Charities need to talk about their work in schools
My friends and I were recently talking about how I got involved in the charity sector. For me, it started with joining my local youth council snowballed from there. The conversation led to a more in-depth discussion about the relationships between charities and schools.
I’ve mentioned previously some of the barriers to individual giving and why young people tend not to do it. One idea I didn’t explore was charities in schools. I don’t mean using schools as fundraising machines (although that can be a fantastic and simple method of engagement). I mean exposing young people to a wider range of charities while they’re at school, so as to create a relationship of trust at an early stage that can be built on to create ambassadors, campaigners and givers in the long term.
I remember – and I expect this will resonate with people now in their twenties – that I was only ever introduced to alcohol, drug and road traffic charities. My exposure meant I was very unaware of charities that cover a whole range of different issues: sexual and mental health; international development; justice reform; youth rights/advocacy; child rights; elderly issues; conflict resolution; disability rights and so on. It meant, apart from seeing the odd piece of advertising, that I was largely ignorant of all the different causes that charities address.
It was a golden opportunity to engage me as a potential future giver or volunteer. That opportunity was largely missed. It wouldn’t be a bad idea for organisations to invest in outreach teams and produce interactive toolkits that teachers can easily access and use to raise general awareness of the role of charities and the role of the individual in charities. For those that already have toolkits and resources, a steering group of teachers, made up from your contact points in schools, can help to develop them further.
However, I recognise and appreciate this also requires some flexibility and goodwill from schools, which in my experience have been quite difficult to get on board because of their own commitments and time restraints. But as the government moves towards an agenda that means citizens are more involved through the big society and National Citizens Service, charities must use this opportunity, both for their own reputations and to guide the government during reviews and evaluations. It will also help charities do some UK programming, which has received increasing support from the public in times of austerity. This programming can be in the form of advocacy and campaigning work, which will again help create ambassadors, campaigners and givers.
There are also many benefits to young people who get to experience how various organisations work and achieve real change. Further, young people have a unique opportunity to develop their skills in a professional environment, which will help them in their future professional lives and strengthen that relationship of trust.