· 2 min read · Features

Supporting a charity of choice is a very powerful way of bringing the organisation together

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American author Washington Irving described Christmas as "the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart."

However, a recent research report published by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) suggests that the flame burns less brightly in the hearts of young people. And that HR could play a significant role in fuelling its reignition.

The report, Mind the Gap, found a growing divide between the generations, with the over-60s now more than twice as likely to give to charity than the under-30s. Since 1980 the percentage of under-30s giving to charity has fallen from a quarter to just 16%. This prompted John Low, chief executive of the CAF, to warn that: "We need clear steps to be taken in order to build up the culture of giving among younger people, to ensure that Britain continues to support the causes we all care about in the decades to come."

So I think this Christmas the HR profession should commit itself to giving charities a gift that will enhance the culture of giving among our young people. And, based on my experience of supporting Ronald McDonald House Charities UK (RMHC) over the past few years, I think there are four ways in which we can help to achieve this.

The first is facilitating donations. RMHC is an independent charity that provides free home away from home accommodation for families with children in hospital. It supports more than 450 families every night across the UK, and since 1989 it has been McDonald's charity of choice in the UK.

One of the biggest sources of funding for these rooms comes from the general public, who give millions of pounds each year through the collection boxes in McDonald's 1,200 UK restaurants. Many of our employees contribute directly; the CAF report highlights the importance of payroll giving and urges employers to promote the benefits of it.

The second way we can help is with fundraising activities. I've found that supporting a charity of choice is a very powerful way of bringing the organisation together.

The third way HR can help enhance the culture of giving is through skills development and work experience. So many young people are in a catch-22 situation of not being able to get work because they have no experience - and not being able to gain experience because they can't get work.

Volunteering for a charity is a great way to get this experience, and McDonald's UK suggests to unsuccessful job applicants that they find an opportunity through organisations such as vInspired. Since its launch in 2006, it has worked with more than 500 charities and community organisations to create more than a million volunteer opportunities.

Those in employment can also benefit by deploying their professional skills in an alternative setting. The CAF research says 12% of the adult population is 18-24 years old, yet just 0.5% of trustees are from this age group. So the opportunity for our future leaders to hone their skills early in their careers is a big one.

Finally, the HR profession could kick-start all of this by connecting the organisations and institutions.

One example came when, earlier this year, RMHC were looking for local photography to decorate the walls of the new house they had built in Manchester. Through the contacts I had at Manchester Metropolitan University I connected them with the university's School of Art, which created amazing images for them as part of a curriculum project.

If across the HR profession we could all make a difference like this, the cultural change we'd create would be enormous.