This is a transcript of the Third Sector Podcast episode: Engaging university students in charity work
Rory Poulter: Hello and welcome to the Third Sector Podcast. I'm Rory Poulter
Lucinda Rouse: And I'm Lucinda Rouse. Each week we bring you half an hour of discussion and debate about the important goings-on in the charity world.
Rory: This week we'll be exploring how charities can make the most of university populations. Listen out for how they raised $30,000 for one banana and find out which charities are doing it really well, from the perspective of a recent graduate.
Lucinda: Exciting stuff. But before we get to that, Rory, you've been looking into job shares for the long-read you were working on last week.
Rory: Yeah, so I did a piece last week getting into the bonuses and maybe potentially some negatives of job sharing in the charity sector.
And it was really interesting. It's something that I've not really thought about or looked into in the past, but it's off the back of the huge rise in hybrid positions post-pandemic. The Chartered Institute of Fundraising found last year that there had been a 900 per cent increase in hybrid positions in the voluntary sector since the pandemic.
So it goes hand in hand with that. And what it means is you get two very senior heads for the price of one, which is a bonus not only to the professionals themselves, but I think it's a huge bonus to the charities who are employing them.
Lucinda: Does it tend to be at the senior levels that this is happening or is it at all levels?
Rory: Well, it can be at all levels, but there are some very high profile examples. So I spoke to the CEOs of Birthrights, who gave me some really interesting insights into not only how it works for their professional development: they get the opportunity to bounce ideas off each other.
But they also described it as a superpower and it's really helped them, in their words, to better navigate discriminatory challenges they find as charity leaders, which I thought was really interesting.
Lucinda: What challenges are those?
Rory: So to quote them, they said, “as women of colour with two young children each, we've never considered a chief executive job possible for us at this stage of our lives.
“And we could not imagine navigating some of the discriminatory challenges or power dynamics we face as charity leaders without being in sisterhood with each other.”
Which I think is a really powerful position to take and it's just interesting how job sharing has allowed them to grow as individuals while also helping each other with the same role.
Lucinda: Yeah, absolutely. And how does it work, practically speaking, and did you find that it differs across different organisations in terms of who's doing what, who's in which days, whether they are working on completely disparate areas or whether they're both involved with the same projects?
Rory: So generally what I found is it's a weekly spit. So Monday to Wednesday and then Wednesday to Friday. So sometimes there is a bit of overlap on a Wednesday, depending on the organisation.
But I think most people I interviewed agreed that the best way to do it was to not have individual projects that one person is working on that are then completely untouched the other half of the week when they're not in.
It's very much a case of they're doing a job. They get to the end of the day and they hand off. They explain what they're doing. And then they leave it completely in the hands of the other.
So I think the key thing that they would describe as not necessarily a negative, but a challenge of job sharing is you have to have complete trust in the other person, in their ability and their commitment to want you and this position to succeed.
Lucinda: And did you identify any downsides to job sharing? I was wondering about benefits, if any charities offered those. Presumably that would come at twice the cost to the charity.
Rory: I can't really speak to how the benefit system works specifically for job sharing. Obviously they are getting paid one salary, which is split between them. But I can't say exactly how the benefits goes either way.
But I'd say the only thing that even comes close to a negative is you really need to have trust in the other person because it can go so wrong if you don't have that trust.
If you’re going in on Wednesday and you don't know what you're going to be getting yourself into, you haven’t had a good crossover, or you don't think the work that was done Monday to Wednesday is of a good standard, then you're starting off on an awful foot and it's not going to go anywhere.
Lucinda: Yeah, you'd be really in trouble if one of the pair was not pulling their weight and the other one was working overtime.
Rory: Yeah, exactly.
Lucinda: But hopefully that never happens.
Great, well anybody who's interested to find out more can read your in-depth piece on the Third Sector website.
Now moving on to our main segment, we're keen to find out how the voluntary sector can offer enticing opportunities to university students and maximise the returns that charities get out of them.
There are more than 2 million students in higher education, or that was at least in 2021-22, according to Universities UK.
