Denver, CO,
05:28 PM

This Holiday Season, Consider Children in Your Charitable Giving


David Miller is the executive director of the Barton Institute for Philanthropy and Social Enterprise. He joined the University of Denver in March 2016. Prior to joining the University of Denver, Miller was the president and CEO of the Denver Foundation, the oldest and largest community foundation in the Rocky Mountain region.

The holiday season is a time for reflection about what’s important in our lives and for many, this includes year-end charitable giving. As you think about which causes to support this year, consider the needs of young children and future generations among your priorities. Here’s why:

Americans tend to give more resources to older people than to younger people. Medicare guarantees health care to everyone in the United States over age 65. There is no comparable guarantee for young people. Similarly, Social Security provides income for seniors with no parallel program for children.

Young children and future generations do not have the right to vote. They do not have lobbyists or others representing their interests in the political process.

Our annual federal budget deficits and our astronomically-high federal debt are putting a huge burden on our children, grandchildren, and future generations. It is far too easy for politicians across the political spectrum to make people happy in the short term at the expense of the long term.

The tax reform package currently being considered by Congress would add a jaw-dropping $1.5 trillion to the federal deficit over the next 10 years.

Similarly, we sacrifice the future to the present by using unsustainable amounts of nonrenewable resources and by changing the climate in ways that will adversely affect our descendants.

Of course, concern about the future can be taken to extremes. But I believe current policies too strongly favor the present over the future when it comes to allocating our resources. It behooves us to try to recalibrate that balance in a way that is more fair to future generations.

Here are a few suggestions for what individuals can do to help our youngest residents and future generations:

  • Give money to early childhood education programs that have been proven to be successful. Studies show that the return on investment for a dollar invested in a high-quality early childhood education program is an average of $8.60.
  • Contribute to organizations that advocate for early childhood health and education.
  • Contribute to organizations that help us reduce the burdens we are putting on the future. This includes organizations working to lower the federal debt, counteract climate change, and reform unsustainable public pension programs.
  • Give to endowment funds at your favorite charities. Endowment funds are structured to last in perpetuity; only the earnings from those endowments are spent each year. As a result, endowments help meet future needs indefinitely. Giving to endowments is not particularly popular or sexy, but it is a great way to ensure the longevity of your favorite charitable organizations as well as to help future generations.

There is an old Talmudic tale about a man planting a carob tree. The man was asked how long it would take for the tree to bear fruit and he replied, “70 years.” The man was then asked if he expected to live another 70 years to eat the fruit of the tree. He replied, “Perhaps not. However, when I was born into this world, I found many carob trees planted by my parents and grandparents. Just as they planted trees for me, I am planting trees for my children and grandchildren so they will be able to eat the fruit of these trees.”

This opinion editorial first published in the Denver Business Journal on Nov. 24, 2017.