Capitalise on youth turnout to create social change

Emily ClarkeCan the changing face of politics shake up charitable involvement?

As in 2016, this year has been no stranger to a political shake-up. With young people having discovered the power of the ballot box and contributing to June’s unexpected General Election result – their participation in the snap election was the highest for 25 years – the face and future of politics is transforming.

Against the backdrop of further political and economic turmoil looming on the horizon, charities would do well to respond to this new political momentum that so galvanized young people in the UK, to protect the future of the sector.

The latest Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) UK Giving Report shows that, as in previous years, charitable giving remains consistent, despite last year’s Brexit vote causing concern over a potential negative financial impact.

Yet with the clock counting down on the UK’s exit from the European Union, charities are facing the loss of their EU funding, not to mention further cuts to their government funding. This comes as a recent report shows that demand for the services of local charities has continued to rise, yet staff numbers are diminishing.

This is where the potential of this newly-empowered voting demographic comes in. Despite 2015’s crisis of trust following negative media coverage of the charity sector, 73% of young people believe that charities and NGOs have a positive impact on society. Moreover, the CAF Report shows that political engagement may be linked to social or charitable actions: as such, those who voted in last year’s referendum are more likely to participate in these actions than those who did not; particularly those who voted to Remain in Europe.

With three-quarters of young people voting to Remain, the correlation is clear: millennials, spurred to political activism, are also highly likely to participate in charitable activity. Young people are inspired to provoke social change, and this should be capitalised on.

There are already movements to utilise our more informed and engaged youth for social action, such as the #iwill campaign to enlist young people in activities such as campaigning, fundraising and volunteering in their communities. But it doesn’t need to stop there. In fact, charities need to act quickly to maintain young people’s interest in social change, in case they once more lose faith that their views count, and again become disillusioned with the idea that change is possible.

One example of a way to involve young people in the charity sector is to involve more young people in strategic decision-making roles. A recent report by CAF on young trustees shows that despite making up 12% of the population, 18-24 year-olds account for less than 0.5% of all charity Trustees; the average age of a Trustee in Engand and Wales is 57. This under-representation, the report highlights, means that charities are missing out on the diverse views and perspectives held by the younger generation. Engaging young people at board level also ensures that charities create a network of future loyal donors and advocates: friends for life.

Today’s young people will be the charity leaders of tomorrow. There is no doubt of their commitment to enact social change right now: they just need to be given the opportunity to do so. Charities should utilise millennials’ newfound voice – before it is too late.

What do you think? We’d love to hear.





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