Five years ago my wife and I started a small
family foundation. We use it, in part, to help our three
children, ages 9, 13 and 15, grow into giving. The fund
gives $1500 twice a year: $500 we decide upon together as
a family, and the remainder ($200 per person) we each give
at our own discretion (although we communicate with the
family about what we chose and why).
Last week we met to decide where to give
the joint $500. We started off as usual, going around in
a circle, each naming groups we're drawn to support: an
AIDS project, a nature trail group... then I told the family
about some more inventive ways to give. I described how
every Valentine's day an anonymous person in our city pays
for hundreds of red paper hearts to be posted all over town,
and there's a woman who goes into playgrounds and discretely
drops change for delighted children to find. Well, my kids
faces lit up. Their minds began whirring...
Together we cooked up this plot: to give
our $500 through anonymous "treasure hunts" which
we'll plant in various places around town. Each hunt will
consist of four or five clues, ending in a cash find of
$50. A note will encourage the finder to give at least half
the money away to the person or organization of their choice.
My kids even fantasize about anonymously telling the local
papers about the hunts, imagining the reports might inspire
others to make treasure hunts of their own.
I've always been a "serious' philanthropist
who carefully tries to maximize the strategic value of my
grants. We had a stimulating family talk about the pros
and cons of giving in this random and personal way versus
to established groups. This project is a big stretch for
me in letting go--but my kids' sense of joy and adventure
is contagious. And that's the spirit I want our giving to
have, no matter how we do it.
- anonymous author
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