Photo of a little girl sitting on the floor in front of a low table wearing a knit hat with a lot of knit items sitting on the table behind her

Photography by Jillian Southon

4 effective ways to help your kids fundraise

These strategies help little philanthropists successfully raise money for causes that are near and dear to their hearts

For her birthday last year, five-year-old Maddie Smith decided she didn’t want gifts. What she really wanted was for the adults in her community to donate blood. As a leukemia patient, it’s a cause that’s close to her heart. Her mom, Keri-Lyn Smith, helped her spread the word via posters and social media, and they wound up finding 250 blood donors.

But the fundraising didn’t end when she turned five. Maddie, who also has cystic fibrosis, is about to turn six, and this year she’s asking people to donate $6 (for her age) to The Children’s Wish Foundation. Her goal is to raise $10,000 in three months. Maddie has also organized a donation drive at her school for new Beanie Boos to go into the “treasure chest” at the hospital, from which kids undergoing procedures get to choose a toy.

Kids have big hearts and, when they see something wrong in the world, they want to help fix it. We went to the experts for tips on how to encourage even the smallest philanthropists to make a difference.

Photo of two young girls standing in a gym holding a balloon and a sign that says

1Start small

“A lot of our philanthropy is based on many people making smaller contributions,” says Cathy Mann, a fundraising consultant in Toronto. “We need to start building those philanthropic muscles around giving from a young age.”

This can be as simple as encouraging kids to put aside a portion of their allowances or gift money for a cause they’re passionate about, says Mann. They can also participate in programs like EchoAge, an online birthday party gifting portal, where guests give money—part of the funds go toward a present for the birthday child and the rest is donated to a charity.

Smith, who began instilling this notion of kindness in her kids while they were small, says a good way to get little ones into the giving spirit—and see firsthand how good it feels to do something for others—is to organize a simple, tangible charitable activity. Bringing used toys and blankets to an animal shelter or filling up a bag for the food bank and delivering it together is a good place to start.

2Let kids take the lead

Fundraising is an area where adults can be supportive while giving kids a starring role, says Rickesh Lakhani, executive director of Future Possibilities for Kids, a not-for-profit that helps kids get involved in their communities. “The best way for parents to avoid getting roped into doing all the work is when the kids come up with the plan and it’s led by them,” he says. Children are also more likely to follow through when they take charge, he adds.

But be careful about your expectations—if it’s your kid’s goal, stepping in when you’re not needed can actually take away the opportunity for learning. “Encourage them and acknowledge every single success, even if it’s something as simple as getting the courage to pick up the phone and call an influential person for help with their cause,” says Lakhani.

(Photography courtesy of Keri-Lyn Smith)

Closeup photo of three preteen girls posing close together.

3Have a story to tell

Why is your kid passionate about their chosen cause? Maybe they love animals, or were moved by footage of a terrible environmental disaster. Encourage them to share the story of how they became motivated to give.

Since her diagnosis, Maddie has inspired her entire school to get behind many fundraisers for leukemia-related causes, including creating a school-wide tuck shop, where all the kids made goods to sell. “We also always do garage sales,” says Smith. “The kids sell their toys to raise money. Honestly, as soon as you put out a sign saying who your donations benefit, your sales go through the roof!”

4Let them see the end result

“It’s really important for kids to see what they’re doing and connect it somehow,” says Mann. When Maddie’s school helped raise money to send kids to Camp Trillium, a camp for children with cancer, Smith brought in pictures to show them where the money was going and explained exactly how kids were benefitting from the donations they raised. And when Olivia Bergg (who attends Maddie’s school) helped arrange a pie-in-the-face fundraiser at the school for the hospital, she proudly delivered the cheque herself. “It was a full-circle moment,” says Smith. “She organized the fundraiser with her friends and peers and delivered the cheque in person. It was awesome!”

(Photography courtesy of Future Possibilities for Kids Canada)

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