Saturday, September 20, 2014

Learning by Giving

As a student of generosity and philanthropy, I have consistently observed that:

1.      Thoughtful giving changes the giver from the inside out.

2.      The process of thoughtful giving teaches important life skills.

Consequently, family giving is a key ingredient of the SunBridge 3-GEN Planning model.   In the quadrant known as “The Academy,” we invite multi-generational families to consider questions such as

·         What makes us come alive?

·         What causes are we passionate about?

·         How do we teach our family the joy of giving, serving, working together, and finding their passion?

In The Academy, we are inspired by this quote by Howard Thurman:

“Don't ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

In The Academy we learn two of life’s sweetest ironies: the secret to finding ourselves is to forget about ourselves; and the key to improving our family is to think beyond our own needs and focus on the needs of others. 

Many multi-generational families launch a family giving project with an idea of changing the world, only to discover that the most important changes they’ve effected are improvements in their own attitudes, their own character, and their own relationships.

These principles also form the foundation of Main Street Philanthropy, which sprang from our work with multi-generational families.  At Main Street Philanthropy, we use thoughtful giving to change students from the inside out and as a vehicle to teach important life skills quickly and seamlessly.  Visit

This week we received a touching testimonial from a South Florida mother whose son had recently participated in the Main Street Philanthropy program in his high school.  She eloquently described how her teenager had been changed from the inside out as a result of the thoughtful giving he experienced in the Main Street program.  She wrote:

The conversation my son and I had the day his Main Street Philanthropy group visited the charities they selected to help was one of the best and at the same time most heart wrenching conversations I have ever had with him.  He was moved to tears telling me all about the people served by those charities. 

Although he was very happy that his philanthropy group was able to help these people in a small way, he was also distraught that there were children who, through no fault of their own, found themselves and their families living in the Pat Reeves Center for homeless families. 

My son told me that his experiences that day made him realize how much he took for granted that he had a roof over his head, his own bedroom to sleep in each night, and a kitchen always stocked with food.  He felt very guilty for what he had, in comparison to the people he saw that day. 

He was deeply moved by the experience and vowed to make a difference in the lives of people less fortunate than him.   He said the Main Street Philanthropy class was the best experience he has had in his 3 years of high school.

I have seen such profound transformation repeated again and again in my work with multi-generational families and with Main Street Philanthropy students.  It is a rewarding part of this approach to planning.

The other transformational aspect of The 3-GEN Planning Academy and the Main Street Philanthropy program is the ease and speed at which important life skills and values are acquired by participants.  As teenagers and young adults are challenged to make thoughtful gifts using funds from self-created fund raisers and from generous donors, they organically acquire important tools for thriving in today’s world.  Some of these include:

         Financial Literacy
         Written and Oral Communication Skills
         Confidence and Self Esteem
         Community Awareness
         Interpersonal Trust and Communication
         Identification of Personal Values & Purpose
         Group Collaboration
         Group Decision-making
         Creative Fund-raising
         Understanding the Tax System
         Investigation & Evaluation of Organizations

In the Main Street Philanthropy program, we require participants to write about what they are learning during the ten-week program, and we measure their transformation during the process.  One of our students from New Jersey wrote this at the conclusion of her Main Street Philanthropy experience:

Wow… Main Street Philanthropy is actually over.  Looking back on the past ten weeks, it is so incredible to see how much we have learned and how much of a difference we made in our community.  Never did I think that I, as a high school student, would be donating money to organizations of MY choice and experiencing all that I have within these ten amazing weeks.

It has been such an honor working alongside my fellow MSP’ers- I don’t think any of us could have gotten through the program without each other.  I am so grateful that I chose to be in Main Street Philanthropy.  What an AWESOME program!

Today’s graduation was very nice, and it made me very proud to know that I made a difference.  My public speaking skills have just been improving day by day; I talked on stage without feeling any nerves!  The fact that I have grown so much through this program is just unbelievable.  I feel that I can tackle anything with the skills I have learned and developed.

Overall, today was just another amazing experience in my collection of amazing experiences through Main Street.  It’s been such an indescribable journey, but one that I plan to continue living out in my daily life.  Thank you again and congratulations my fellow MSP grads!!! :)

You can read more about the impact on these students at  

Parents and grandparents who make thoughtful family giving a part of their family culture will equip their teenagers and young adults with the tools and skills they will need to thrive in a challenging and constantly changing world should.  They will outfit their family members for a lifetime journey of meaning, purpose, and fulfillment.

Many of these families will turn to their professional advisors to show them how to do this.  I’m happy to report that SunBridge Advisors and Main Street Philanthropy Ambassadors are prepared to be a catalyst for changing individuals and families from the inside out.  I invite other readers to join them.