Last year, my daughter agreed to do something really special for her birthday. Rather than have a party that focused solely on her, she hosted a philanthroparty. Wondering what a philanthroparty is? Simply put, it’s a party with a purpose.
If your kid is anything like my kid, she has enough toys, games and dolls to last through the next two birthdays. We still have Christmas gifts that haven’t been opened! The fact that she is blessed to have everything she needs and just about everything she wants coupled with her giving nature, I knew it wouldn’t take much to convince her to use her birthday as a way to make other children smile.
When I suggested that she donate any gifts that she received at birthday party to charity, she kinda looked at me with a blank stare for a minute. I reminded her that just as Christmas is not about gifts but about celebrating Jesus’ birthday, her birthday isn’t about gifts either. I continued by explaining that when you give—especially to others in need—the blessings you receive are so much greater. Her eyes lit up and she agreed.
Now I had to keep in mind that I had just made a deal with a 6-year-old and was not really sure if she really understood what she had agreed to do. Over the next few weeks, I kept having visions of her crying uncontrollably as her gives drove away to make some other children happy. Then I had an even better idea. What if we just donated the change in her sharing bank to the charity and had the party guests make donations and other items in lieu of gifts? I promised her that it would still be tons of fun and we would keep the magic theme that she wanted. We aptly titled it as “Journey’s Give Big Birthday: Experience The Magic Of Giving & Change The World.” The party was awesome and even made the news!
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Use every opportunity to discuss wants and needs.
Children that have a clear understanding and appreciation of what they already have are more likely to be givers. Every homeless person we see, every toy she asks me to buy, every meal that we eat are all opportunities to remind Journey of how blessed she is to have a warm house, a playroom full of toys and food to eat. Now that she realizes those things aren’t a given, she does not take them for granted and is more thoughtful about what she asks for.
Choose a cause or charity that they are interested in.
Most children are motivated to help when they hear about catastrophic events like the earthquake in Haiti and hurricane Sandy, or social woes like hunger and animal abuse. Listening to their reaction to current events and everyday occurrences can help you determine what causes they are interested in. Journey seems to be drawn to children’s causes, so most of her charity projects have benefited organizations that help children.
Contact the charity to find out its needs and decide how you will give.
As I mentioned, for Journey’s party we decided to make items for the charity in addition to making a monetary donation. Once we decided we wanted to work with Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, I contacted them to make sure they would accept the items we had in mind. At the party we made jewelry, comfort cards, painted pictures and decorated picture frames. We also collected almost $200 in loose change. I included a list of other items that the hospital accepts in the party favor bags in case guests wanted to make additional donations. Another party we attended asked guests to bring dog chew toys and old towels for an animal shelter. Whatever you decide, make sure you clearly communicate it to your guests and make it easy for them to participate.
If possible, invite the charity that you are benefiting to the party.
Hearing more about the charity in person will go a long way in helping guests make a connection with the cause. Have a representative from the charity give a brief talk about what they do, who they serve, and what impact the donation will have on the organization. No one from the hospital was available to attend Journey’s party, so I said a few words to the guests about how awesome they were and how the items they created would make the sick children in the hospital feel better.
Don’t forget the fun factor.
Even if your charity deals with a serious subject matter, you don’t want it to weigh the party down. It’s extremely important to keep it light and fun, fun, fun! Choose a theme with decorations, games and activities that tie in with your charity. After the guests made items to donate, they made things to keep for themselves. Since our theme was the “Magic of Giving”, we had a magician perform, face painting, games and plenty of food.
Drop off the donation in person.
Bring the experience full circle by delivering the donation in person. Journey was beaming with pride when the hospital staff met her to accept her donation. She even had a chance to tour the hospital and play games with some of the children.
Thank your guests in numbers.
When you send out your thank you cards, be sure to include the total number of items you collected or how much money you raised to let your guests know how their donation made a difference.
Maintain the momentum.
The giving doesn’t have to stop just because the party’s over! Big or small, help your children find ways to contribute to a cause all year long. Journey has a piggy bank designated just for sharing that she uses to do things like by Christmas gifts and canned goods for the needy. Last summer, she did a lemonade stand for charity. Choose a day each month to volunteer at a local charity. Collecting can tabs for the Ronald McDonald House is also a really easy way to make a difference. The tabs are recycled and the money is used to fund the services they provide.
Once your children become givers, they won’t want to stop! Here’s Journey hard at work planning her next fundraiser…