The Story of how First Give came to be

To celebrate ‘National Storytelling Week’, we thought it was a great opportunity to share a little about us and to answer one of the most common questions we’re asked: How did First Give begin?’ 

We can’t quite believe it ourselves, but First Give is actually still a young charity, although we have grown fast. First Give was founded in 2014 by three philanthropists, who are the heads of three foundations - Pears Foundation, Four Acre Trust and Lower Green Foundation. Our charity was created to build a culture of giving in young people, something which the founders felt should be developed in the youth of today. The idea was to engage young people in England and Wales and to encourage them to think about their communities, while giving them a means to support local charities working within them. Overall, the aim was to achieve a ‘virtuous circle’.

So, the First Give programme launched in September 2014 in 57 flagship schools in Greater London. This meant that around 10,000 young people were now considering social issues important to them, and then researching and connecting with local charities that work to address them. The programme supported students to make innovative and inspirational presentations about their charities’ work, with the hope that they could convince judges that their charity deserves a grant.  

In 2015/2016 First Give expanded its reach to 114 schools in Greater London, to include Essex, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire. One of our key aims is that students learn vital soft skills that will prepare them for work and later life, such as the ability to research, think creatively, and confidently and persuasively present to a public audience. In turn, we engaged new supporters, including the renowned Jack Petchey Foundation who very much value soft skills development in young people. The partnership enables more young people to develop and grow through the programme, as they (and we) acknowledge schools often do not have the time to focus on these skills outside of the curriculum. 

Then more recently in 2016/2017, First Give launched in a new region - South Wales. We began working with 26 schools in Cardiff and the surrounding area. Furthermore, the programme grew to run in 140 schools in total in Greater London. The 2016/2017 academic year also saw First Give run a pilot in select schools; this version of the programme also taught young people about social action (meaning fundraising and raising awareness) and supported them to do so. Our logic for this was that we believed it would bring wider skill development for young people, such as organisational and creative development. Of course, it also meant that local charities and causes would receive more support and awareness, directly from young people themselves. 

The success of this pilot meant that in September 2017, this new addition to the programme was fully incorporated into First Give. We have heard some fantastic social action stories, such as students running debates about gang violence, a sponsored real life Monopoly board walk and students becoming so invested in their charity that they began volunteering in their own time. One team of five students managed to raise £428 for their charity through social action alone, so with First Give grant, the money raised by this one team alone was nearly £1,500! 

We now have grown our reach to 190 schools, which means that this year around 35,000 young people will not only give £190,000 to charity through First Give prize grants, but will additionally give their time and funds through their own social action. Furthemore, our resources have now been awarded The Association for Citizenship Teaching (ACT) Quality Mark for Citizenship Teaching Resources and we have been accredited by ASDAN. 

2018 is another very exciting year for us, as we can confirm we are expanding into Leeds and Yorkshire in September! This will allow us to have a positive impact on many more young people. We are so proud of what we have achieved already and look forward to continuing to support young people, local charities and local communities.