Charities missing chances to engage young children in good causes

Children are passionate about good causes but charities and schools are missing opportunities to actively engage them in fundraising and campaigning efforts, research has found.

Academics at the Universities of Kent and Canterbury Christ Church interviewed more than 150 children aged four- to eight-years-old about their perceptions of charities and involvement in charitable work.

This found that children have a strong sense of social justice and when given the opportunity are keen to find out more and get involved in charitable work.

But too often their engagement with charities, often through school fundraising activities, is merely “transactional” with children not given the opportunity to look deeper into issues that charities are involved in.

Among children taking part more than half had some knowledge and awareness of charities and experience of fundraising, but with limited understanding of why, where the money goes and how it is used.

A third had a more developed understanding of charities and good causes but most of this group were not involved in decisions about charitable activity.

Just under a fifth had a more developed understanding of charity and had actively engaged in decisions around giving.

“Fundraising for these causes has a huge range of benefits both for the children involved and the wider cause areas. We are encouraged that almost all the children recognized charitable giving and acts as a norm, this paints a positive picture for the future of charities and voluntary action,” states the report, called Our Charitable Children.

“However, engagement with charitable giving as more of a service, we argue, is a missed opportunity for children to benefit from deeper critical engagement with charity and giving as part of an active and democratic process which requires action.”

Charities are being called on to talk to young children more about the good causes they are involved in, acknowledge their support and also show them the impact of their work.

Primary schools should also give children a greater say in the good causes being supported. Children should also be given more opportunity to find out more about charities’ work, adds the report.

“Whilst passionate about charity, children often have little decision-making in their charitable giving,” states the report,

“As a result, children often perceive charity as a transactional process, rather than critically engaging in the cause and problems which may lead to the need the charity is trying to address.”

Children involved in the research project were given the chance to find out more about charitable causes.

“Empowered by careful exploration of charities and cause areas that appealed to the children, giving decisions at the end of the project differed from the type of giving discussed in the first part of the project,” adds the report.

“Here we saw children taking a more critically conscious approach in their giving decisions and fundraising choices, deeply rooted in a social justice.”

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