27.11.2023 First Give News

Supporting youth social action as a First Give chosen charity – with Shelter Cymru

The First Give social action programme inspires a whole secondary school year group to engage in social action. Not only does this youth social action have positive effects on the personal development of students, but it also creates a more cohesive community, linking schools with charities operating in their local area. We wanted to share some insights from Neil Davies, the Regional Fundraiser for South Wales at Shelter Cymru, a charity that is popular amongst many First Give students. Read below about Neil’s experience as a representative from a charity that First Give students chose to support during the programme and find out how to get the most out of the experience as a chosen class charity!

Through the First Give Programme, we encourage young people to identify social issues in their communities, research charities that work to tackle or support that social issue and then encourage them to embark on a social action journey in order to raise awareness of their chosen social issue. The students are then tasked to work together to create a 5 minute presentation in which they report on the social issue, charity and social action in order to win a £1,000 grant for their chosen class charity.  

The highlight of the programme for me as a Programme Manager is attending the School Final. It’s always such a joyous occasion and culmination of the whole programme, where we celebrate the hard work the year group have done for their charity in order to raise awareness of the social issue they identified. It’s at the Finals that we often meet representatives of the charities that the young people have chosen to support, and all of us at First Give are acutely aware of how important it is for young people to build a professional relationship with the charity and its representative. Between 2014 and 2023, First Give has empowered almost 200,000 young people to make a difference to thousands of charities across England and Wales and granted £1,278,000 to charities with 1254 charities winning the £1000 grant. 

It was at the Bishop Hedley First Give Final that I was introduced to Neil Davies, who is the Shelter Cymru Regional Fundraiser for the South. Neil previously worked for City Hospice and it was in this role that he was introduced to First Give, as they had been chosen as a class charity. Unfortunately, the pandemic meant that this Final did not take place but when he joined Shelter Cymru, Neil was delighted to see that they had been chosen as the class charity four times this term alone. He was invited to and attended the school Finals at Ysgol Gwynllyw,  Bishop Hedley, Pentrehafod and Radyr Comprehensive School over the academic terms of Spring 2023 and Summer 2023. Neil said that as an ex student of Ysgol Gwynllyw himself, it was a really proud moment for him returning there to deliver a session on the charity to the students for their First Give programme. He even has plans to continue to work with the school in the future and hopes to ask the students to create a video about Shelter Cymru. 

So what happens when you are selected as a class charity? In lesson 2 of our programme, the class will decide on the charity they want to support for the rest of the programme and are encouraged to reach out to the charity/charity representative to organise an in person or online meeting. 

You might be wondering what the commitment would be if you are chosen as a class charity. Neil said the main points of contact for him were ‘responding to the initial contact from the lead teacher or young people to organise the meeting, attending the meeting to tell them all about the work we do, offering any follow up support after the meeting and then attending the Final’.  

So, you’ve been contacted, but how do you know what to do? Our website has a special ‘How Students Support Charities’ page that is really informative. We’ve also created a ‘Charity Guide’ that talks you through what might be asked of you in the meeting with the class and some top tips to present to a class. 

As part of the programme, students need to work together on a social action project, which can include campaigning, raising awareness or fundraising. You are in the unique position to support them with their social action by suggesting effective ways in which they can help or get involved! If you have a specific campaign running or one that is about to launch, you might want to think of ways in which they can support your cause. Neil suggests looking at what the issues are that you see in the communities you serve and look at how they’ve been affected, then consider how the young people can positively impact this directly. 

As our meeting ended, I asked Neil if he thought there were benefits to participating on the First Give programme as a charity, and he said:

Quite a few! The possibility of potential new fundraisers in the community, making greater links with the local community, the element of the raising awareness and of course, the possibility of winning the £1000 grant!

Neil Davies, Regional Fundraiser for South Wales, Shelter Cymru

So what advice would Neil give to a charity representative who has been chosen as a class charity? He said:

Be supportive and be patient. If you don’t win, which can be disappointing, ensure you congratulate the young people for their efforts and enjoy it…the young people are trying their best to succeed for you!

Neil Davies, Regional Fundraiser for South Wales, Shelter Cymru

Rhiannon Youssef, Programme Manager