The Trouble With Charity

Why can’t we get interested in charity beyond our own enjoyment?

Alora becky henshaw Cambridge charitable giving charity Jailbreak jailbreak 2011 RAG RAG blind date

Cambridge RAG is fantastic. Given the university’s size, its £150,000 annual collection is a figure to shout about.

But on RAG’s welcome page ‘raising and giving’ is given limited space. Instead we are tempted with ‘loads of fun’.  This is not RAG’s ‘fault’ -they are the ones out every week in the cold with raiding buckets. But it is symptomatic of a wider problem: our attitude towards ‘charity’.

What do we expect in return? 

I added up the distance traveled by all the teams who took part in Jailbreak this year. It amounted to 105,332 miles. This means that Cambridge students managed to beg/raid 105,332 free miles on land and in the air. Impressive stuff, but this money didn’t go to charity. It went on generating miles for sponsorship money.

One team told me they raised £600 for travel, while their sponsorship money is expected to come in at around £400. So £600 pounds was spent on air travel to exact £400 worth of sponsorship promises? This seems an expensive way to raise £400.

As students, we seemingly need to compete and have fun to contemplate raising money. It is worrying that RAG needs to invent these elaborate adventures for people to sponsor us at all.

Charity within the University is imaginative, low cost, and popular. RAG Blind Date is an initiative that doesn’t require peripheral money. The fiver for your Date Form goes straight to charity, and it doesn’t cost RAG anything.

The Alora project is also worthwhile. It diverts the money you would have spent on a May Ball dress to a fund dedicated to educating severely disabled women in Thailand. Half of us will buy a dress this year, and the money might as well go on something more meaningful than Chloe Green’s allowance.

But however you look at it, we’re still exchanging our ‘charitable efforts’ for something. Be it a date, a dress, or a weekend away from Cambridge – we’re all getting something back for our buck.

Great amounts of money are being raised for wonderful causes. This is the most important thing. But the fact that RAG has to entice us take an interest in charity is something we need to address.