Joe Saxton, driver of ideas at research consultancy nfpSynergy, has cast doubt on some of the conclusions drawn by Charities Aid Foundation in its report last week on the growing generation gap in giving.
Saxton has also accused CAF of tacking its longstanding policy campaigns onto the back of the report, when they don’t all have relevance to the subject.
He told civilsociety.co.uk that he plans to write an open letter to CAF chief executive John Low challenging the validity of the analysis.
CAF’s report, published on Friday, suggested that people in their 20s and 30s today are much less likely to give to charity than those of the same age a generation ago, and that people over 60 are increasingly shouldering the burden of supplying voluntary donations to the sector.
It warned that the findings foretell of a looming “crisis in giving” and implored the sector and the government to work together on ways of tackling the problem. Its five key suggestions were: introducing children to charities at school; encouraging young people to become trustees; restructuring payroll giving; introducing lifetime legacies; and creating an online gift aid declaration.
The report received widespread media coverage, including on Friday’s Today programme on Radio 4.
But Saxton says the angle promoted by CAF doesn’t always match the findings.
He highlighted a chart in the report that shows that giving as a percentage of total spending, by age group, had not changed for the under-30s from 1980 to 2010. But because the figure for the over-75s had increased from 0.57 per cent in 1980 to 1.54 per cent in 2010, CAF had characterised this as younger people being less generous because older people were giving more.
Prompts 'unfamiliar to younger donors'
Saxton also claimed that the examples of charitable giving that were used to prompt people’s recollection of whether they gave or not, would have triggered responses much more readily from older people than younger ones. These included phrases such as “blind box”, “cancer league”, “Gold Heart (charity)”, “missionary box”, "mothers’ union collection", “candles (church)” and “sponsor money”.
“There was no Children in Need, Comic Relief, JustGiving, or text message donation,” Saxton said. “It’s a list that is guaranteed to resonate more with an older audience than a younger one.”
He also said that the research is based on giving by households, rather than individuals, yet it doesn’t appear to take into account the steady increase in single-person households over the last three decades.
“If you knocked on doors in 1980, the chances of there being someone in the household that gave to charity would have been more likely simply because there were more people in the house then.”
CAF’s policy solutions ‘just its usual agenda’
And he criticised most of CAF’s ideas for tackling the problem as unfocused. Introducing an online gift aid declaration would do nothing to prompt people to give more, it would simply increase the amount the government gives in tax relief. Introducing lifetime legacies would unlock more giving from older people, not younger ones. Encouraging young trustees would not boost donations. And when calling for reforms to embed a stronger culture of workplace giving, CAF should have been transparent about its ownership of the UK’s biggest payroll giving scheme Give As You Earn.
“They’re peddling an agenda that isn’t based on the research and the agenda looks suspiciously like the same agenda they've always had,” said Saxton.
CAF: Younger people are contributing a lesser share
But CAF insisted that the results clearly show that the gap between the donations made by the over-60s and the under-30s has widened during the last 30 years.
Hannah Terry, head of policy and campaigns, said: “If you look at total giving coming from different age groups in each year from 1978 to 2010, all of the age groups under 60 contributed a smaller share of total donations in 2010 compared to 1978, while the opposite is true among the over-60s.
“The share coming from the under-30s fell from 8 per cent in 1980 to 3 per cent in 2010, while the share coming from the over-75s grew from 9 per cent in 1980 to 21 per cent in 2010.”
Terrey added that CAF is dedicated to promoting giving and supporting civil society, and felt it was important that the research be shared so the issues could be debated.
CAF: ‘No silver bullet’
“We have put forward five key measures we think could help to reverse the tide but there is no silver bullet. We are delighted if people debate the findings and table their own proposals for reform if they think they could make a difference.
“If people start to think more about how we can engage younger generations with giving, and the work of charities, then the sector will have been usefully assisted.”