Your Back-to-School Giving Guide

5 Simple Ways to Make a Difference and Show Your Kids How Much Education Matters

Whether the start of the new school year brings excitement or nervous anticipation, adding a kindness element to your back-to-school routine will enrich it with meaning — and fun. Plus, having conversations about students who have to fight hard to spend time in school — or to get the supplies they need to succeed — will increase your own child’s understanding of the value of education. Here are five projects that encourage generosity in your kids or grandkids — and improve the lives of young people here at home and around the world.

  1. Pack in extra supplies. Children from low-income families make up an astonishing 51% of the U.S. public school population. Something as simple as the proper supplies can help ensure their success. During your annual back-to-school shopping trip, purchase paper, pens, markers or binders for a child in need. (Focusing on another kid can also calm those back-to-school jitters.) Take a look at the August Doing Good Together listing of family-friendly volunteer opportunities to find all the Twin Cities organizations seeking school supply donations. Then choose one near you, and download their wish list. Take it with you on your school supply buying trip. To make your efforts more personal, include a handmade “Have a great school year” card.
  2. Organize a drive. Imagine the fun of holding a school supply collection drive—and the creative uses that will spring from your grateful recipients. To gather donations, post the requested items on social media, drop flyers at houses in your neighborhood, and/or call family and friends. Specify whether items should be dropped off or whether you’ll pick them up. When you deliver the items to the nonprofit, take a photo and send it to the donors with a thank-you note.
  3. Make giving a habit. Even with homework and extracurriculars, it can be surprisingly easy to keep to a family routine of kindness. One simple idea is to adopt a food pantry. Decorate a box together and place it in your kitchen. Each week as you grocery shop, pick up one extra item to add to the box. When it’s full, deliver it as a family to your neighborhood food shelf. Other fun, simple ideas: sponsor a family though the Box Project, or encourage reading through One Book at a Time. You might also create a Magic Mail Center at home, a handy card-making operation to cheer up other people.
  4. Learn about the right of education. Sadly enough, girls in some parts of the world are punished simply for trying to go to school. Remind your children or grandchildren about the critical importance of education and how hard some kids, especially girls, have to fight for that right. Older students can read I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World by the young Pakistani Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai. For the younger set, there’s Malala Yousafzai: Warrior with Words by Karen Leggett Abouraya. If you get inspired to help, consider creating artwork that declares your support for universal education and posting it on the #withMalala website. Or share facts from CARE on social media or host a fundraiser using this kit.
  5. Stay true to your school. You can also do plenty of good in your own back yard. Your school support can be as simple as baking a dozen cookies for a school bake sale—or as ambitious as organizing a school clean-up day. Other possibilities: spend part of your child’s lunch hour together sorting books in the media center, choose a book together to donate to the classroom, or host a Family Service Fair to inspire other families to give back!

Each of these simple ideas can teach your children lessons in empathy and compassion while also building a better world, one educated child at a time.

To discover other fun, easy ways to practice kindness and serve others as a family, subscribe to the Doing Good Together newsletter or peruse our Pick a Project page. Questions? Contact Jenny Friedman at