We had been in Birmingham for three days before our final fringe of the 2012 conference season, which was enough time to have tested the memory of several Conservative members and politicians with our interactive Generation Game, as well as to become assimilated with the expansive International Convention Centre (ICC).
Our final fringe of the conference season takes place well within its bowels, in one of the official fringe rooms of the convention centre. Last February, the ICC hosted auditions for Britain’s Got Talent, where hopefuls had to show off their special skills for a chance to entertain royalty. Whilst we didn’t make our panelists do their party trick before choosing them at this year’s event, we were glad that they were able to entertain with anecdotes and insights about charitable giving.
Handily located within earshot of the main conference hall, on the night our panel were joined in a packed room by an audience of Conservative Party members, charity experts, former MPs and national online/print journalists to discuss whether giving is a Generation Game and how we can engage young people in charity.
On the panel were (left to right):
Dr John Low – Chief Executive, Charities Aid Foundation
Rory Stewart MP – MP for Penrith and The Border
Toby Helm – Political Editor, the Observer (Chair)
Nick Hurd MP – Minister for Civil Society
Professor Sarah Smith – University of Bristol
First up was CAF Chief Executive John Low, who introduced the theme of the fringe as well as explaining the issue – that donations from older people have doubled since the 1980s while donations from the under 30’s have halved. He warned that, if the sector continued to rely on over 50% of donations coming from the over 60’s as it does today, we could end up with a donation deficit in future.
Next to speak was Professor Sarah Smith, the author of our research on generational giving. She noted that 21% of donations come from the over 75’s and that the donor population is aging more quickly than the general population. She said there were real differences between generations and how they give and that future policies needed to better engage with young people.
Minister for Civil Society Nick Hurd MP said that it was important not to be complacent about giving. He added that the government wants to empower young people through education, national citizen service, innovation and in the workplace, but he was confident that the next generation could be the most socially responsible yet.
Last but not least, Rory Stewart MP told the fringe that he was concerned that the emergence of a professional charity sector of the last thirty years had distanced people from charities. He noted that excessive bureaucracy was making it difficult for local charities and that local authorities should be backed to support charities in their area. He did note that enthusiasm for volunteering was high, which he had seen first hand running a charity in Afghanistan.
Comments from the floor included many positive anecdotes about the next generation of young people, questions on the future and definition of the charity sector as well as how business schools and social media can be used to encourage giving.
We’d like to extend our thanks to all our panelists for a lively debate to conclude our conference season. Keep an eye on www.cafonline.org/generationgame for more updates on the campaign and to play our Generation Game.