Some are more time rich than others. But studies have found Gen Z to be the most charitable generation in the country, with a healthy appetite for volunteering in particular. So how can charities tap into their predisposition to do good?
Rory: We have two guests to help answer this question. First up is Wajid Akhter, who in his day job works as a GP. He's also the founder of Charity Week, a student and volunteer-led initiative which began life in a London medical school over 20 years ago and now spans eight countries.
Wajid Akhter: Hi, thank you very much for having me.
Lucinda: Also with us is Harry Twohig, communities officer at the Brilliant Club, a charity which supports PhD students from less advantaged backgrounds to study at the most competitive universities.
He's also a trustee of the British Youth Council. And Harry, you graduated from Oxford University last year, where a lot of your student life was spent involved with charity work, so you're very well placed to tell us what makes a charity initiative really appealing to students.
Harry Twohig: Thanks very much. Good to be here.
Yeah, I think for me, the first thing is exactly what you said in the introduction: students really care about societal causes and want to get involved.
I think for me, I was always looking for those opportunities that gave me a chance to really take ownership over something. So the kind of drive-by opportunities, like giving people a tour or speaking to them for half an hour were great.
But I think what really got me excited was the opportunity to contribute to something a little bit bigger, whether it was strategic thinking, planning an event, that kind of ownership over what's going on.
Rory: Wajid, I was wondering if you could tell us a bit about the beginnings of Charity Week and its goals and aims.
Wajid: Thank you so much. I'll tell you a story. This actually happened to me when I was in my first year at medical school.
I saw a picture in a magazine. There was a five-year-old child on the side of a road. It was dark, midnight, and he was hugging his three-year-old brother. And the caption underneath said that the photographer was looking to find out what these kids were doing on the street.
And he asked the five-year-old, why are you here? Where is your family? And the five-year-old said, we have nothing and no one. All we have is each other. So I keep my brother warm at night and we sleep here at the side of the road.
And like anyone who's seeing a picture like that, immediately your hand goes into your pocket and you want to give some money, you want to help them.
But I stopped for a second and I thought to myself, what happens after they use this money? What happens after this meal? Where are they going to get their next meal from?
And even if I gave a lot of money and I took care of their food, what about a shelter? They have nowhere to live. So even if I got my family together and we provided a home, what about education? And even if we got my community together and we provide them education, what about healthcare?
And the realisation that I came to was that money isn't the solution to poverty or to the problems that we have in the world at this time.
And actually what we need to be looking for is we need big solutions for big problems. We need to work together. We need to unite together to do that. And that's where the idea of Charity Week began.
It is a unity project that has charity as a side effect, but the main impact is, let's work together. And it speaks to what Harry was just saying about a cause that people resonate with: unity being that cause.
Lucinda: And it started at St George's Medical School. Why did you feel that that kind of initiative was particularly well-suited to students? And how did you make sure that it appealed to students to really get them involved?
Wajid: I was a student, so even though the grey hair now says it’s a while, I naturally went for my own peers.
But students are looking for things to do. I mean, we're looking for inspiration. You have that amazing mix of they're starting off on a new journey, especially when they're going into university, a new intellectual journey.
They want to try new things. They want to make their mark on the world. They're less cynical. They're less weighed down by baggage often. And this might be sounding ageist, but they genuinely feel like things are possible, change is possible. And so it was a ready-made audience to start with.
Lucinda: And Harry, that chimes in with what you were saying about what makes a really successful charity partnership or what can really appeal.
But what are some of the other ways that charities can entice students in terms of offering them something in return for their time and for their philanthropic efforts?
Harry: Yeah, for sure. And I think this is so important that we think about. I think there's a lot of competition for students’ time and particularly as everyone's very aware, I don't want to bring cost-of-living up, but everyone's very aware it's a difficult time. And I think that's impacting students a lot as well, that real need for there to be something.
And I think actually, it's exactly what we were just talking about: that real sense of belonging and that real sense of community, I think, is what a lot of students are really looking for.
