Charities should write personal thank-you letters to children who get involved in fundraising with their schools or other organisations, a round table on encouraging a culture of giving among the young was told.
Speaking from the audience at an event hosted last Thursday in London by Philanthropy Impact, a membership body for philanthropists, Michael Illingworth, interim financial manager at Oracle Cancer Trust, said that children – and students involved with their university rag fundraising committees – should receive personalised letters because this would encourage them to remember the importance of philanthropy when they become adults.
Illingworth, a primary school governor whose own children raise funds for charities, said: "Wouldn’t it be really a good idea for charities to write personal letters to children? Not just a global ‘thanks John Bents School for raising £100’.
"If each of those children, in this electronic age, had a personal letter saying ‘thank you’, this is what you’ve done for us, the little children would take it home to their parents and say ‘look what I’ve achieved’. And if it’s at the rag level, they’ll tell all their mates that it’s worth doing and that the charity actually said ‘thank you’."
Andy Thornton, chief executive of the young people’s political awareness charity Citizenship Foundation, said that although the idea was good, it was almost better for people to feel they have "become the charity" by making a donation, and that having the charity thank the individual was incompatible with this concept.
But Sophie Livingstone, chief executive at the youth and education charity City Year, said that people wanted to be acknowledged personally for their help, whatever age they were.
Speaking about one of the barriers to instilling a culture of giving among the young, Beth Breeze, director of the Centre for Philanthropy at the University of Kent, said that the lack of dialogue among British people about the charities they support was a serious problem.
Citing US-based research into the importance of parental role models and talking about charity at home, she said: "Getting people to talk about what charities they donate to is like getting them to talk about a dirty secret."
Another panellist, Ambica Jobanputra, head of leadership and team development at the social enterprise BeyondMe, said that charities’ ability to demonstrate their impact was what was going to "make or break" the charitable sector for the next generation, which will be more cynical and require more information than its predecessors.
But Breeze said that she was worried about the impact measurement movement and the idea that charities had to meet "magic numbers". She said this wasn’t a realistic expectation and did not reflect how people give to charity, which was mostly on compassionate grounds. "There’s nothing wrong with compassionate giving," she said.