Talking about charity seen as key to kids’ giving

The best way to get children to give to charity is for parents to talk to their kids about giving, rather than just setting an example for their children and making donations themselves, a new study says.

Children whose parents talk to them about giving are 20 percent more likely to give to charity than children whose parents do not discuss giving with them, says Women Give 2013, a study from the Lilly School of Philanthropy at Indiana University.

Talking to children about charity is an effective strategy both for girls and boys, and across race, age and income groups, the study says.

“Parents giving to charity is not enough to teach children to be charitable,” the study says. “Focused, intentional¬† teaching by talking to children about charity is what works.”

Nearly nine of 10 children ages eight to 19 give to charity, with girls and boys equally likely to donate money, although girls are more likely than boys to volunteer, says the study, which is based on interviews and follows the same 903 children in 2002-03 and in 2007-09.

Nearly nine in 10 children across all income levels had parents who talked to them at least once during those two time periods about charitable giving, with girls and boys equally likely to have had those conversations.

About eight in 10 children had parents who gave to charity at least once during the two periods, with boys and girls equally likely to have parents who gave to charity.

And nine in 10 children gave to charity at least once during the two periods.

Family income does not affect children’s giving to charity, says the study, which controlled for other factors known to affect charitable giving.

“Talking to children about charity significant affects children’s giving behavior,” says the study, which was produced through a partnership of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Lilly School of Philanthropy, and the United Nations Foundation.

“Children living in households who have a parent who talks to them about charity have a greater likelihood of donating to charity, compared to children whose parents do not talk to them about giving to charity,” it says.

The effect of talking is significant even after controlling for other factors that affect giving, including whether the household donated to charity, the study says.

Volunteering is a common practice among children, with 49 percent of girls, 39 percent of boys and 44 percent of all children volunteering in one year.

Todd Cohen