Thank you for the responses on my last blog post on youth as grantmakers! During a recent stay in New York I got to know a programme that teaches young children about giving. I am still startled by the work of ‘Little Givers’.
At the beginning it seemed the strangest place to meet for a conversation on giving, but at the end I realized how perfect it was: Cadman Plaza Park in Brooklyn on a Saturday morning in June. At this time, the park is busy with three- and four-year olds learning soccer, trying out their first baseball moves or just playing. It is parents like Jennifer Cullert and her husband Patrick that come out here on these weekend mornings to spend time with their children. Cullert is one of the three founders of the programme ‘Little Givers’. Little Givers teaches children aged 4-8 about charitable giving and social awareness through a full curriculum of classes filled with age-appropriate activities and stories.
In our Saturday morning conversation, Jennifer describes how the programme engages the children in activities for their local community and the world as a whole. In Brooklyn, the Little Givers have prepared food for the homeless and delivered it to a shelter and designed friendship bands for children that have to spend a long time in a hospital. The children’s activities are connected with engaging and reflecting conversations about giving, serving and sharing.
Why this programme? Jennifer Cullert, Debra Sapp and Jaimee Schultz met in 2007 – all new first-time mothers looking for support and friendship. They found this through weekly meet-ups at the local coffee shop. A few years later, again over coffee at a local shop, they started a conversation about what their children should learn from them and how they could start instilling values in their children that will last a lifetime. As Jennifer pointed out: ‘We all realized that times have changed, but that we want to pass on the values about giving back that we learned from our parents.’
Based on this observation and the fact that all three of them had some ‘spare time’ as mothers, they started to research how young children can learn about giving. The result is a tried-and-tested curriculum of ten courses along with takeaways for the parents that outline each activity, provide background on the organization affected, and offer ways to continue the giving at home.
The three founders, who are now back pursuing their ‘regular’ careers, have turned the two-year-old Little Givers into a small social enterprise. This summer, the founders will decide next steps to spread the word about it. Jennifer Cullert and her colleagues are convinced ‘It’s never too early to start learning to give back’.
Even though Little Givers is a small programme, it has already been covered by the Wall Street Journal. The journalists at that time raised the question whether a programme like Little Givers is a way for parents to outsource some of their basic responsibilities. After talking to Jennifer, I got a sense that Little Givers wants to be one avenue that assists families in teaching children about charitable giving. They want to make it easier to find child-appropriate ways to give and provide busy parents with ideas and inspiration that are based on experiential learning. It is a programme from parents for parents.
The meeting in Cadman Plaza Park ended in a conversation about toys. I was still looking for a good present to give to my son from this trip. The Cullerts shared a few good ideas and directed me towards the closest toy store. Maybe it is just natural that parents want to share insight with others.
Michael Alberg-Seberich is managing partner at Active Philanthropy
Further articles from Alliance magazine related to these topics:
- Scaling Social Impact: New thinking by Paul Bloom
- Collaborative entrepreneurship – the only solution? by Sarah Johnson