More Than Money
Issue #39
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Money and Children

Table of Contents

“Charity Checks: Creating a Generation of Givers”

Bang for the Buck

How can you promote "charitable literacy" in children? Bruce Miller, a reader of More Than Money Journal , is hoping to create a new generation of givers by sponsoring a classroom program developed by Charity Checks, a nonprofit organization based in California. Thanks to Miller and other sponsors, children around the country are researching solutions to problems around them and identifying and supporting nonprofits that share their concerns.

Charity Checks, founded by Lisa Sonne and her husband, Victor Dorff, have created a new twist in the philanthropic field with Giving Certificates. These certificates look like checks, are given as gifts, and are then made out to any eligible organization by the gift recipient. (Gift givers make a tax-deductible contribution to Charity Checks and receive Giving Certificates equal in value to their donation. The certificates are then passed on to family, friends, or business associates, who choose the organization to receive the donation.) Giving Certificates can also be used to give anonymously to charities. As Miller expresses it, "Charity Checks combine the altruism of Mother Teresa with the business efficiency of Warren Buffett."

Charity Checks' Charitable Literacy Program incorporates Giving Certificates into school curricula. Each child in the program receives a Giving Certificate and then passes it on to one of the almost one million 501(c)(3) organizations in the United States. Classroom sponsors like Miller donate the Giving Certificates; after much research students choose their favorite charity, fill out the certificates, and perhaps even make a presentation to classmates about their chosen charity.

The reasons kids pick particular charities are sometimes heartbreaking, and often insightful. "I'd like to give my check to the Alzheimer's Foundation," said a firstgrade girl, "because my grandmother doesn't have any memories, and everybody should have memories." Another student in the same class was not content to give to a group that helped the victims of a recent hurricane; he wanted to give to people who would stop hurricanes in the future, "so there will never be any more victims." His Giving Certificate went to a nonprofit organization that is researching hurricanes. "With this level of understanding and empathy," wonders Sonne, "what kind of philanthropists will these children be when they are grown?"

Sample school curricula and details on ordering Giving Certificates are available on the Charity Checks website ( The curricula can also be downloaded and adapted for family use.

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