Each November, Americans turn to celebrations of Thanksgiving, often looking for ways to show gratitude by giving to others in need or “paying forward” their own good fortune. In fact, one study found that 50% of nonprofit organizations report receiving the majority of their charitable contributions between October and December.
Most Americans believe that donating to nonprofit organizations or individuals in need is a good way to help others, but research has also found that charitable giving is good for the giver. Individuals who donate to others report feeling happy, while charitable giving also makes us feel good about ourselves and others. Additionally, giving to others helps us find meaning and purpose in life while giving us a sense of connection to the world.
Children who perform acts of kindness reportedly have a higher likelihood of social acceptance and academic achievement and also develop empathy for others. Studies have found that even very young children are innately compassionate and giving. Additionally, members of Generation Z—which has been nicknamed “Philanthroteens—may have even stronger feelings about giving as they are concerned with the planet and the world around them. However, children often do not have much to give in the way of money or gifts, leaving an opportunity for parents to show them the value of giving time and talents by incorporating simple acts of service into family time. Schools and educators can also incorporate age-appropriate service projects into classroom time, such as knitting simple hats for children going through cancer treatments or visiting elderly patients in nursing homes, to teach students the value of giving. Additionally, organizations can help encourage generosity in children by making donations accessible and applicable to needs that relate to kids. All of these factors may be why thirty percent of Generation Z have already donated to an organization.
Math students pay it forward
One company that is working to give children opportunities to “pay it forward” is Imagine Learning. The educational technology company incorporates a charitable-giving component in their Imagine Math program. Students earn points when they complete math lessons and these points can be used toward upgrading student avatars, achieving class goals such as additional recess, or cash donations to charitable causes.
“It’s amazing how the students will regularly donate points toward local food banks, victims of natural disasters, or other meaningful causes,” shares Lisa Wise, Motivational Manager for Imagine Learning and organizer of the charitable campaigns run by the instructional software company. “We have multiple ongoing opportunities for Imagine Math students to donate their points to help others, and time and time again, these students choose to give rather than personally benefit from their earned points.”
This fall alone, Imagine Math students have completed over 6.1 million math problems, earned millions of points on the math program, and made donations to help victims of Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Michael.
In honor of Veterans Day, Imagine Learning students will have the opportunity this month to donate their earned points toward a contribution to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, an organization that covers all secondary education expenses for children of fallen special operations soldiers. “[Imagine Learning students’] participation in the yearly ‘Do Math! Support a Veteran’ campaign has provided over $17,000 for college scholarships for children who lost a parent in the line of duty,” says John Elbare, Director of Philanthropy for Special Operations Warrior Foundation. “We have over 800 children to educate, and we are gaining more every year. We now support 160 college students. [Imagine Math students’] contributions make a real impact for them.”
During the second half of November, Imagine Learning partners with No Kid Hungry, allowing students to donate their math points toward making sure other students have school breakfast, afterschool, and summertime meals. “Since 2014, Imagine Learning’s students’ support has helped us provide 270,000 meals to hungry kids in America,” said Donna Batcho, Senior Manager of Philanthropy and Planned Giving at Share Our Strength, No Kid Hungry’s parent organization. “It’s simple math: when children get nutritious meals, they do better in school and grow into healthier adults.”
Students love to give
And the kids love being a part of the donation process. Alexander, a student at Samuel Beck Elementary School in Texas, was one of the top student donors of Imagine Math points to St. Jude Children Research Hospitals during childhood cancer awareness month last September. "I just wanted to help the hospitals to find a cure for cancer so that more kids that have cancer can live a normal life,” shared Alexander. “When I think of who [my points are] going to, it makes me feel happy.”
Rylan, a student at Clay Charter Academy in Florida, was one of the top donators of Imagine Math points to the American Red Cross Relief Fund to help individuals impacted by Hurricane Florence this fall. “I felt like Florence caused so much devastation in the Carolinas that the least I could do was donate as many points as I possibly could,” expressed Rylan. “It makes me feel good that I was able to donate my points to help other people.”
And Lahari, a student at Moreland Middle School in California who was another top student donor toward the Hurricane Florence Relief Fund, shared, “If I donate [my points] to someone in need of help, I have this happy feeling that I might've helped save one's life. To me, this feeling will bring me a lot more joy than [upgrading] my avatar. It makes me feel extremely happy that someone in this world got the help they needed, and I was a part of it.”
Teachers witness the benefits of giving
Teachers also share that they love watching their students learn the joy of giving. “It is a wonderful way to teach children the importance of helping others,” expressed Dr. Gonzalez of Clay Charter Academy in Florida, speaking of the donation program in Imagine Math.
I think it’s a wonderful way for our students to get involved in helping others and use their points to help make a difference,” agreed Mrs. TenEyck, a teacher at Samuel Beck Elementary School in Texas. “This is something that they may not normally get to be involved in because they are so young. I have always encouraged my students to donate to [the charities]; I wanted my students to see the importance of giving to others first.”
And the students don’t donate math points for notoriety. “Only the child knows when they choose to give their points,” explained Wise. “They don’t give for recognition; they give independently and because it feels good to the child.”
Wise told about a visit she made to a New York City school where the majority of the students lived in a homeless shelter and were using the Imagine Math program. “These kids told me they were donating their points because they wanted to help other kids who needed help,” said Wise. “Now that was something to witness.”
In this day of selfies, social media, and trophies for everyone, it’s exciting to see how the younger generation is inclined to help others in the world around them. With parents, educators, and organizations working to create opportunities to give and feel the benefits of giving, Generation Z may become the most giving generation yet.