All for one and one for all - why should charities engage families?

Families are a valuable pool of support. Find out how and why your charity could benefit from engaging this support group.
Aisling Buckley

I have a distant memory of picking up my CAFOD pyramid collection box from the mantelpiece every morning before school, shaking it loudly asking and asking my Mum how much she thought was in there. CAFOD’s pyramid collection box was a fool-proof way to get children involved in CAFOD’s work, introduce them to fundraising and at the same time educating the whole family about CAFOD. Sixteen years later and my family are still loyal supporters of CAFOD.

Families are a valuable pool of support, but they are often neglected when charities are looking for potential supporters. Many charities might assume that because families are strapped for both time and money, they won’t be able to support a charity at all. But two thirds of the parents we interviewed as part of our Families Insight Monitor last October had donated to charity in the last three months. This was actually higher than the average for 35 -54 year olds in that period. So are charities failing to see why they should engage with parents and their children?

Why should charities engage with families?

  • Pester Power

Kids pester. They pester for new brands of cereal and the new app that their friend already has. But they are also good at convincing their parents to take action for a charity. Over half of the parents we interviewed as part of our Families Insight Monitor recalled donating to charity because their child asked them to. Educating children about the impact your organization educates the whole family, and could motivate parents to get involved.

  • Families can spread the word

Like most Millennials, I would never sign a new phone contract or buy clothes online without finding out the experiences of my friends, family and everyone else on the internet. We rely a lot on recommendations from the people around us. This is particularly true of Millennial Dads, who tend to turn to social networking sites for advice on buying products and services, according to nVision. So parents could be influential in spreading the word about a charitable campaign or fundraising event because of their large pool of contacts, while at the same time their peers will be willing to accept their advice and requests for charity support.

  • Families are already knowledgeable about charities

Many parents already donate to charities, while most children are aware of charities such as RSPCA and Cancer Research UK. Parents and children are already interested – but charities need to cater for their interests and lifestyles if they want their support.

How can charities engage more with families?

  • Provide fun and family-friendly volunteering opportunities

Millennial parents are time-poor. They want to spend the spare time they do have as a family and increasingly at home. If you want parents to volunteer or go to a charity event, then it needs to be family-friendly and near where they live. A quarter of the parents we spoke to say they go to charity events with their children, so charities need to involve families as a unit, rather than speaking to parents and children separately. Be specific with how much time volunteering, campaigning or setting up a direct debit will take, so parents can fit supporting charities into their busy schedule.

  • Communicate with schools

After TV, school was the main place I heard about charities, whether it was through fundraising events or Fairtrade workshops. Charities Aid Foundation’s infographic on charities and schools show the benefits of charity-school partnerships to students.

  • Get inspiration from animal and conservation charities

The animal and conservation sectors have it easier than others when trying to appeal to families, but I think a lot could be learnt from them. Wildlife Trust’s Wildlife Watch has everything a busy family wants: an interactive and colourful handbook for kids, information about charity activities going on nearby and a focus on the impact their membership is making.

Charity activities parents do with their children (Families Insight, Nov 15)

If you’d like to find out more about our research with families, you can download the briefing pack attached to this blog. Alternatively, you can contact Rei Kanemura at if you would like to discuss how this research could help you.


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Families Insight Briefing Pack

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