Liv Wilkins

Liv Wilkins' study on charitable giving

Thu 11 June

Liv Wilkins, a former Fundraising Administrator at Yorkshire's Brain Tumour Charity, recently presented her study into Generational Charitable Giving as part of her Sociology BA degree at Sheffield Hallam University.

Rosie interviewed her about some of the surprising (and not so surprising) findings, as well as how her time at Yorkshire's Brain Tumour Charity inspired the project.


Liv worked at YBTC during the summer of 2019 during a break in her studies at Sheffield Hallam University, joining the team as a Fundraising Administrator. Although she’d not previously worked within a charity, she’d volunteered when she was younger at charitable events and really enjoyed the experience. The job at YBTC seemed like it would be an interesting opportunity. 


Liv immediately got stuck in, helping with events and fundraising, and, despite not previously knowing someone with a brain tumour, she quickly saw how much YBTC was appreciated by those it supports. Being a more regional-focused charity meant that there was a chance to really get to know the people who were involved and their own stories, an experience which she found truly inspiring. As the summer ended, she finished up her last days in the YBTC office with a newfound interest in pursuing a career in the charity sector when she graduated.


Liv returned to university for her final year and decided to focus her studies wherever she could on charitable work. For a module on Charity & Community, Liv decided that she wanted to carry out a project that looked at charitable fundraising and began looking into different research topics, soon deciding on a study which would examine the differences between generational giving. As you would imagine, it’s a huge topic to research and indeed Liv soon found an overwhelming amount of data to delve in to, which somehow needed to be sifted down into a twenty-minute presentation.


To help focus her project, Liv decided to concentrate specifically on two generations in particular: Baby Boomers (aged between 77-60) and Generation Z (aged between 22-10), as they are at opposite ends of the generational scale and, as a Gen Zer herself, Liv was interested in how her own peers acted. 


There are obvious differences in the ways each generation chooses to interact with charities, and this is key information for fundraisers to consider when trying to reach a wide range of people. When it comes to deciding how they can best help charities, both Baby Boomers and Gen Z agree that donating money is the biggest way to make an impact. But Gen Z also prioritise volunteering, donating goods and word of mouth as equally important, things that are vital for charity shops to survive, such as our own No. 31.


Baby Boomers are more likely to financially support charities and one of the most surprising findings in the study was around Legacy Donations - money donated to charity in people’s wills – with an astonishing £5.9 billion predicted to be left to charities by 2045, almost double the amount seen today. Gen Zers on the other hand, are far less likely to leave money to charity in their wills, due to their own financial instability.


Unsurprisingly, Gen Zers are best reached through social media, with the average Gen Zer spending up to ten hours online per day. They use social media to share and challenge social issues, with several causes recently going viral and generating huge interest (the Australia bushfires, #MeToo). Big brands are now also getting involved, trying to appear more socially aware, but this also creates problems for charities because how do you cut through all the noise and get people to engage with you directly? 


The difference was also quite stark when it came to the specific ways that each generation donates money, with 41% of Baby Boomers likely to give to a charity collector on the street, opposed to only 22% of Gen Zers. It could be that the younger generation is perhaps less reliant on cash and so unable to put money in a collection bucket, but then in an increasingly cashless economy, how do you re-think the street collector?


Gen Z are instead more interested in challenge events, where they are also getting an experience. The younger generation were more likely to fundraise through these events and, during her time at BTRS, Liv saw how they could be such a positive experience – there’s a fun atmosphere, the feeling that you’re challenging yourself but participants also know that it’s all for a good cause.


Liv’s presentation highlights the need for charities to interact with people in a variety of ways in order to reach the most people possible. From a fundraising point of view, that information is vital for charities to be able to carry out their work.

The presentation earned Liv a First in her Charity & Community module and she’s continuing to focus her studies on issues surrounding charitable giving with the hope that when she graduates, she will be able to use the research to pursue a career in fundraising. It was her time with BTRS, getting to know the people the charity supports and hearing their own stories, that inspired Liv in this direction. Until then, Liv is using her skills and passion as one of our fantastic BTRS Ambassadors. 

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