When I moved away to university, I didn't know anybody. I was in this bizarre city that I'd never been in before. But actually, the thing that brought me a lot of real comfort was that I could keep volunteering with this charity that I'd volunteered with at home, and it felt like I was taking a little bit of home to university with me.
And so it's that sense of belonging and that sense of community. So whatever ways charities can foster that, whether it's social events on campus where it may not seem like the charity is directly gaining anything. But you're building those relationships, building that trust, building that sense of belonging and I think it's so so important.
Rory: Harry, I was wondering if there is any advice you could give charities to specifically engage with working class students who really want to get involved, and that's a good audience for charities, but they feel like they haven't been able to reach out to them specifically.
Harry: Yeah, for sure. Thinking about class, it's complicated, isn't it? As someone who was working class myself who then ended up studying at Oxford, it's a very confusing time. And class I think really is in a state of flux, so it's kind of thinking about what we mean by that.
But I think in terms of supporting working class students to really engage in volunteering, it's about really making sure that there are those tangible benefits there in terms of things that you're going to get out.
When I volunteered as a student, a big part of my volunteering was with Nightline, which is a student-led helpline service on campuses. And we did a little bit of digging and found that I was the first coordinator of the service, so equivalent of president, to have come from a state school in nine, ten years.
And so that culture of volunteering that perhaps doesn't exist quite so much in the state education and those sectors, but I think working class communities are really rooted in their communities, rooted in that sense of belonging, and really willing to give back to the world.
I think it's really important that we harness those lived experiences that people have got and use them for good. So for me, it was that lived experience, educational inequality and seeing that first-hand that then a charity was able to come along, harness that, really grab that passion and utilise that in their work.
And I think that is really effective. It's acknowledging that lived experience that people are going to bring to the table and how we can really use it for better and for good.
Lucinda: And Wajid, I'd love to get your view on that a little bit later, but I think first we need to take a step back, and if you could tell us about the set-up of Charity Week in terms of its relationship and collaboration with Islamic Relief, which is your partner charity, isn't it?
Wajid: Yeah, so when we started off, because we had this vision that we wanted to really bring together the widest array of people, we decided at the beginning that we didn't want to become a charity ourselves. There's a lot of work that goes into being a charity, there's a lot of dotting the i's, crossing the t's, and therefore it would be better for us to partner with a charity.
And we went to a few different charities. And what we found, which I think really speaks to what has been the theme of this discussion, when we went to Islamic Relief, we told them about what our vision was, what our goal was.
And they said, yep, we'll support you. If you need a budget, we'll give that to you. We'll help you with our expertise. And I asked them, so how much money do you want us to raise or what are the guidelines?
And they said, there's no guidelines, there's no strings attached. And I was taken aback because usually when I went to charities, there will be loads of strings attached, they'd want to quiz us.
And they just said, no, we believe in what you're doing and therefore we're going to support you. It's not about the funds.
And one of the things I can genuinely say, over 20 years, it's consistently not been about the funds. And the less that it is about the funds, even though that is important, I'm not making it out that fundraising isn't an important part and isn't helpful, but the less that they go out specifically to raise funds, the more people are attracted to the charity and the campaign and its values.
As Harry was saying, reaching out to people for what motivates them, what inspires them, as opposed to a number on a cheque.
Lucinda: So it sounds like Islamic Relief has taken quite a hands-off approach to Charity Week. Is that correct?
Wajid: Probably not hands-off. They're actually very supportive, so they are very hands-on, but they're clear that the students, the volunteers, are the leaders of the charity. They set the tone, the agenda, and they're here as a supportive mechanism.
Which is very hard to do, because if I think of myself as a professional, if someone was to come into my workspace, into my area of expertise, and say, I want you to support me, but I'm going to take charge. That would be very difficult for me to get used to the idea of taking a step back.
But the fact that they've managed to do that because they see the bigger picture has been one of the key reasons why the project has succeeded.
Lucinda: But presumably there are risks to the charity of taking that approach, such as reputational ones.
Wajid: Definitely. I mean, you have to take some risks in order to trust somebody else and there are risks here where you have students who are maybe less experienced or less mature or may say or do things that could provide issues for the charity.
