With the decline in donations to charitable causes in recent years, the idea of engaging children in humanitarian acts in meaningful ways promises to provide adult donors in the future. Having been involved in charitable acts as children, these donors will understand what solutions can genuinely aid people, and they will contribute to making improvements in the conditions of peoples’ lives.
While many adults perceive charity as giving money, children’s perceptions of charity generally include social interaction and activities. Some of these acts involve children picking up litter, bringing food to seasonal festivals, dressing up for Children in Need, putting on red noses for Comic Relief, or donating their old toys for needy children. The list is endless.
Such engagement, if performed in a meaningful way, helps to foster altruism in children. In fact, since research suggests that children’s social orientations begin to form in their early years, helping children to become donors in the future by providing them experiences in which they become concerned about others is essential. Further research supports the conclusion that children who have charitable experiences before they are 10 years of age are twice as likely to be concerned about the welfare of others throughout their lifetimes than those who started when they were teenagers. Therefore, for charitable causes to succeed, it is vital that a child’s inherent socially-orientated behavior is fostered.
Equally important to the success of charitable organizations is the positive exploration of social and environmental issues. Acts of charity provide children the arena in which they can explore these issues in proactive ways. With the opportunities to acquire knowledge about the environment and their society and those of others, children can learn about the dangers to the air, land, and water. Also, when children are engaged in social and philanthropic activities, they are exposed to the inequalities of society.
From such exposure, they can learn much to become responsible adults, having gained an understanding of citizenship and the importance of altruism. With this understanding also comes an increased motivation for giving to social causes in an effort to make improvements for people.
From their engagements in charitable activities in which they are exposed to people suffering deprivations, children gain the knowledge to know the importance of preserving clean air, clean water, and other natural resources. Interestingly, when they enter the conversation about climate change with their parents, studies in the United States have shown that these knowledgeable children have often contributed to a change in their parents’ attitudes about climate change. Indeed, knowledge fosters results.