Engage the next generation

15 May 2018

Whether you already have an established vehicle for your family’s giving, or you’re just starting out on your own philanthropic journey, a question often posed is: ‘What’s the best way to educate our children on this topic?’

The benefits of encouraging children to participate in charitable activities are threefold. It widens their horizons, teaches them the value of money, and helps them develop a social conscience.

Building philanthropy into the fibre of your family doesn’t need to be challenging. Here, we explore three simple steps to get you started.

Reflecting on your own experiences

It’s often difficult to find time to reflect on your experiences and beliefs, but self-analysis is a valuable starting point. When considering how to motivate your children to participate in charitable giving – whether donating money, time or skills – taking a moment to evaluate what first motivated you.

What have you found rewarding? What lessons have you learnt? Looking back, what would you do differently?

Philanthropy – in its thousands of forms – is a deeply personal topic, and your life and experiences will undoubtedly be linked to the causes you value most. For this reason, it is important to consider the influences that are shaping your children’s lives. For instance, the growth of social media is certain to affect how your children interact, and how they form their views and knowledge of the world.

By understanding your own reasons for giving, you should be able to identify a common thread between the generations that will allow you to share your story in an inspiring and impactful way.

Involving your family in giving

When to start the conversation 

When it comes to instilling charitable behaviours in your children, you really can’t start too early.

Focus carefully on the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of giving. The ideas and concepts that you discuss with your children need to reflect their maturity and understanding. Early exposure to philanthropic activities should teach the importance of kindness, why we should help others, and the need to think beyond oneself.

Remember: it could be detrimental to expose children to levels of suffering that they are not yet mature enough to comprehend. The ability to understand and empathise are key pillars of philanthropy, and are characteristics to be nurtured gently within children, not forced. It may take time, but only you know best regarding what your children – and other family members – can cope with, and at what age.

When it comes to ‘how’, you can encourage participation by blending philanthropy with your children’s hobbies. Are they sports fans? Are they animal lovers? Do they like reading, playing an instrument, or singing? Aligning natural areas of interest with philanthropy can provide a great introduction and leave a lasting impact. By facilitating personal choice, encouraging experimentation, and aiding children to build their own knowledge and networks, you place them on the right path to shape their own ideas about charitable giving.

One limitation, however, is time. As a busy parent, you may have limited time and availability to oversee any charitable activities that your children undertake. And of course, your children have other demands on their time, such as schoolwork and social activities.

Research can pay dividends

Everyone’s approach to philanthropy will be different. Some families will be inclined to give their time to local causes, whereas others may wish to make financial donations to national or global charities.

It’s worthwhile conducting thorough research before engaging the next generation at an early stage. For example, by identifying a local charity that improves the health and wellbeing of your child’s favourite animal, you will show a clear link between what your child values and charities that support those values.

By allowing children to focus on a specific cause from an early age, you can instil a sense of responsibility and commitment. Mixing with peers of their own age can also be beneficial for children, as it promotes teamwork and social skills.

You can also seek opportunities that are specifically designed to appeal to younger audiences, and will spark their interest and imagination. Age-appropriate activities are a fantastic way to involve the whole family. Sponsored walks, baking competitions and fundraising fetes are examples of engaging, family-friendly ways to cultivate generosity and encourage participation for the benefit of others.

For further insight and inspiration, download the guide Future Giving – Engaging the Next Generation [PDF, 221KB]. Emma Turner, Director of Barclays Philanthropy Service, said: ‘We are often asked by clients how to engage their families in their own giving journey. We created the guide to provide an appropriate framework for these conversations and we hope it will be helpful.’


Philanthropy means different things to different people

Whatever your philanthropic aims, we can help you understand the key issues and guide you with a strategy that meets your needs.

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