their allowance money or earnings, and match their gifts at a ratio that works for you.
- Buy less, give more. One family I know has each person select a nonprofit doing work that matters deeply to them. Then, instead of buying gifts for each other, they make donations to nonprofits doing critical work.
- Give the gift of “The Grandparent Legacy Project.” This book, (available at 2164.net/product/the-grandparent-legacy-project) is designed to help grandparents pass philanthropic values and legacies on to their grandchildren. It includes stories about families and exercises to guide grandparents and grandchildren through the process of telling their own family’s giving story.
- Create a charitable fund for a family member. A family we work with recognized that they, and their children, had everything they needed. Rather than giving more gifts, they opened charitable funds for their children when they turned 18. Now extended family members make gifts to those funds at the holidays, adding to the amount the younger generation can direct in grants to nonprofits doing great work in our communities.
- If you own a business, match employee gifts to community nonprofits. There are many ways New Hampshire businesses give during the holidays — from giving trees to food drives volunteering — but one powerful way is to match employee contributions to nonprofits. To be blunt, like any business or household, what nonprofits need most is money. Matching contributions increase the impact of your team members’ contributions and drive up participation.
In whatever way and at whatever level you choose, we encourage you to make giving an important part of your family traditions — at the holidays and all year long.
This article originally appeared in the December 7, 2018 issue of New Hampshire Business Review as part of the “Greater Giving” series, a partnership between NHBR and the Charitable Foundation that promotes a culture of giving in New Hampshire’s business community.
Melinda Mosier, director of donor services at the NH Charitable Foundation, can be reached at 800-464-6641, ext. 266, or at Melinda.Mosier@nhcf.org.