Raising Generous Kids

Instilling goodwill at a young age creates well-rounded, charitable adults.

This article is part of Cincinnati Gives, Cincinnati’s annual charitable giving guide. Click here to donate.

Mariemont High School sophomores Will and Ellie Trubisky were in fourth grade when they started volunteering with their parents at the Inter Parish Ministry’s toy store, an annual holiday event where low-income families can purchase affordable Christmas gifts.

Anke Weckman


This year marks the twins’ seventh year volunteering at Newtown’s IPM, but over the years they’ve poured countless hours into other service opportunities as well. Will, for example, volunteers frequently at IPM’s food pantry. Ellie volunteers regularly with inner-city students at her horseback-riding barn.

No one is forcing them to volunteer—not their parents, not their school—and their hours don’t count toward any graduation requirements. It’s simply something they choose to do.

“It’s a part of who they are now because they’ve just done it for so long,” says Will’s and Ellie’s mother, Cammy Trubisky. “I feel like even when they go to college in a few years, I could see them both being active in a college volunteer program because it’s just who they are now.”

As a parent, you might be asking, How do I instill that kind of goodwill into my children?

Beth Nowak, founder and former owner of Giving Families, an organization that helped parents connect their children with everyday giving opportunities, says starting kids young is crucial in instilling lifelong generosity.

“It starts in the home, fostering that natural desire to be helpful,” Nowak says. Even at 2 and 3 years old, children are intrinsically wired to help. The most beneficial thing a parent can do is not overcorrect or redo a task if the child doesn’t do it “right.”

As children get older, parents can recognize their interests and direct their giving and volunteering activities toward related causes. Do they love animals? Encourage them to donate their lemonade stand profits to a local animal shelter. Do they love younger kids? See if your church will allow them to serve alongside you in the toddler room.

Trubisky says giving kids ownership in choosing the volunteer activity and making it a consistent rhythm in your family’s schedule are key to encouraging long-term generosity in young adults. “And making sure it’s a balance,” she says, noting that her kids aren’t sacrificing time with sports or friends in order to volunteer. “It’s about making it one piece of the pie, instead of giving up something in its place, that makes it sustainable.”

Where Kids Can Get Involved

Adopt a Book
Collects and distributes books to children in need. How kids can help: Children of any age can organize a book drive or help deliver books to a location in need. adoptabookohio.org

The Giving Fields
Freestore Foodbank’s community farm provides fresh produce to Northern Kentucky’s food pantries. How kids can help: Kids 5 and up can plant seeds, weed, and harvest crops on the 10-acre community farm. Must have adult supervision present. freestorefoodbank.org

Bake Me Home
The Tote Bag Program provides a jar of cookie mix and baking supplies to families leaving shelters and establishing homes of their own. How kids can help: Children can participate with parents delivering tote bags to local shelters and food pantries, or help make cookie mix and fill bags on site with a parent present. bakemehome.com

Matthew 25: Ministries
An international humanitarian aid and disaster relief organization that sends supplies to areas of need all around the world. How kids can help: Kids can sort, count, package, and ready donations for shipment. Every child under 16 years old must be accompanied by an adult. m25m.org

Sweet Cheeks Diaper Bank
Provides diapers to local low-income families. How kids can help: Children of any age are welcome to help count, sort, and organize diaper donations. Minors under 16 must be accompanied by a child-to-adult ratio of 5:1. sweetcheeksdiaperbanks.org

Wesley Community Services
Delivers meals and other essential services to seniors in the community. How kids can help: Children 2 and older can help create encouragement cards that accompany meals being delivered to seniors. Must be chaperoned by an adult. wesleycs.org

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