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Are young people more willing to donate their time than their money?

Time V Money

Cash-strapped but trying to fund a busy social life, you’d probably imagine that the typical young person would be unlikely to have any spare cash to give to charities.

It may surprise you to learn that, according to statistics, 49% of young people donated money to charity last year. Yes, they were the least philanthropic age group overall, but the differences between each group’s level of generosity was only slight.

When it comes to donating their time, however, young people are as generous as the retired. With enough of it on their hands, around their studies and any part-time work, they can perhaps compartmentalise and free up their downtime much easier than working parents, for example.

Though I’m not suggesting for one minute that altruism isn’t a factor, a benefit to young people giving their time to charities is that they commonly gain transferable skills, which helps to fill out their portfolios and CVs. This shows potential employers that the young person is proactive and willing to learn, it provides testimony from a credible party that the individual is reliable and trustworthy, and volunteering increases the number of opportunities available to the individual in question.

This is useful leverage for charities looking to swell their volunteer numbers. As long as organisations have it in mind that young people may flit back and forth or only stay for a short space of time—because new academic terms begin, or they secure jobs more aligned to their career goals—both parties could get a lot from each other during the time they collaborate. Younger generations will likely be more au fait with digital fundraising and communications, and their imagination and energy could breathe new life into a charity.

Digital donations have risen throughout all donor age groups as a result of the pandemic, when lockdowns forced events of any kind online. It’s also a sign of the times, as a cashless society creeps in further to our lives. Some charities have continued to incorporate digital events into their fundraising calendars, after realising how easy they were to plan and how far they can reach. That said, there is always a level of disconnect when running an event online and there’s a screen in the way. This may be why charities were keen to launch in-person events once Covid restrictions lifted, as they’re ultimately more ‘profitable’, due to the stronger buy-in from donors and guests when they’re physically present and invested in a cause.

Though financial support is, of course, important to charitable organisations, the donation of someone’s time is also valuable—probably more so in the current cost-of-living crisis. There’s heightened competition for grant funding, and there are only a few methods and/or specific funds that will allocate money towards staff wages and other running costs. Volunteers are crucial to help things run smoothly behind the scenes, as there’s simply not enough money in the third sector’s coffers to employ everyone who plays their part in the operations of the 166,000 good causes in the UK alone.

I do understand this (though I wish things were different and there was an abundance of money available to charities for their wages and running costs). However, what I don’t understand is the failure of grant-makers to acknowledge just how important core costs are.

When you board an aeroplane, the pilot always tells adults travelling with children to put their own oxygen mask on in the event of an emergency, before they attempt to help their children do the same. This seems logical, though I suspect instinct plays its part in such a situation…anyway, I digress. The thinking behind this request is that, if you don’t see to yourself first, you could find yourself unable to help your son or daughter. If you run out of breath as you attempt to put a mask on your terrified child, both of you will perish. This premise is the same for organisations…if the team behind a good cause fails to exist, then delivery of the support to beneficiaries will halt, too. It’s a one-way chain of events; the beneficiaries can’t access the help they need on their own—they need the charity workers and operational team.

Volunteers plug the gaps between limited funding for team members and the delivery of help to those in need. Whether they’re young or old is relatively unimportant, as is the time they can donate to the organisation. For example, you may feel that Mavis—who has worked in your charity’s shop for three hours each Wednesday afternoon, without fail, for years and years—is of more value than Jake, who can only donate two days a week over the summer holidays, whilst he’s home from university. In terms of long-term planning and reliability, maybe this is true. However, in those twelve days Jake donates, he may update your website, train other volunteers on social media strategy, help you conjure up an inspiring and innovative calendar of fundraising events, and canvass donations and collaborations amongst businesses in your area. Time is relative, but so are energy levels, skill sets, and enthusiasm.


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