(c) William Warby (wwarby, flickr)

Young Philanthropists

Young people are often stereotyped as rowdy troublemakers who are often slapped with the bale of being dossers or even a danger to society. However, the recent Cassandra report has revealed that nearly half of the teenagers across the UK and US want to volunteer through their own choice, 32% have already donated money and just over one in ten want to start their own charity.

Philanthropy looks completely different today than it did five or ten years ago. It no longer remains something which people pursue towards the end of their lives when they are retired and it isn’t something which is seen as the pastime of the super wealthy. Young people actively want to engage in philanthropy and they want to see it integrated into their everyday lives.

Berry Liberman, the producer and director says; “I think money can be a great enabler”, Liberman says. “Money need not dictate to us the world we should live in. Rather, we can use money to create the world that we want’.

Recently the Saudi billionaire, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal who is the nephew of the deceased King Abdullah has announced that he promises to donate all his £20 billion wealth to charity over the coming years. “Philanthropy is a personal responsibility, which I embarked upon more than three decades ago and is an intrinsic part of my Islamic faith”. The prince’s move will be based on the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation which donated $4 billion to various causes in the previous year. They have previously worked together on a polio eradication programme, and Gates has stated that the Prince’s decision “is an inspiration to all of us working in philanthropy around the world”.

The Cassandra report suggests that young people are more than willing to ask their friends and family to do the same when they genuinely feel passionate about a cause. Research suggests that parents play a very important role in encouraging their children to be active in philanthropic efforts, no matter how large or small and regardless of a parent’s income level or background such as age, gender and race. The research revealed that it is extremely important for parents to specifically talk to their children about charity as this plays an instrumental part in positively influencing charitable giving more so than parents simple role-modelling their own charitable activities.

A prime example of a young philanthropist would be Mary Grace Henry who was only aged twelve when she launched her social business ‘Reverse the Course’. After discovering that many girls in Uganda are unable to go to school due to both financial and cultural reasons, she decided to simply ask her parents for a sewing machine. She spent some time teaching herself how to sew and started making headbands, which she then sold to raise money for the education of girls in Uganda. She has consequently managed to raise over $200,000 over the last few years.

Social media may be part of this increase in charitable activities. Young people are connected and can see the inequalities all around the world. It is estimated that young people spend an average of ten hours a day online including during their time at school.  They often use social media as a research tool at school so organisations need to evolve with their style. ‘Generation Z’ as they are often referred to, tend to have shorter attention spans, they communicate fast and with symbols.

A UK programme entitled ‘The Big Give’ has already been running for six years and has been featured in The Wall Street Journal and The Economist. Twenty schools have already taken part, with over 2000 pupils benefiting from the project in which students use The Big Give to find charities that they are interested in, carry out research and then fill out some worksheets which will then be marked. Once this has been done, each student is awarded a donation voucher to give to the charity of their choice.

A prime example of this would be Unicef’s trick or treat campaign in the US which asked children to take out an orange box and ask for donations for Unicef instead of sweets. Another good example would be ‘DoSomething.org’. They currently have over 3.8 million teens who are active on social change causes. They launch different activities that can involve teens such as volunteering, giving money or other philanthropic activities.

The organisation was originally created because they noticed that shelters already had a strong internet presence because photos of the animals were often shared on social media platforms. DoSomething took this connection a step further when they created a Facebook app which directs young people to the nearest animal shelter to volunteer, move goods, adopt a pet or to simply take pictures of the animals and share them on their social media networks, raising the profile of the shelter on their own platforms.

A large part of their success on engagement with young people is due to them using their data effectively enough to get better results. Rather than relying on dull spreadsheets and databases, many nonprofits now work on targeting young people on LinkedIn as they can be specific about whether they are currently looking for volunteering roles, and if so which causes are they the most interested in.

Organisations need to put more effort into engaging with young people as they are all too often keen to get involved whilst the public, particularly the older members of society need to stop stereotyping the youth and begin to appreciate the effort that so many young people put into changing the world.

Image credit: (c) William Warby (wwarby, flickr)

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Naina Bhardwaj

Naina Bhardwaj

Naina Bhardwaj

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