Being and becoming donors: how children and young people engage with charities
Extant research on nonprofit marketing and specifically donor behaviour have been quantitative and focused on profiling donors or examining motivations for giving. Prior research in these areas has also focused on adult populations, neglecting children and young people in general and those under 16 in particular. This dearth of research on children and young people in the nonprofit sector is even more surprising in light of the wealth of research on this group in the commercial domain. Furthermore, current understandings of the socialisation of children into donors are largely fragmented. It is important to give children and young people a voice in the literature, and one which reflects their contribution to society. There is also a need to examine how children and young people learn about charities and how they currently behave as donors. This interpretive study sought to explore how children and young people understand, donate and relate to charities. It aimed to provide a thick description of children and young people’s donor behaviour and their socialisation as donors, and to understand their charity consumption experiences through their eyes. Research was guided by child-centred, participatory research principles, with the multi-method research design involving thirty-three individual/paired interviews and focus groups with 91 children and young people and three surveys completed by a total of 606 9-24 year-olds in Scotland. The main findings are that children and young people engage in a variety of charitable activities and have a generally positive image of charities. Their knowledge, awareness and understanding in relation to charities become increasingly complex as they age, reflecting their cognitive and emotional development and greater life experience. Their donor behaviour also changes with age, and this is related to a range of personal and social influences, including the charity consumption arenas in which giving takes place. The process of donor socialisation extends into young adulthood, offering evidence of lifelong socialisation processes in the nonprofit context. The thesis concludes by considering the implications of the study for charity marketers, educators and public policy makers, and by outlining several fruitful avenues of future research.