And in order for this to work, that trust needs to be accompanied by a high level of dedication by the volunteers. They need to be able to show and prove that that trust is well-placed. And there needs to be hopefully systems in place to ensure that not only are the volunteers protected, but also the charity is protected as well.
Rory: Harry, I was wondering in your opinion, what more can umbrella bodies do to promote charity-student engagement?
Harry: Yeah, I think this is a really interesting one. And I think Charity Week is a great example of the importance of just celebrating what the sector is.
I mean, I'm really lucky that I work in the sector and am a trustee at an organisation, so I've been able to be involved.
But I think having a real presence on the ground at universities is really important when we're thinking about young people moving into the sector.
In terms of what the sector can do, really tangible things, I think it's really investing in building those relationships. And obviously that's much easier said than done because relationships cost money to build and they take time to build.
But I think investing that time to build those relationships, hear what students really care about is really tangible and a really positive thing for the sector.
I think just getting boots on the ground and really shouting about how incredible the sector is. The amount of careers fairs that I was invited to, and obviously being a student at Oxford probably slightly skewed my experience.
But the amount of careers fairs that have big corporate organisations, all of the law firms in a room, all of the banking firms in a room, what can the charity sector do to really promote itself as a really tangible and attainable career for young people?
And then also I think just not underestimating young people I think is the last thing to say. I think it's all about flipping the type of knowledge that we value. I think quite often we value very traditional knowledge that's gained over years and years of experience.
But actually if we flip that and we think about lived experience as a type of knowledge, and we think about those things, I think charities can really gain a lot from working with young people.
And I think the last thing that I'll say, which is something actually that Amnesty International, I’ve got no connection with them whatsoever, but it's something I've seen them do really well, is student societies at universities can be huge champions, huge supporters.
You give a society, give a group of students a real basic toolkit for what they can do, how they can organise, discussion prompts that they can get students meeting and discussing, maybe you can provide a speaker once a year, twice a year, like what can you do to really get out there amongst universities, I think is what I'd say.
Lucinda: Just going back to your point about the need for charities and the sector as a whole to build relationships and invest time in building those relationships, it sounds like Amnesty International is a charity who's done that really well.
But I was just wondering who exactly within the student bodies should be contacted, because isn't it a really big problem that student populations have a big turnover? I mean, most people in an undergraduate degree are out within three years.
Harry: Yeah, I think the turnover is huge within student populations. I guess in terms of who to contact, there's lots of opportunities here in that you have lots of events where students will all end up in one place.
So whether it's a freshers fair, whether it's a halls of residence where you've got hundreds and hundreds of students living somewhere.
Universities also have a lot of structures that exist already. So, reaching out to student unions who convene students, bring them together, who host events, those kinds of things. Reaching out to student societies that already exist that are working on similar issues, I think is another kind of really great way to go.
So yeah, I'm not, not suggesting that every charity in the world should start flyering every student bedroom, because that probably isn't going to get much reward on either end.
But just approach I think in terms of being slightly strategic about who do we reach out to, where are the students going and how do we meet them there, where they’re at?
Wajid: I agree and I'd add that on every campus there will be at least one person who will feel very, very strongly about that particular charity or that particular issue. That's probably the person you want to reach out to, because it's the saying that we found resonated in Covid: the messenger is as important as the message.
So students are much more likely to respond to a member of the student body who says, you know what, I resonate deeply with the work that UNICEF or Amnesty or whatever does, and I want to establish a society.
And then those who haven't really given it that thought or aren't sure about it, but maybe want to give some time, then they will be attracted to that student as opposed to the charity coming in themselves and saying, who wants to volunteer for us.
And for Charity Week, for example, we work with the Islamic societies. And you're right, the turnover rate is huge. Every year we need to make the case to the Islamic societies why this is worthwhile.
And there's no shortcut. If we don't make the case well enough, they won't take part and they'll say, we don't see why we should be supporting you.
We need to make the case and hopefully their previous generation or our current representative makes the case to the future representative and so-on.
