A week-by-week update from our Social Research Intern, Josh Harden, on our research study into young adults and charity.

charity and young people

Hello! I’m Josh, and I’m going into my final year at the University of Manchester, where I study Philosophy, Politics & Economics.

I’m working at Reason Digital as a Social Research Intern for eight weeks. And I’m not just making brews and filing things, I’m enjoying the office’s ice cream machine too! Whilst the ice cream is great, I’m actually here to investigate the trends surrounding young adults, particularly students, and their attitude towards donating to charity.

Why? Well, unsurprisingly, 18-24 year-olds are the least charitable age group, with only 42% participating in “charitable giving” or taking part in “social action”. But interestingly, 23% of this age group ‘‘Like’ a charity on Facebook – the UK average being 13%. I’m sure you can see where this is going…

I’m trying to discover why this is, and what charities can do to work on connecting with younger people, especially their online presence. The quote “may the seeds of today be the fruits of tomorrow” springs to mind. It’s important that we see the importance of charities now, to guarantee the continuation of their work in the future.

In case you wanted to follow what I get up to, I’ll be writing a series of blog posts to document the work that I am doing during my stay here, and discuss my research along the way. By the end of my time here, I will have conducted a survey and written a paper on my findings. Before I conduct the survey though, the Social Research team and I have been doing background research, to gain a better insight into student donation patterns, and signify any grey-areas that we can develop in ourselves.

Having just completed a week of background research, I found some interesting statistics I want to share that highlight the need for charities to make the most of digital fundraising, and to build stronger relationships with the public.

Most significantly, charities need to improve their presence on social media. Young adults and teenagers donate the least to charity in comparison to any other age group, yet 89% of 18-29 year-olds are active on social media with one or more account. In 2013, JustGiving received 3.7million website hits from people visiting via Twitter – a 70% increase on the year before. In the same year, £48 million was generated from Facebook traffic.

The importance of social media presence in fundraising is more significant than it ever has been. Taking this into account, it was strange to learn that 16-24 year-olds are the most likely age range to donate to charity using cash, 66% of Charities Aid Foundation’s sample having done so in the past four weeks. It seems that charities are not utilising social media to its full potential.

When social media does capture the imagination, the outcomes can be incredible. In August of 2014, the “Ice Bucket Challenge” went viral across the UK’s social media. 30% of young people took part in the craze, almost double the UK average of 17%. Consequently, August also saw young people donating a lot more than usual. 26% being the average, which increased to 32%, just because of lots of buckets filled with ice. Imagine how much awareness and funds charities could raise if they could harness just half of the 89% using social media? The possibilities could be endless.

Having completed the background research, my attention is now turned to the design of the survey, and making sure that the questions asked will produce meaningful data that will satisfy the needs of the research paper at the end of the internship. Whilst doing this, we are also planning an effective method of implementing the survey to a student sample.

I look forward to writing the next post of this series, where I will update on the practical side of the survey, and what the Social Research team and I hope to learn from it.

I hope I’ve piqued your interest, and that you’ll check back soon for part two. And, if you have any questions about the project, you can ask me on Twitter – @ReasonDigital – or by emailing hello@reasondigital.com.

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