Friends for life: how can charities be part of childhood and family life?

We reveal a few findings from our Families Insight charity market research to help charities trying to reach families.
Rei Kanemura

How important is charity in family life? Many charities work with and for young children, and parents are sometimes active donors and fundraisers; but the true scale of their collective charitable behaviour is not always easy to see. Recent findings from our Families Insight charity research help us understand how this audience interact with charities.

Families are in regular contact with charities

We know that parents are a busy audience with various commitments, and children typically prioritise their schooling and friends. This may lead us to wonder – is there any room for charities in their life?

When we asked children and their parents how they hear about charities, the results were promising. Parents hear about charities from a range of sources – from TV, posters, and leaflets to their family, friends, and at their child’s school. What’s remarkable is not just the variety of these ‘channels’ through which charities come into their life, but also how effective each channel is in motivating parents to engage with charities. For example, the most common medium was TV, at 70% of parents having heard about charities on TV. Yet only about a third of those who heard on TV engaged with charities in the end. In contrast, although slightly less common than TV, we have found that if parents heard about charities through their family, friends, or at their child’s school, they were more likely to ultimately engage with charities. About 60% of parents of children aged 7-10 heard about charities at their child’s school, and a half of them said they engaged with charities as a result.

Children also remember hearing about charities. Here again, TV was the most common channel they heard about charities through, at 46% of 11-16 year olds and 34% of 7-10 year olds. But they also remembered that their teachers, family, and friends mentioned charities. 23% of 11-16 year olds said they remembered seeing something about charities on social media.

So charities do have a presence in family life – they seem to enter through a range of networks that families are connected to. With this in mind, it is important that charities hoping to make contact with families use the personal networks, to maximise their potential for engagement. In particular, school is an essential part of family life and provides a great venue for fundraising events.

Charities have an exciting opportunity to reach children when they get older

Charities trying to reach families are in a competitive market. It is not just charity brands that seek their attention - corporate brands are big competition, and charities have a real challenge in cutting through all the noise.

Our research has found that as the child gets older, they become interested in issues relevant to charities. When we asked parents if they have heard their child talk about issues ranging from bullying, animal cruelty to war and conflict and environmental issues, parents of teens were far more likely to have heard their child talk about the issue than parents of younger children. Not surprisingly, bullying was the top topic – about a half of parents reported their child talking about this issue. In addition, compared to children aged under 10, teens were more likely to talk about global, complex issues – such as racism and discrimination, health conditions/ serious illnesses, and refugees. 27% of parents of 7-10 year olds said they heard their child talk about racism and discrimination; this has increased to 38%, when we asked the same question to parents of 11-16 year olds.

Our research has also found that as the child gets older, they support a wider range of causes. It seems that teens go through some profound change, and charities working on these issues have a great opportunity when they are turning their eyes to the wider world. It’s important that if the child is interested in an issue and wants to know more about it, the material is readily available. Some charities provide teaching guides for teachers, including fundraising or campaigning kits for children. When raising awareness of issues, charities also need strong messaging to inspire children – young people developing their interest in a range of social or global issues are eager for inspiration.

It’s clear that charities come into contact with family in many ways that are fully integrated into their social networks. Understanding the dynamics of these networks and the impact of the child’s growth helps charities to develop a long-term, sustainable strategy to engage with families. With Families Insight we can build a better relationship between families and charities.

If you’d like to hear more about Families Insight and our research with parents and children, please email rei.kanemura@nfpsynergy.net

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