Power of Philanthropy

Give – Save – Spend

picture of 4 year old girl smiling

When I learned I was going to be a mom nearly 13 years ago, I was filled with joy and overwhelmed with the weight of responsibility to raise a good human—one that would give back to this world more than she took. As a fundraiser, I knew the concept of philanthropy was one I wanted to introduce to her at a young age.

When my daughter, Ava, was four years old, her dad and I bought her a Give-Save-Spend set with three envelopes and a chore chart to introduce her to good money management: Give, first. Then, save. Then, spend intentionally.

We encouraged her to set aside a portion of her allowance (10%) for charitable goals. Over the years, this simple, yet powerful, framework has instilled in her the value of philanthropy.



Fast forward to 2019, when Ava became a young entrepreneur, opening up her own Slushy business she called Crush the Slush. Not only has she been learning business principles, but her habit of setting aside 10% is having a greater impact. Last year, she was able to sponsor another child her age to attend summer camp. As important as it was to the other camper, the greater joy was Ava’s in being able to give the gift.

The power of philanthropy in giving first, not last—and then setting aside another portion for savings—is that it puts things in the proper sequence. By doing the right things in the right order, once it’s time to spend, our decision-making process has been positively affected. By giving first, and saving next, we will naturally spend with more foresight and intentionality. Good money management isn’t about how much we have. In fact, making more money will just amplify our actions—same challenges and opportunities, just more zeros.

Research on the subject of happiness has revealed common characteristics: strong familial and social connections; purpose and direction; gratitude and giving of oneself, etc. In contrast, no correlation has been made between material wealth and happiness. It’s what we do with it, and why, that makes the difference.

Whether it’s volunteering her time or donating money to a cause she cares about, Ava has personally experienced the joy of making a positive impact on the world around her. Of course, we wanted our daughter to learn the benefits of giving first, but unleashing her own power of philanthropy has also made her happy, and we’re great with that, too.

Janell Johnson
Janell Johnson, MPA

Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer

Wilmington, N.C.


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