On The Pulse: Donations shouldn't be just for the Holiday season – see why year round giving is an important lesson for parents to teach their children

Volume 1, Issue 11
By James W. Horne, Jr.
President/CEO, United Way of Greater Union County

With the onset of the holiday season, most families and individuals feel a little more thankful and benevolent -- leading to an increased sense of giving.  Particularly in December, individuals are more inclined to give back by participating in food drives, donating clothing, adopting a family in need, or making monetary donations to charities. Not to mention, many people seek tax-deductions before the close of the year. It should be noted that this is the time of year where many organizations promote their annual individual donor campaigns for that very reason, to take advantage of the “rush” to get a tax-deduction. 

“The Center on Philanthropy (COP) at Indiana University found that their respondents reported giving about 24 percent of their annual total between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.”  While the act of giving has become a significant part of the holidays, we need to educate our children that giving year-round can be more impactful and lead to positive long-term outcomes.

During the holiday season, organizations such as the Salvation Army receive an overwhelming influx of in-kind donations such as clothing and toys which often lead to several issues. Most of these organizations are not-for-profit and due in part to budgetary constraints; they do not have sufficient staff to sort through these items or the necessary space to store them.  Throughout the course of the year, the needs of the many people these organizations serve are subject to change. Spreading out in-kind donations during the entire year may be better for those organizations already strained with running programs on a shoestring budget. Furthermore, these organizations are always in need of volunteers.

But when setting these standards for our children and for those of us who are more fortunate than others, it is important to remember that donations and giving should not come to mind solely during the holiday season. Consider teaching your children the importance of philanthropy and giving of one self for the greater good – all the time.

It is true that as parents, we can create a sense of giving within our families throughout the year. Parents can use these tactics as an opportunity to teach children that not everyone is afforded the same advantages. Children can donate a gently-used toy so that another child can enjoy a birthday gift.  And having open dialogue will create a safe space for both parents and children to work together to ensure that “giving back” becomes a part of everyday life. 

A study conducted by Indiana University to explore what parents can do to encourage charitable behavior in their children demonstrated that “parents who talk to their children about charitable giving can positively impact their children's philanthropic behavior."  Parents are a child’s first teacher, how we interact in our communities is a lesson parents can teach their children, this includes charitable acts of kindness. It’s not about how much money you have, but more about how willing parents are in caring for their fellow residents and the larger community no matter what income level, race, or age.

It is our job, as parents and caregivers, to instill a sense of giving, an understanding of community and awareness of how we can truly impact the life of someone who is less fortunate than we are.  The “act of giving” can be achieved any day, month or time of the year and should not only be recognized during the holiday season.  If we start to inspire our children and future at a young age, the idea of charity and philanthropy will become customary and integrated into everyday life. 

About James W. Horne, Jr.
James W. Horne, Jr., became President and CEO of United Way of Greater Union County (UWGUC) in 2005.  During his tenure, James has designed and implemented significant organizational improvements in the areas of developing strong community partnerships, building and retaining board members and financial competence.  He has worked hard to maintain the delicate balance of dedication to mission, the need for bold entrepreneurial initiatives, and the application of sound business management needed to run a successful nonprofit organization.  His efforts have stabilized the organization both administratively and financially, with the overall revenue growth of over 40%.

Dedicated to the mission of family strengthening, James has helped to develop and implement a partnership between UWGUC, the Union County Department of Human Services, the State of New Jersey Department of Children and Families and the Nicholson Foundation to create the Union County Family Strengthening Network (UCFSN), a comprehensive system of family support and services in Union County. UCFSN is a unique public-private partnership designed to maximize and leverage all the available resources within the county on behalf of children and families.

James has over 15 years of experience as a United Way professional; most recently serving as President and CEO United Way of Pioneer Valley in Springfield, Massachusetts. Prior to that, he was Executive Vice President, Resource Development for United Way of Summit County in Akron, Ohio.  He began his United Way career in his hometown of Bridgeport, CT with United Way of Eastern Fairfield County as a Campaign Division Manager.  Before joining United Way, James spent 13 years with Sikorsky Aircraft as a Production and Inventory Analyst.
James lives in Bridgewater, New Jersey with his wife Kathryn and is the proud father of four children, Melissa, James III, LaToya Williams and Megan Somerville. He was former chair of the Union County Human Services Advisory Council and serves on the board of the Union County Workforce Investment Board, Mount Zion Community Development Corporation, and North Jersey Health Collaborative.