A Legacy of Giving
Growing a generation of givers
ENGAGING CENTRAL TEXAS CHILDREN IN THE POWER OF PHILANTHROPY
In 2004, Linda Brucker’s son Conner came home from his first grade class and announced with excitement that he had been assigned a project. The project was first to observe the homeless population around him. As he rode around town with his mother, the young boy saw that homeless people were hungry, looked sad, and didn’t seem to have friends.
The next step in the project was to talk to a homeless person. Linda was a little unsure of this, but they persevered. After talking to a homeless man, Conner added to his previous notes that the man had no socks, no toothbrush and nothing to eat or drink.
“I had never talked to a homeless person in my life,” Linda says. “It’s amazing what children will bring you to, if you’re open.” She and Conner put together bags filled with socks, bottled water, granola bars, a toothbrush and toothpaste, and began giving them out whenever they saw a homeless person.
A couple of years later, they saw the same man they had originally talked to – and Conner noticed that he was still wearing the socks they had given to him.
Linda was amazed that the action of giving was still with the child so many years later, and that moment was the catalyst that started A Legacy of Giving. She started looking at the question of where philanthropy comes from, and how we teach a philanthropic model to our children.
Like any important cultural foundation, if philanthropy is not taught, it will go away. “What if we taught it in the school system?” Linda asked herself. “How could we transform that word, to mean something to children?”
She began by taking the concept to the private school her children attended. A small board formed, including MariBen Ramsey of Austin Community Foundation as well as local educators, philanthropists and business leaders. In 2007 MariBen suggested that the organization open a fund through ACF to pilot the program for viability. ACF also provided office space and administrative support.
“I didn’t want to start my own nonprofit,” Linda says. “That’s what ACF is set up for – it allows you to focus your energy and passion on what you care about, without having to do it all yourself.”
The vision of A Legacy of Giving is to grow a generation of givers. Within three years the program was being taught to more than 7,000 students in 35 schools. By the 2010-2011 school year, Legacy student philanthropists returned an equivalent of $322,608 in economic value to the Austin area, including nearly 32,000 hours of volunteer work.
But the results aren’t just economic, they encompass what the effect of their giving means to the young philanthropists themselves.
“Part of the impact is the children understanding that what they do counts,” Linda says. Another vital aspect is turning the recipient into the giver, so that the true meaning of philanthropy, versus charity, comes through. The program is in Title 1 schools, privileged districts, and Catholic, Jewish and Muslim schools. This hit home for Linda when one participant, who received most of her family’s food from the food bank, revealed that for the first time she felt like the giver.
“She’s a different person; she will never be the recipient again,” Linda says. “You don’t have to be wealthy to be a philanthropist. We transform the word philanthropy, regardless of socioeconomic status.”
A Legacy of Giving is now going into its fifth year, and Linda knows that none of it would have been possible without Austin Community Foundation. “Without ACF, we wouldn’t exist,” she says.
The program has come full circle for Linda, being taught now at her children’s schools. “We’re creating a sustainable model that will be here forever. The transformation of learning is not just for them, it’s also for us.”