While many stories in parenting magazines focus on the negative, it’s nice to know there’s one area where today’s kids excel: philanthropy. The word conjures up images of wealth and power, but more and more kids are proving that you don’t need to be Richie Rich to make a difference. Family Circle reports that 27% of students now donate to religious organizations and 17% to charity. They’re asking for donations to non-profits instead of bar mitzvah gifts, selling lemonade to raise money for favorite causes, and designating a portion of their allowances for good deeds.

“It’s really just teaching them young how fortunate they are to have all the things they have, and that not everyone is as fortunate or as lucky as they are,” says Wendy Shang, whose daughter Abby accepted donations of books and toys for the Pajama Program, a non-profit benefiting children awaiting adoption, instead of gifts at her birthday party.

Worried your child’s more about “gimme” than giving? Here are some tips to encourage generosity.

  • Put your money where your mouth is. If you’re all about shopping and new baubles, your kids will be too. Tell them what you’re doing, and giving up, to help others.
  • It can be hard for kids in comfortable circumstances to understand that not everyone is as lucky. Make sure they’re exposed to people from different backgrounds.
  • Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Talk about how lucky you are not only materially, but also to have a loving family, good health, etc.
  • Focus on the things that money can’t buy. When you leave a party, talk about the parents’ pride, the child’s happiness, and the pleasure of the experience rather than the decorations and the party favors.
  • It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Your child can receive gifts from family (who know best what he wants, anyway) but donations from party guests. She can donate a percentage of her allowance to charity rather than the whole amount; keeping some will teach her about spending and saving and keep her motivated.
  • Make it automatic. Have three different piggy banks: one for saving, one for spending, and one for sharing. Or designate a portion of his allowance to be donated, let him pick the cause, and only give him what’s his to keep.
  • Get her involved in your family’s philanthropical projects and decisions. Charities that target children are often particularly appealing to kids. Organizations like Heifer International offer help in getting your child involved. Changing the Present allows donors to “shop” for causes and offers special kids’ and $5 and under sections. Or give her a gift certificate to use at markmakers, a similar organization geared exclusively to children.
  • If despite your best efforts your child isn’t ready to give money, encourage her to give time. VolunteerMatch can help you find opportunities to volunteer together.

It isn’t always easy to teach kids to share the wealth, but give it a try. You’ll all be the richer for it.