Charity Management

Charities face generation time-bomb, as younger people lose the habit of giving says new report

21 September 2012

Britain is facing a long-term crisis of giving – with new generations failing to match the generosity of people born in the inter-war years, according to new research published by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF).

CAF is calling for urgent action to reverse the alarming trends highlighted in a new report by a leading academic.

The study by Professor Sarah Smith, of Bristol University, which was commissioned by CAF, warns that charities face a ‘donation deficit’ in the years to come if action is not taken to ensure that younger generations match the generosity of the inter-war generation (often referred to as the Silent Generation born between 1925 and 1945) and those born in the immediate post-war baby boom (born between 1945-1966).

Professor Smith, one of Britain’s leading experts on charitable giving, found that the gap between the donations made by the over-60s and under-30s has widened sharply during the last 30 years – raising fears that donations will fall when the inter-war Silent Generation and those born in the immediate post-war years pass away and members of Generation X (1965-1981) and Generation Y (1982-1999) reach retirement.

 More than half of all donations now come from the over-60s, compared to just over one third of donations 30 years ago. And the over-60s are now more than twice as likely to give to charity as the under 30s.
In 1980, 29% of the over-60s had given to charity, while the figure for those under 30% was 23%. Thirty years later, 32% of people over 60 said they gave to charities in the past fortnight, compared with just 16 per cent of the under-30s.
Today CAF is calling for urgent action to tackle the long term ‘donation deficit’ facing charities. The measures comprise: 
  • Ensuring young people grow up giving – by making giving a central part of the National Curriculum and encouraging young people to take work experience and volunteer for charities.
  • Encouraging young people to get involved in charities – by becoming trustees.
  •  Bringing Gift Aid into the digital age – by creating a national online Gift Aid registration scheme.
  • Creating a strong culture of workplace giving – by reforming payroll giving and putting philanthropy at the heart of business.
  • Introducing US-style ‘living legacies’ – which would help people to give their wealth to charity during their lifetimes rather than waiting to leave it to good causes in their will. 
John Low, Chief Executive of the Charities Aid Foundation, said:  “The generosity of Britain’s older generation continues to be remarkable – and many charities today depend heavily on their support. “The worrying fact is that people from Generation X and Generation Y are simply not giving to the same extent."
He added: “We fear that charities will face a damaging donation deficit when people of the older generations pass away. That would severely hit the funding of charities, and their ability to deliver vital services on which so many people rely. This must be addressed now if charities are to survive and thrive. “We need clear steps to be taken in order to build up the culture of giving among younger people, to ensure that Britain continues to support the causes we all care about in the decades to come.”
The report, Mind the gap, can be downloaded here
See also ‘The generation game’ by John Baguley, in Caritas, December 2008
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