Children, in my opinion, are crucial to philanthropic efforts. After all, children who participate in philanthropic efforts are more likely to continue those efforts into adulthood. And if there’s one thing every nonprofit always needs, it’s more volunteers. Take a look at the organizations below and the strategies they’ve employed to target and engage young people.
Color A Smile
The structure behind Color A Smile is as simple as the name: volunteers of all ages and abilities are invited to color coloring book pages and then mail them in to Color A Smile. In turn, Color A Smile distributes the drawings primarily to seniors, as well as U.S. Troops overseas and other people in need of a smile.
Strategy: Appeal, Simplicity, & Accessibility of Resources
The organization’s primary volunteer activity is simple enough that anyone can do it, provided they can hold a crayon. The coloring book pages are easily accessible on the website; all you have to do is print them out and color them in. More importantly, coloring is a favorite childhood activity and therefore appeals to kids. Color A Smile teaches kids that they can be philanthropic by doing something as simple as coloring a page–and it doesn’t even matter whether they color inside the lines.
World Wildlife Fund
The World Wildlife Fund, famous for its conservation work, has a separate Go Wild site for kids through its UK division. The Go Wild site provides information about the continents and different animal species on Earth, and each section is accompanied by educational games and crafts.
Strategy: Appeal, Education & Accessibility of Resources
The Go Wild site may appeal to kids initially through fun graphics and the computer games it offers, but it connects these attractions to the organization’s primary mission of conservation. Additionally, the site provides ways for kids to contribute to the organization, thereby translating the knowledge they gain through the site into action. They can “adopt” a threatened species with the help of an adult, submit their artwork in competitions, or participate in WWF’s Earth Hour. Go Wild also lists other philanthropic activities geared toward children, such as throwing a Polar Bear party (utilizing various printable graphics available on the website) to raise money for WWF or participating in a beach clean up.
The Go Wild site has a three-fold strategy: attracting the kids to the site through games and graphics; teaching them about the organization’s worthy cause and educating them about planet Earth; and showing them how they can put their new-found knowledge into action.
The Jane Goodall Institute’s Roots & Shoots Program
Roots & Shoots is a “global youth-led community action program.” Youth who join the program identify challenges in their local area and then come up with solutions they can implement.
Strategy: Appeal, Support/Community, & Accessibility of Resources
The Roots & Shoots program appeals directly to youth by explicitly stating that youth can make a difference in their communities. The program encourages youth to reach their full potential as leaders. Furthermore, the program provides a community of support. Program participants post blurbs about their projects on the website and may participate in conferences. And finally, the program makes numerous resources available to program participants. An online course and toolkit, for example, are available to help participants lead successful Roots & Shoots groups in their communities.
The three organizations listed above employ some overlapping strategies to engage youth in philanthropic efforts: they all appeal to youth on some fundamental level, whether by focusing on activities enjoyed by most children or engaging the desire of young people to make a difference; and they all make resources easily accessible to reduce barriers to involvement in philanthropic endeavors. Additional strategies include simplicity of the volunteer activities; inclusion of educational material meant to inform children and inspire them to take action; and the creation of a support system.