Philanthropy Impact

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Is It Better To Give Than To Receive?

Paul Bowmar discusses some of the debates being held around young philanthropy

Is It Better To Give Than To Receive?

Event report

Chaired by Philanthropy Impact trustee Matthew Bowcock and organised in partnership with the Citizenship Foundation, the event saw 40 advisers and charities leaders grapple with the big question. “Are Philanthropists Born or are they made?.”  A show of hands showed that an overwhelming majority felt that you could encourage a culture of giving among the young people.

The event was hosted by Buzzacott Chartered Accountants and the speaker panel included Andy Thornton, Citizenship Foundation, Dr Beth Breeze, University of Kent, Sophie Livingstone, City Year and Ambica Jobanputra, BeyondMe.

…schools are the most effective place to support the understanding and behaviour change that can trigger informed giving and volunteering. If properly structured schools based work can reach all young people and not just the ‘nice kids’ who may be already inclined to give.

Citizenship Foundation CEO Andy Thornton, who established the successful nationwide Go-Givers and Giving Nation social action and grass roots philanthropy programmes for primary and secondary school students, made a compelling case for more work in schools because "…schools are the most effective place to support the understanding and behaviour change that can trigger informed giving and volunteering. If properly structured schools based work can reach all young people and not just the ‘nice kids’ who may be already inclined to give.“

Andy Thornton felt that the added benefits of the work that Go-Givers and Giving Nation brought to the table was that it could form part of developing a whole school ethos with students researching and then choosing the causes they are passionate about. Self-direction and a sense of shared ownership were also seen as key factors in success. Also formal educational environment and long term relationships lend themselves to more rigorous impact measurement with the added bonus of stimulating young people to become the philanthropists of the future.  It also has a multiplier effect.  For every £1 entrusted to young people taking part in the Giving Nation programme they raised £5.60 and added 4 hours out-of-school volunteering.

The audience heard that charitable giving amongst under-30s may have declined by 50% in real terms since 1985 with half of all charitable giving being made by the over 60s. However, Dr Beth Breeze, of the Centre for Philanthropy, University of Kent warned against too much pessimism. UK is a generous country, annual giving stands at £10bn or £27m every day. Most adults give with between 54-58% donating in any given month. Dr Breeze outlined some possible explanations for the apparent generational disparity:

  • Young people are much less engaged in giving
  • Lack of social conscience amongst those under 30? (something the older generation has been complaining about for the last 2,500 years)
  • Result of economic circumstance and a lack of opportunities

But there are alternative explanations:

  • It is as the Americans might say a ‘quality  problem’ caused by the impactof longevity and more affluent older people.
  • ‘40 is the new 30’ – with university fees, large house deposits and ‘delayed adulthood’ impacting on giving habits.
  • Married men and fathers give more than single men

Dr Breeze had some thought provoking suggestions to arrest and reverse the decline.  Parents could be role models and create opportunities to make charity a natural part of family life and talk about their giving. The last suggestion stimulated a lively debate about the difference between  British and American culture.  Americans are relaxed about talking about how much they give to their favourite causes where many people in the UK would think that was egotistical and crass - but some speakers felt that may be changing.

Dr Breeze also pointed out that Charitable giving doesn’t happen in a vacuum 85% of donations are preceded by an ask (source: Bekkers & Wiepking 2007).So we should ask charities  “What are you doing to ask young people for their time and money and are you using channels and messages that resonate?”   

In a final comment from the audience, one wealth manager made the point that as well as people being open about their philanthropy they should also not feel guilty about saying no to charitable appeals because they are concentrating on their own strategic giving priorities.   

“What are you doing to ask young people for their time and money and are you using channels and messages that resonate?”   

 

Paul Bower is Programmes Manager, Citizenship Foundation. If you would like a copy of the latest impact evaluation report for Giving Nation or Go-givers contact paul.bower@citizenshipfoundation.org.uk or call 07711 118388

To see more of Dr Beth Breeze’s research, please see the department page at University of Kent

This event was also covered by Third Sector. Click here to see the article.