Lessons in giving: Find the fun in fundraising

Let this list of tips and kid-friendly charities spark a discussion with your child on how and what they can give.

By Tina O'Shea

Managing Editor at LeapFrog

Tina O’Shea is LeapFrog’s Managing Editor and the voice of @LeapFrog on Twitter, but to her kids, she’s the Freeze Dance DJ.

Receiving gifts is a big part of what makes birthdays and holidays exciting for kids. But it’s also the perfect time to encourage children to think about how good it feels to give. Take advantage of the season or occasion to discuss the many ways to give, both during the holidays and throughout the year.

Tips for teaching kids to give

Giving is a habit that can be established at a very early age, but it does need to be taught. Here are a few ways to teach kids about charity:

  • Give before getting: Before new toys come into the house for birthdays and holidays, require your child to pack up toys and books he’s outgrown for donation to Goodwill. Make sure your child comes with you for the drop-off, and talk about how his donation will be used to help those less fortunate.
  • Make it a habit: All year long, require allowance, earnings, and cash gifts to be split between saving, spending, and donation jars (bonus: this helps kids learn about managing money as well as giving).
  • Act locally: Look for small causes in your community that will make giving tangible. Does the kindergarten class need art supplies? Does the animal shelter need new chew toys? Then hold a fundraiser. Simple fundraisers like garage sales or lemonade stands help kids feel involved, and they’ll literally have their results in-hand for giving to their cause.
  • Give a birthday wish: Suggest kids request donations in lieu of birthday gifts. Make the request in your child’s party invitation, and set out a simple donation basket at the party. Or, set up an online birthday wish at Causes.
  • Make it personal: When it’s time to donate, have kids write a letter to send with their contribution—this helps them connect what they’re doing with why they’re doing it. The warm fuzzy feeling will be even better than opening a present.


Kid-worthy causes

Kids are more likely to feel generous if they have some input on the cause. Sit down as a family and discuss your values. Then research different charities that support those values.

Need inspiration? These websites can help spark discussion with your child about values and how giving a little can help a lot: 

charity: water is a non-profit bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. Kids can watch the 3-minute Water Changes Everything video to learn about how access to clean water affects families and children. Using mycharity: water, children can raise money by running, swimming, biking, or giving up birthday presents in the name of clean water.

Project Night Night is an easy “get” for kids: the organization distributes Night Night Packages, which include a book, a blanket, and a stuffed animal, to homeless children living in shelters. A $20 donation sponsors one Night Night Package; Project Night Night also accepts donations of new blankets, books and stuffed animals, and gift cards with remaining balances.


Kids Caring 4 Kids, founded by an 11-year-old, demonstrates how one “regular” kid can make a difference. The organization supports programs to help kids and communities impacted by AIDS. Read their success stories and fundraising ideas with your child to get inspired.


Plan USA sets up child-friendly spaces across earthquake-affected areas in Haiti. Child-friendly spaces provide vital safe areas where children can learn and play in the midst of chaos. Gifts of Hope are actual items needed by the communities where Plan International USA works. Show your child how small donations can go a long way: A $10 gift buys a soft baby blanket to swaddle a newborn baby, keeping him clean, safe and warm. A gift of $15 buys three fluffy baby chicks, destined to become egg laying machines that provide food for a family and instant income.

Vitamin Angels connects children in need with vital nutrients. “We’ve had some really wonderful contributions from younger children, including lemonade stands, birthday dedications, school fundraisers and more. Children helping children feels like a win-win—and they can be so creative and passionate!” says Kim Saam, Communications and Donor Recognition Manager for Vitamin Angels.