Universities and colleges should do more to engage students in charity work

3 June 2013

The Charities Aid Foundation is today releasing a selection of the findings from the first strand of its Growing Giving Parliamentary Inquiry which reveals a desire for education establishments to do more to help young people engage with charities.

Submissions were received from individuals and organisations offering their thoughts on how young people get involved with charity, and how a lifetime connection to good causes can be established at an early age. Their responses included a focus on schools, colleges and universities, and show there are still a wealth of options that have yet to be explored in the education sector. In particular, a number of respondents suggested more should be done in terms of the infrastructure and support given to students in further and higher education to help them work with charities more closely.

Some of the suggestions given with regard to further and higher education included:

  • Stephanie Drummond from The Children’s Society suggested universities could encourage relevant university courses, and academic departments could run compulsory placements in charities to help young people form a connection with a charity. She also suggested setting up accreditation schemes with universities to reward voluntary work and potentially developing the HEAR report[1] to encourage volunteering and donating to charity. Universities and unions should also run charity fairs to raise awareness of charities in their local area.
  • Leon Ward, a trustee of Interact Worldwide and Plan UK argued that universities should provide support for students to volunteer, potentially by including options for voluntary work on Wednesday afternoons for those not involved in sports at this time.
  • Liz Dyer of the Small Charities Coalition suggested students should be provided with opportunities for office-based volunteering or devising their own projects in order to provide them with a greater insight into the charitable profession while also creating a more meaningful volunteering experience.
  • VInspired suggested UCAS points should be given for completion of the National Citizens Service and other volunteering activities. This would act as an incentive to young people applying to universities and for further education providers to encourage student involvement in giving.

The inquiry also looked at how to encourage young people to become charity trustees; how to ensure young people make a lifetime connection with charity through volunteering, work placements and social action; how young people are engaging with charity in a digital age; and how policy makers and influencers can make sure giving is fit for the digital age. For more information on this you can read the full summary of this first strand of the inquiry here.

The summary forms part of a major cross-party inquiry into the gap in generational giving, run by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), which promotes charitable giving and provides financial services and social finance to not-for-profit organisations. The inquiry is chaired by former Home Secretary David Blunkett MP. For more information go to Growing Giving.

CAF will be using the summary to inform recommendations on this and two other strands in a final report, to be published in early 2014.

The second strand of the inquiry will look at giving in the workplace and CAF will be collecting evidence from 13th June.

Richard Harrison, Director of Research at the Charities Aid Foundation, said: “It’s great to see that colleges and universities are already doing so much to help students get involved with charity work. For many students, fundraising, charity and RAG societies are a highlight of university life, allowing them to have fun while engaging with charitable causes.

“However we also know that there is a generation gap in giving, so it is important that we examine how we can further engage young people and help them form a lifetime connection with charities. It’s fantastic to see from the first strand of the inquiry that there is such a wealth of ideas on how colleges and universities could be doing this better.”

“We’re confident from the quality of evidence and number of ideas being collected that this Inquiry will come up with workable proposals that will help young people stay connected to charitable organisations throughout their education and careers.”

[1] HEAR (Higher Education Achievement Report) is an electronic document issued to students on graduation. It provides a detailed record of the academic and extra-curricular achievements to supplement the traditional degree qualification.

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