Fundraising with children: ‘Children have an appetite to make the world a fair place’

Fundraising isn’t just for grownups. In fact, with their innate sense of fair play, many children are often keen to do what they can to make a positive difference to the people and environment around them.

There are so many benefits to introducing children to charity fundraising. These can be educational – learning about different countries, the environment, food chains, war – or related to personal development – altruism, motivation, and achievement.

However, it’s important to pitch the message just right so the children aren’t overwhelmed by the injustice and cruelty in the world, while making sure the fundraising activities are fun and engaging, as well as safe and appropriate.

Popular activities for young children (age six to 10) are a non-uniform day, school discos, sponsored silences and bake sales. It can help to centre the activities around a set day or week to provide focus and to have a particular challenge or target that can provide a sense of achievement. Older children, from 11 to 18 years old, need fun, relevant ideas too – but more complex activities with greater involvement in organising the fundraising activity.

“Group activities such as dance shows and interclub sports matches are popular as they have a valuable social element for this age group and allow them to be creative, explore and demonstrate their personal interests,” says Lucie Whiteman, Schools and Youth Manager at Comic Relief. She suggests a wear-what-you-like day, talent shows, a sponsored give-it-up (for example, mobile phones) and teacher versus pupil sports matches.

Although older children will want to take ownership of the campaign, it’s important to ensure there’s adult supervision to make sure activities are safe and appropriate, and any potentially hazardous ideas – leg waxing, sponsored shaves, boisterous physical games or holding your breath for as long as possible – are vetoed.

“There is an added risk with fundraising like collections or sponsorship that children and young people will try to gather this money from adults they do not know without supervision,” says Whiteman, who stresses that Comic Relief doesn’t promote any door-to-door collections or soliciting funds from strangers.

While the emphasis should be on fun, it’s also important to keep children engaged with the wider aims of the fundraising. Teachers, early-years practitioners or other youth workers should be able to communicate the wider goals and how the money raised will make a difference. It often helps to illustrate the point using real-life case stories, as this can really resonate with children.

“From our years of working with children and young people we know they have an appetite to help make the world a fair and equal place,” says Whiteman. “There is particular empathy for children and young people of a similar age that are in a vulnerable or disadvantaged situation.”

This was certainly the case at New Ford Primary School in Stoke-on- Trent. A morning assembly about the devastating tsunami in Japan prompted the children to start their own fundraising effort. A wide range of activities was organised, by the children themselves, from a series of non-uniform days to a penalty shootout. The children also made cakes, jelly, popcorn, smoothies and friendship bracelets to sell at school. “They really wanted to do it,” says head teacher Kate Quick. “They came up with the ideas and got really creative with it.”

Their hard work and creativity raised almost £1,100, a real achievement for a school of some 360 pupils in one of the less affluent parts of the country. It just shows what can be achieved when young minds are touched by the distress of others on the other side of the world. As Whiteman points out, children are the future donors, fundraisers, policy makers, consumers and influencers so it’s encouraging that so many are motivated to make a difference.