Harry: I think that comes back to the question that we asked earlier around what can charities do to support students? I think empowering students to tell stories is a huge one, like how do we train a generation of students who can go out there and be really comfortable in telling their narrative, their personal story publicly in a way that feels safe for them and in a way that's aligned to their cause?
So for example, the charity that I'm a trustee at, the British Youth Council, we empower young people to try and create social and political change. There are so many incredible young people out there doing that at the moment.
And how do we really get those young people in a position where they feel able to speak to their peers about why that is important? Because I completely agree with what's just been said. I think the role for the charity is to support young people to do that. But that authentic story, if that comes from a peer, that's so, so powerful.
Rory: So that's how a charity can help a student and give them the skills going forward. But what value do students bring to charities?
Wajid: I find that it's a bottomless pit of energy and innovation. It's unlikely a charity is going to be constantly keeping up with the latest technological trends, right?
By the time they get their Snapchat page up, it's Instagram now, and by the time they get their Instagram page up, everyone's on TikTok, and they cannot keep up with the rate of change.
But students do it all the time, and they're flipping from one to another. So students bring that contemporary grassroots knowledge. They know how to access their peers and actually their communities, because they're often from a more diverse range of backgrounds than the normal charities base of volunteers are.
Charity volunteers outside the student sectors tend to be of a very similar background for most people, whereas students tend to be quite a lot more varied, with a bit more time on their hands.
They also innovate. They're willing to come up with ideas that just wouldn't normally come up in the charitable sector.
I'll give you an example. So we had an event where we were doing an auction in Charity Week. And it's the usual events, you know, you auction off artwork or whatever and people bid on it.
And they ran out of items and they saw that there was still an appetite in the room for donating money. So one of the auctioneers pulled out his lunch, which was a banana, and he said, look, it's not about what we're auctioning off. It's about giving. So here's a banana. How much will people give me for a banana?
By the end of the evening, the banana went for £30,000 because people were so motivated and they loved this crazy idea of like, we're actually bidding on a banana, which I don't think anyone actually ended up eating at the end of the day.
That inspired the volunteers in Germany, who said we can go one better. And they didn't even have an event, they just had a WhatsApp group. And one of them put a picture of a paperclip up.
And he said, who's gonna auction off this paperclip? They raised two and a half thousand euros for the paperclip.
So, these kind of trends, they start out of nowhere, and you wouldn't normally consider, if someone put that idea in a board meeting at a charity, they'd be laughed out of the room, but it can happen.
Lucinda: But presumably the people bidding on this banana and paperclip weren't students.
Wajid: No, they were students.
Rory: Deep pockets.
Wajid: They don't actually have deep pockets. This is the thing. So I was sat in that thing and I was like, what are you guys doing? Like, I know you don't have this much money.
And they said, we're all contributing towards that bid. And they were calling up their family and their friends. And some of them were saying, I need a new laptop, but I'm going to defer that for a year.
I mean, the level of ownership, you cannot buy that. When people say, you know what, I believe in this cause, they're willing to do things that we just cannot believe would actually happen.
Lucinda: Well, that's extraordinary. And my next question was going to be about the cost-of-living crisis. Harry, you touched on it very briefly earlier, it's obviously very important.
So I'll ask you, first of all: from your perspective of being a recent student, how have you seen the cost-of-living crisis affecting students’ ability to participate in charity initiatives?
And also, how have you seen charities being able to help students who are struggling, but still want to keep them engaged?
Harry: Yeah, for sure. I mean, I think in terms of how the cost-of-living crisis impacts students, inflation is increasing and with student loans, what students end up with in their pocket has been running between two and three per cent for the last few years, which obviously is not keeping up with the increasing costs of just living in the country.
And so that impact, I think it's really important we don't ignore that. And there are absolutely heartbreaking stories of students having to have part-time jobs, second part-time jobs, third part-time jobs, really just trying to get by. Particularly living in private accommodation where prices are increasing.
So I think the impact of cost-of-living on students is significant, but I also don't think we should underestimate students.
