RAG is changing – the university’s biggest society just got more charitable
The Tab talks to Louis Slater, the Chair of Cambridge RAG
We all know what RAG is, but there are also loads of charitable societies in the University. How is RAG different to them?
We’re the biggest of them and we support the most charities. Actually, by student participation, we’re the biggest society in the University. It’s amazing that there are all these other societies doing incredible things. To try to ensure this continues, we work with and support as many other charitable societies as possible.
For example, we give around ten grants of up to £200 to these societies every year through our Student Grant Scheme. We also work with a load of these societies in our ChariTea Garden Party every year and now through Ragtime.
You say you support the most charities – where does your money go aside from the Student Grant Scheme?
There are so many causes. There’s no way I could list them all. For example, we give around 50 grants of up to £200 to small volunteer-led organisations in Cambridge through Cambridge Council for Voluntary Service (CCVS). We think it’s important that we support our local community as much as possible, which is why we give these grants as well as doing other things to help the local area, such as our Winter Homeless Appeal. For this, we work with Winter Comfort to collect donations of winter clothes and sleeping bags for rough sleepers in Cambridge.
Every year, we have over 150 charities apply to be one of our ten main charities, to which we donate the biggest chunk of the money we raise. This year we’re putting an even greater emphasis on effectiveness, so we worked with Effective Altruism Cambridge to create a shortlist of the charities with the highest impact. The shortlisted charities were then voted on by the student body – over 600 votes were cast to decide RAG’s main charities for the year, which are Action Against Hunger, Beat Eating Disorders, Cambridge Central Aid Society, Cambridge Rape Crisis Centre, Cool Earth, Foodcycle, Jimmy’s Cambridge, Street Child, The Against Malaria Foundation and YoungMinds.
What else are you doing to be as effective as possible?
We also support various charities through working with May Balls, helping them choose charities, so again we’re working really closely with Effective Altruism Cambridge this year to encourage as many balls as possible support high-impact charities. This year we’re putting together Cambridge RAG’s first ever impact report, so we can work out how to improve even more next year.
Jailbreak is your most well-known event, which surely has big overheads. How does that fit in with your focus on effectiveness?
Admittedly, in the past Jailbreak hasn’t been great on this sort of thing. It never sat quite right with me, but that’s why it’s different this year. The rules are changing, so there’s going to be a lot more focus on charity and it should raise even more money as a result! Obviously, the nature of the event means that there will still be some overheads, but without them the event wouldn’t happen and it wouldn’t raise £20,000 for high-impact charities.
My favourite definition of what RAG does is combining charity and fun. Through our events like Jailbreak, we make charity more accessible, meaning that anyone can easily raise loads of money for charity while having an amazing time. Without these events, we wouldn’t be able to give so much money to charity every year, so the important thing for us to do is ensure we’re running them as efficiently as possible and that the money raised goes to the charities that will use it most effectively.
Can you give us any more details on the changes to Jailbreak?
They’ll be big and they’ll be charitable. I can’t say much more than that, but there will be another Tab article on Monday all about the changes, then tickets will drop later that day. Get hyped for Jailbreak 2.0.
Aside from Jailbreak, what are your biggest events?
LOST was a few weeks ago and that was massive! It’s raised over £11,000 so far. We’ve also just had Formal Freedom, where we let people buy tickets to formals at other colleges. All the tickets sold out in two minutes this term, but it’s back again next term. We’re also running RAG Blind Date again next term, which is the biggest event in the university – around 2,000 people sign up to that every year and this year it’ll be even bigger. We’ve got record-breaking plans!
Challenges are really big too. The idea of these is that people get sponsored to do these challenges, in the same way that you would get sponsored to do a marathon, so they raise loads of money that goes straight to charity – over £30,000 last year! This year our two challenges are a Machu Picchu trek to raise money for Childreach International and Runderpants, which is a sponsored 1 mile fun-run in Cambridge raising money for the Neuro Foundation. There are a load of other events, but those are probably our biggest.