Byte Night 2011: The generous generation

Technology is turning young people to donate to charity in new ways - helping the IT industry's annual Byte Night fundraising event.

As a generation that has grown up with the latest technology in their pockets, "Generation Y" are so familiar with the latest devices, software and services that such gadgets have almost become an extension of their characters. Now however, as they enter the adult world, technology has become more than just another method of communication for this generation, and in fact, it is enabling them to become some of the most generous members of our society.

We all know that technology drives some of the most profitable businesses in the world, but a recent study looked at the role IT plays in a sector where money can mean saving lives, helping the disadvantaged and most vulnerable.

Accenture commissioned the research as part of our commitment to Byte Night, the IT industry's annual fundraising event on behalf of Action for Children. Byte Night is an evening where IT and other business professionals, including the Accenture team, are sponsored to spend a night "sleeping out" and exposed to the elements.

Action for Children is a UK charity that is committed to helping the most vulnerable and neglected children and young people break through injustice, deprivation and inequality, so they can achieve their full potential.

What was interesting about this study was that this generation of digital natives is using the tools they have grown up with to drive a more generous Britain. The study found that one in three 18-24 year olds say technology has had an impact on the amount of money they have donated to charity over the past five years. So what we are seeing is a generation of people who epitomise the changing consumer, growing up with mobile phones and the internet as their main form of communication and their key information resource.

For these consumers, technology clearly plays a central role in all aspects of their lives, including the way in which they engage with charities and the third sector - largely because it provides an instant and direct route to donations. Social media, for example, has a huge impact as more than a third of young people said that they prefer to use Facebook and Twitter to follow and interact with the causes they care about.

The research also found that 20 per cent of respondents donate more money as a result of technology, while 54 per cent of this age group said the introduction of services like text message donation and online giving has encouraged them to donate spontaneously.

This opens up huge opportunities for charities to use these tools to engage with more people, at a time when disposable income is low, but when charities such as Action for Children, who help the most vulnerable and neglected children and young people, need more support than ever before.

Adopting new methods of communication is really paying off for third-sector organisations - the study found that through technology almost one in three respondents say they now donate to charities they wouldn't previously have considered.

In fact, technology is having such a significant impact on donation trends for young people that a third of respondents admitted that the absence of the option to donate online or via text donations means they will give their money to another charity. Interestingly, a further 30% also said that failure to supply a way of digital donation would mean they would forget about the cause and not donate at all.

For third-sector organisations to really benefit from the changing donation habits of today's young adults they must embrace new technologies and adapt to these behaviours, not only now, but in the years to come. Technology has a central role to play in all of this as the days of posting cheques to our favourite cause once a year are long behind us. From internet banking, to social media, we are able to interact, learn and discover and give back instantly. And for once, the young are wiser than the old.

Byte Night 2011 takes place in London, the Thames Valley, Cambridge and Edinburgh on Friday, October 7. For more information, and to book your place, go to www.bytenight.org.uk.

Steve Nunn is global infrastructure lead and senior executive at Accenture UK.

This was last published in October 2011

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