by Kristin Majeska
I have to confess. A few months ago I made a donation that just wasn´t that efficient. But I did it with a long-term perspective, to see if I could help my nine-year old son learn a little about philanthropy (and about saving money at the same time!) We contribute to our school´s campaign for the local food bank by going shopping for nonperishable food. I knew perfectly well that the $25 we spent at the supermarket would have bought several times as much food if we had simply written a check to the food panty for the same amount. I knew all the recommendations being made by the Center for High Impact Philanthropy and others (in fact I´ve made the same arguments) a food pantry (or better yet a food bank) can get food at below wholesale prices and at times, almost free, I would not be able to deduct my donation so my gift would be more “expensive”, and the list goes on.
But we all know that values are learned at home. I went to the supermarket to buy food with my son because I wanted him to learn four lessons.
– That there are lots of people who don´t have the money they need to keep from going hungry, much less to buy the food they´d really like to eat. We talked about why and what we can do about it.
– That money disappears very quickly if you´re trying to feed a family on minimum wage. My son kept track of how much we could buy and still stay within our budget of $25
– That you can buy more food for your dollar if you look at the value of what you´re buying. We looked a unit costs. We compared products.
– That everyone deserves healthy food. We brought store brand products but good ones, low in salt, fat and sugar, only products I would serve to my own kids. We bought vegetable and fruit options as well as rice, pasta, tunafish… and we talked about that too.
My son was proud to have helped other families (I know because he even talked about it to the cashier) and the next day, when we left the bags of food at school he said again, “look how much healthy food we got with our money.” He´ll remember those memories. He wouldn´t have remembered for a minute my writing a check. It´s true that not everything that I tried to teach my son at the supermarket had to do with philanthropy but I hope in some way something will sink in which will help him grow to be a good philanthropist and a good person. I let myself give up a little efficiency in the short-term because I´m making a long-term bet. With any luck we´ll see the fruits in a few years!