May 9, 2023
One year, when I was probably 7 or 8, I was watching the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon with my family. It wasn’t the first time we’d had it on, and wouldn’t be the last, but I remember how excited everyone on the television was as the donations came pouring in. Something – maybe one of the performances? An appeal? Memory fails – triggered me to ask my parents if I could call the number and help. “That’s great!” they said. “You’ve got an allowance; you can certainly give something.” I called the number on the screen and spoke to someone offering $5, or maybe $10.

This was still the early 80’s, and that meant something to a kid my age. My parents were proud of me, and I felt good at being part of something.

A couple of weeks later, the pledge envelope arrived, and my parents said, “Now you have to send them the money.” Reality hit. MY money? I was giving MY money for this? Mom and Dad explained that I’d called and made a pledge, and that kids were counting on me to help them. They’d write a check, but I had to give them money for it: it was my donation.

That was my first memory of giving to a cause, and it was a perfect lesson: a moving appeal, a pledge, fulfillment, and the feeling of having helped in some little way.

A few years later, my family would participate in Hands Across America – an event to stretch a human chain across the nation to raise money and awareness for hunger issues. Participatory engagement and volunteerism followed. A community service requirement at my high school. These are little memories stretching back over 40 years, but they are clear antecedents to my life working and volunteering in the nonprofit sector and trying to build a better world for all of us.

I share my story because I think many of us have these: memories, firsts, introductions to living in a bigger world. For many of us, it may come through church or school fundraisers, or working with scouts or other youth groups. These little touches contributed, almost imperceptibly, to my sense that we can all do something.

Would you like help having these conversations with your own children? Whether they’re 40 and have no idea of your philanthropic commitment, or are pre-teens chomping at the bit to help, we can meet with you and a toolbox of ideas to help bring your family together in a shared vision of what it means for you, personally, to give back.

Our Family Giving Program is growing bigger every year. Do you have a story from your own childhood? Tell us your stories and help us inspire the next generation of family philanthropists in their efforts to build a better community and world for all.

If you would like to share your family giving story please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Director of Donor Relations.

— Michael Barret Jones, Chief Philanthropy Officer