We mentioned this about working class communities earlier. Things are really tough, but I think it's really interesting that charitable giving and charitable appetite is often one of the last things people will sacrifice. A bit like the example with the banana, right?
The last thing that goes is that gift to that charity that they feel really connected to, or volunteering that couple of hours of their time. And they will be really protective over that.
So I think it's about building that belonging, building that sense of community. And we don't have to say that it's all doom and gloom. We shouldn't just give up and say, well, students aren't going to volunteer because everything's getting more expensive. I think we've got to think creatively about how we can work it.
I think a couple of things quite tangible to think about is thinking about flexibility. Do you have to have this person volunteering at 10 am at this time every week? Or could that student actually just fit a couple of hours in when they can around what they've got going on? And adding that flexibility into it.
And I think also really demonstrating what we're giving back to those volunteers. You know, caring for a cause is incredible and they'll get a lot out of that, but could there be a reverse mentoring programme with staff at the charity where the student can have just an hour or so of a member of staff’s time to look at a CV, to look at a job application, to talk about next steps?
Could there be that relationship set up? Or could there be some kind of skillshare opportunities where members of staff will a couple of times a year live-stream something, just talking about stuff that they know.
So thinking about what can we really give back? And that's where I think those relationships are really key because you're going to understand what your student audience wants when you've got those really deep relationships and you're listening to them and you're hearing what they need.
Lucinda: Yeah, that's so important. And really tapping into what their priorities are. And if you're at university, probably one of your biggest worries is, how am I going to enter the job market at the end of it? And supporting them through that sounds like a very worthwhile way of engaging.
And Wajid, have you at Charity Week experienced any difficulty in getting students to volunteer their time as a result of perhaps having to do more jobs, part-time work alongside their studies?
Wajid: I think that inevitably there is a little bit more difficulty because especially when students have to study and do part-time jobs, there will be people who have to think twice.
But very much like Harry's saying, I find that most people are looking for something to believe in. And if you play your cards right, if you organise it well, if you focus on the vision as opposed to the money being raised, then people are willing to take that financial hit, take that time hit, because they're getting something really valuable.
They're getting the relationships with the people that they're working with. It makes you feel better.
One of the things I tell my patients who come in with depression and anxiety, I almost always ask them, do you have a hobby? Do you do something outside of your time? And one thing I recommend is volunteer: get involved because there's nothing like helping other people to make you feel better.
There's good evidence to show that people watching a natural disaster or a man-made disaster on television do worse than people who are actually there in terms of their mental health. And it doesn't make sense because you can switch the channel and you don't smell the smells and you can look away, whereas the people who are actually there can't.
But the people who are actually there are doing something to help. So it's just explaining that to students. And once they taste a little bit of it, they realise that and they're very unwilling to let that go.
So that cost-of-living crisis definitely needs to be factored into account. It means that you cannot assume that people are going to come to you. You have to be flexible. You have to be willing to take the volunteering as and when they come.
This is where the support from the charity comes in. The support needs to be there because if you take them for granted, if you don't provide them with that support, then they will leave.
But if you do that, and if you do that well, they’ll be not only the most loyal volunteers, but they're going to stick with you when they graduate, when they start earning and when they move up the career ladder.
Lucinda: That does all sound very, very promising, but I do wonder over the 23 years that Charity Week has been running, have there been any recurring or emerging challenges that you've had to contend with to keep it fresh, keep it going?
Wajid: Keeping it fresh is a recurring challenge. One of the ways we do that is we have a different theme every year. We focus on something that keeps the base of the project the same, but the outer shell may be a little bit different, whether it's nature, whether it's Apple, Lego.
But another challenge that we have is that there's often a mentality within the charity sector of fighting over that piece of pie and cutting it smaller and smaller. And so if one charity comes up with a good idea, Macmillan has a coffee morning, suddenly everybody wants a coffee morning.
And you can look at that from two ways. One, that's frustrating because you've put in the effort and the time to build something and somebody's just come and copied it. But it also keeps you on your toes. It means you can't sit back and prevent innovation.
So what I tell the team is, there have been lots of other charity weeks that have been started with different ideas and different charities, and inevitably that makes people upset.
