From education to employment



The last 18 months have shown an increased social conscience in young adults, particularly Gen Z. With no signs of their altruism slowing down, it is revealed nearly two thirds (61%) of students aged 12 to 14-years-old have connected to a charity, on top of their schoolwork, during the last academic year. 

New research[1] released today from First Give, the schools programme aimed at empowering young people, by igniting a spark of social conscience, shows the pandemic has impacted Gen Z in a positive way, by making them the most socially aware generation in recent times.

The top charities supported by students include health, homelessness, and mental health sectors. Charities falling within the health sector are the most frequently chosen by students taking part in the First Give programme, making up nearly a quarter (23%). 

When compared to the sectors represented during the previous school year (2019-2020), health has moved up from 4th to 1st place, likely due to seeing the first-hand impact the pandemic had on the health of their friends, family and those shown in the news.

Alongside the pandemic, social activism being more present in the media has likely made young people more aware of social issues within their communities. Homelessness, mental health, and human rights (including racism and LGBT+ rights) followed closely behind health, as this year’s most popular sectors, at 18%, 17% and 15% respectively. 

Last year, human rights didn’t make the list, showing how the Black Lives Matter movement has likely brought this to the forefront of young people’s minds. 

Top charities selected by students to support broken down by sector 


Charity sector



Health (including cancer, terminal illness, and hospice care)






Mental Health



Human Rights (including racism and LGBT+ rights)



Community cohesion (including youth work, gang violence and knife crime)



Gender based violence



UK poverty






International Aid



Education & Training


Helping each other has become a strong theme over the past 18 months and a staggering 85% of students who took part in the First Give programme say they will or may do more social action in the future. However, there is still a long way to go as 44% of charities report not being confident about how to engage young people with their mission. 

Louisa Searle, Director of First Give, comments:

“Understandably, the pandemic has brought social activism to the forefront of young people’s minds and it’s great to see one positive of this difficult time has been the connection students have made with their local charities. 

“It’s interesting to see the impact the pandemic has had on the charitable causes young people are choosing to support, with many seeing the first-hand impact the last 18 months has had on both the physical and mental health of those around us.

“There are many ways students can make a difference in their local community, it doesn’t always have to be a monetary donation, time and awareness can be just as effective. At First Give, we believe all young people should be encouraged to partake in social action from a young age.”

[1] Internal data captured by First Give in August 2021

First Give is an educational, interactive, student-led programme that encourages entire year groups of students to engage with local charities in small teams, and to advocate for their chosen charities competing to win a grant of £1,000.

This fully resourced programme provides free OFSTED-ready lesson plans and resources , and reaches across the PHSE, RE, English and Citizenship curricula. It helps to develop key transferrable skills such as teamwork, leadership, research and public speaking. The First Give programme supports young people to give their time and talent local charities and improve their communities.

First Give was set up in 2014 and has given over £850,000  worth of grants to charities and has reached over 115,000 students to date. Founding funders include Pears Foundation, Four Acre Trust and Lower Green Foundation. Additional funding partners include Jack Petchey Foundation,  Buffini Chao Foundation and Standard Life Aberdeen. 

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