Many people have been shocked at the research findings we put out at the Charity Commission this week which said that 18 – 24 year olds would be first to give up their smartphones for a month to raise £500 for a charity of their choice. But I want to take a moment to consider why this is actually not all that surprising.
Sure, millennials have a habit of walking around with a smartphone glued to their hand. But what we’re seeing here is that they are prepared to make a (fairly hefty) sacrifice – think no social media, getting lost without Google maps – in order to make a difference for a good cause at Christmas.
And would they really do it? Who knows - but the point is that they recognise it could be worthwhile to. As someone that has worked closely with the charity sector for a number of years I would never underestimate the lengths that the British public would go to to support those in need.
Let’s not forget that these young people have grown up in a society which places a lot of weight and importance on charitable activity. Charities in this country perform lots of vital services that the state would have covered elsewhere. And I think it’s fair to say that that’s reflected in the way we think about and act towards charity.
Particularly around this time of year, charitable giving is a huge part of our festivities. On a personal level Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without attending my local Christingle service in aid of the Children’s Society, or doing the annual food bank drop-off with my kids.
Of course there are some things we aren’t prepared to even contemplate - 81% of respondents told us they would rather wear a Christmas jumper for a month than go vegan and miss out on their Christmas turkey to raise money for charity.
That may say more about our love of the Christmas jumper, but either way it shows that we’re all willing to sacrifice something for causes we care about, and that is to be celebrated.
What struck me most about our findings was that young people are leading the way in terms of thinking carefully about who they give to. Over half of young people said that they usually do checks on a charity before donating to them, compared with just 29% of over 75s.
Making checks can be done in different ways, from asking to see a registered charity number or looking up a charity on the Commission’s online register - www.gov.uk/checkcharity. It’s easy to do, but a surprising number of people still give to charities without checking.
This savviness on the part of young people could be for a number of reasons – perhaps they are better with technology, or perhaps they are just less set in their ways.
Whatever the reasons, I’m glad that young people know that giving should involve their heads, not just with their hearts. Its good news for charities too as it seems that, having made a few sensible checks, the younger generation are likely to dig deeper into their pockets and give a higher amount.
So this year I’ll be raising my mug of mulled wine to young people – and hoping that others learn from this generosity and thoughtfulness over the festive period. Merry Christmas!