And I tell them don't get upset. Make sure that what you do is the best quality and to the best level, and people will naturally gravitate towards that.
And don't stop innovating. If you expect that because you came up with a good idea 20 years ago, that you deserve people's loyalty right now, then you're mistaken. You need to constantly come up with good ideas and reframe that for people.
Rory: I was wondering, you kind of spoke to it earlier, Wajid, the importance of social media in reaching students. How important do you feel that is?
Wajid: Social media is really important. We've gone through literally like the Industrial Revolution.The world is completely different before and after.
And I can speak to healthcare. I actually lecture on social media at some of the medical schools. Healthcare hasn't got on board with the social media revolution. And so we're going to be crushed by it if we don't get our act together.
It's very similar with the charity sector. Your entire marketing budget, I would actually say every single charity in the world's entire marketing budget and efforts probably does not compare to one single tweet from Cristiano Ronaldo, right? The reach that he will have.
And that is a challenge and an opportunity. It's not a challenge to just go and sign up Ronaldo. That's probably the easier answer.
But the challenge is how do you take advantage of this thing that can cause a lot of difficulties, it creates lots of issues for young people, but has a huge amount of potential as well.
And you're most likely to be able to do that if you engage with young people who are literally born into the social media revolution. This is second nature to them.
And if you can take social media and you can bring something good, because I don't believe that social media is inherently evil, although sometimes it can come across that way, the way doctors talk about it.
I think there's good in it as well, especially if we bring the charitable sector and social media together with young people. It can actually be revolutionary in how much we reach people and how deeply we affect people.
Harry: I think that's where it comes back to this idea of storytelling and really equipping students to be able to tell their stories of passion, of why they got behind a cause, of what they did. And can charities use that platform to really share that and really shout about what has been done, how one university, one group of students have really made an impact?
And then you might get another group of students seeing that and thinking, oh, we could do that. So really equipping students to tell their stories on social media.
I think students tend to buy, and people generally, I think not just students, but we take the student audience here. They'll buy what another person says above what a brand says most of the time.
And so yes, making sure that the charities really utilise those channels. But how do the charities really build those networks of ambassadors in student populations as well, who are really going to speak really powerfully for that charity?
Lucinda: And could you give an example of a charity that is doing this aspect specifically, but also wider student engagement, really, really well?
Harry: I think for me, we mentioned the Amnesty International example earlier. Another organisation that jumps to mind is Anthony Nolan, the stem cell register organisation.
They do an incredible job of mobilising student communities right across the UK just to do something really tangible and really simple. And I think what they do really well is they set the student communities a challenge. They say, okay, we need to get more people signed up to the donor register. Go out there and sign people up.
And then they set students that challenge. They utilise digital communications to really shout about what's going on, what's been achieved, what students are doing. But I think that real tangible thing to ask students to help with really works well in their situation.
Wajid: We saw ALS ride the wave, didn't we, with the ice bucket challenge.
Wajid: You had everyone take part. I mean, some of those things you just strike gold, but a lot of those things come up from trying lots and lots of different techniques and seeing which one sticks.
It's not about this is the one silver bullet and it's going to conquer everything. It's usually about consistently putting out hundreds and hundreds of episodes of a podcast. And then one of them will catch fire and then people will go back and look back at the back-story.
Harry: Yeah. And I think again, that ice bucket challenge was so successful because it was person-to-person. The brand and the organisation was there, but it wasn't one Instagram feed that had thousands of ice bucket challenges, it was everybody getting involved and I think that person-to-person nature really spreading is important.
Lucinda: Brilliant. Well, Harry and Wajid, such an enlightening discussion and so many really useful pointers for other organisations to consider. Thank you both so much for joining us.
Wajid: Thank you so much for having us.
Harry: Thank you.
Lucinda: That's it for this week. Next week, Emily and I will be joined by Julie Bentley, chief executive of Samaritans, for what promises to be a really interesting discussion.
Rory: Thank you to our guests, Wajid Akhter and Harry Twohig, and our producer, Nav Pal.