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Young, caring, but unable to make a difference – engaging youth in charity

In many ways 16-24 year olds represent classic charitable types. They are idealists who want a better world and are willing to pitch in to make a difference. However, according to the findings from Youth State, they are held back by a lack of empowerment to effect any real change.

Youth State is our brand new tracked research initiative, examining youth culture in the UK. Every six months a new report will be published that interrogates 16-24 year olds, offering insights into how to authentically engage this audience.

Power potential

Findings from our first report show that young Brits demonstrate a number of characteristics that suggest they have huge charitable potential. Many of the things that are important to them, are those things that we are endeavoring to make universally accessible. They value their education – 78% said their education has a positive impact on the life they want right now. Over half feel that their work has a positive impact on the life they want to lead. Equality is their third most important value, and a quarter rate their influence over their health and wellbeing as 10 out of 10. These are the things that empower them, but also align perfectly with the recently launched UN Global Goals for sustainable development, some of which relate to good health, education for all, reducing inequalities and decent work and economic growth.

Above all though, their values reflect a deep consideration for others, a truly caring spirit. They consider happiness, equality, honesty, trust, respect and freedom amongst the top 10 most important things.

The challenge is to help them feel empowered to make a change. Currently 88% rate their influence over global crises as 5 out of 10 or below, with 31% claiming they have no influence whatsoever. This is unsurprising given the scale of the worst issues we face across the globe. It is certainly difficult to know how one individual can effect change for the better. As one focus group participant noted: “It doesn’t help much if it’s just one person, and everyone else just doesn’t care”.
What’s more, here in the UK young people feel removed from these crises; 56% say they have no impact on their lives at all.

So in order to elicit greater engagement and activity amongst young people, we must find a way to make them relate more closely and feel the impact of these crises personally. Save The Children’s Second a Day advert for the Syria appeal released last year is an effective example of this approach.


It will also be critical to empower them to make a difference that they can recognize – find ways to make the impact of their individual actions measurable and visible. Remember that this is a generation accustomed to immediacy thanks to technology, so innovation around immediate feedback loops could help to maintain their attention and translate good intentions into life-changing actions. Use positive reinforcement to nudge them into behaviours that we know are lying dormant. This is particularly relevant with the IPA’s addition of the ‘President’s Prize’ for social responsibility to the Effectiveness Awards line up.

The core traits that make this age group likely to care about making a real difference to others and building a better world are in place. They’re half way there, they just need to be empowered to actually effect change.

Further knowledge

These observations have profound implications for communicating with young people – in content marketing and beyond! For more insights into the diversity of 16 to 24 year olds, particularly getting beyond the myths surrounding millennials and understanding the distinct identity of the subsequent Gen Z, check out of the full Youth State report.