Children as Library Donors

There are many opportunities to encourage youth philanthropy responsibly

Some librarians feel it is manipulative to incite children to give. Given the affinity between many youngsters and children's librarians, there is certainly potential for exploitation if a hard sell is part of routine encounters and programs. However, there are many opportunities to encourage youth philanthropy responsibly, and, done with a light touch, youth donations of time, resources or money have long-reaching benefits. Research has shown that youth philanthropy generates lifelong interest in nonprofits, volunteering and donations. Giving habits started young continue into adulthood - benefitting us all.

Standards published by the Association of Fundraising Professionals state:

Members shall not exploit any relationship with a donor, prospect, volunteer, or employee for the benefit of the member or the member's organization.

How We Encourage Youth Philanthropy at Schlow Centre Region Library in State College, PA

  • Donation boxes in the shape of animals raise $1,200 annually. The "Big Belly Banks" capture spare change in a fun way at service desks and return much on the initial investment of $55-$150. Originally intended to capture income only during high-use periods in the summer, the banks became part of Library visit rituals and their popularity earned them a permanent place in the library.
  • The annual summer Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts in State College includes a day where youth artists sell their creations in a street art fair. Several young artists, including brothers who made and sold original bookmarks, have donated their proceeds to the Library.
  • With no prompting from the Library, several children have donated cash gifts from their birthday parties for the purchase of Library materials. The Library has widely promoted these unsolicited gifts which have been covered by local media and led to additional giving. The stories behind the donations underline the effectiveness of appeals "to the heart".
  • The Library originally omitted juvenile card holders from the mailed annual fund drive. However, after several donations from youth who inadvertently received the appeal, the Library is reconsidering its approach. Families without adult cardholders were receptive to the children receiving the appeal.
  • A limited number of youth volunteers are accepted during the summer to assist with the Summer Reading Program.

Other Philanthropic Activities for Youth

Other libraries have suggested other activities that have yielded positive results.

  • Junior Friends of the Library groups typically focus on library volunteering, craft and other programs, and peer projects such as book drives. Their service often generates family and friend gifts to the library of choice.
  • Scout and other youth groups provide volunteers, manpower for projects, and have incentives to purchase named books related to their causes and projects. Especially for troops that meet at a library location, this seems a natural fit.

Has your library fundraising policies that include younger library users? Do you have additional ideas to contribute?