As parents, we have the opportunity to teach our children compassion and empathy, to expand their perspective of the world, and to instill in them a sense that they have the power to make the world a better place. Estate planning is an opportunity to continue this teaching process. As Silicon Valley attorney John Hopkins says, when parents leave a portion of their estate to charity, when they treat the community as extended family, they pass along a powerful personal legacy to their children in addition to their wealth.
Estate plans do have their limitations though -- a testamentary gift in a will or trust will not do much to instill philanthropic values in children if parents miss the opportunity to do so during their lifetimes. John Hopkins, Jon and Eileen Gallo and others emphasize the need to start young. The letters posted at The Giving Pledge reveal that some of our biggest philanthropists learned the value of giving from their own parents:
Both of us were fortunate to grow up with parents who taught us some tremendously important values. Work hard. Show respect. Have a sense of humor. And if life happens to bless you with talent or treasure, you have a responsibility to use those gifts as well and as wisely as you possibly can. Now we hope to pass this example on to our own children. -- Bill and Melinda Gates
The challenge for parents is to find opportunities for volunteering and charitable giving that are meaningful and age appropriate.
StudentsRebuild, in partnership with DoSomething.org and Architecture for Humanity, have launched Paper Cranes for Japan. This project involves making paper cranes to represent a message of support and healing for Japan and to cause a gift to be made by the Bezos Family Foundation:
These simple yet powerful gestures will trigger a $200,000 donation from the Bezos Family Foundation - $2 for each crane received - to Architecture for Humanity's reconstruction efforts in Japan. Once we reach our goal of 100,000 submissions, the cranes will be woven into an art installation - a symbolic gift from students around the globe to Japanese youth.
The Paper Cranes for Japan project is also an example of how philanthropy is changing -- it demonstrates how technology provides the opportunity for many individuals to coordinate efforts to make a substantial impact. Somehow I believe we'll see more than 100,000 paper cranes. Many more.