Giving with a twist: An Interview with Raise Glasgow

‘Our goal is to encourage students to have a positive mindset towards giving’

Raise Glasgow are a new society at University of Glasgow with a very unique idea. We spoke to  Andrew Taylor, Chapter President, Chloe Trott, Fundraising Lead, and Rhiannon Fagan, Publicity Lead, to learn more about the society and how students can get involved.

What are the origins of Raise?

Andrew: “Raise started as an alternative to May Week in Cambridge. In May, Cambridge university hold a big end of year ball, and George, the founder of Raise, decided that the £150 that goes towards a ticket to a ball every year could be better spent, and so decided he would celebrate in his own way and put that money towards charity. He decided upon the Against Malaria Foundation (AMF), and approached his friends to see if any of them would be interested in doing the same thing: instead of spending money on a ball ticket, they all donate the equivalent amount, and he would cook them a nice meal in his home to celebrate the end of the year. From here, it grew rapidly: 40 people in the first year getting involved, and by the end of year three 650 people have taken part. This year they made the decision to expand by three more Chapters: Oxford, Durham and Glasgow. Obviously, not everywhere does May Week, so the decision was made to change the name to Raise.”

What is the main message?

Andrew: “It’s to encourage students to have a positive mindset towards giving, and to engage with the process of giving to charity. In a way, we work on the opposite end of the spectrum to “every little helps.” We look for a significant donation that is significant to the individual, and that’s how we ensure we are not being financially exclusive, as everyone has different financial capabilities. The point of the significant donation is to make people stop and actually consider where their money is going, which leads to them being more engaged with the entire giving process. Instead of absently putting a few coins into a box at the checkout, you actually stop and think about what you’re doing and think “This is what I want to do with my money.” Thinking back to where it started, the people at Cambridge actively were thinking about where their money was going and decided to put towards charity rather than a ball. We also match every donation, which means that collectively we can have a large impact in one instance rather than small trickles over time. We ask for £75, but that value is not concrete: it’s mainly to get people thinking, obviously the value will change for different individuals.”

How did it come to Glasgow?

Andrew: “I received an email from an organisation telling me about Raise and asking if this would be something I’d be interested in. I thought it seemed really cool, and as Glasgow doesn’t have May Week I saw it as an opportunity to diversify the options that Raise had, so I put forward an application, did an interview and then I was tasked with coming up with a strong team. Several universities were shortlisted and Glasgow was selected as one of the three to take forward due to the strength of the committee that had been gathered.”

It’s great that Raise matches donations. Is the matched money going to the charity of the donor’s choice?

Andrew: “So we recommend that the donation goes towards AMF, but you are more than welcome to donate to any charity. The matched funds always go to AMF.”

Why should people care? What is Unique about Raise Glasgow compared to other fundraising societies?

Chloe: “I think a lot of it is to do with changing the mindset of donating. Instead of lots of little donations, it’s really considering where the money is going and make more informed decisions when donating your money. Finally, it’s about celebrating the act of giving. It’s not a one time thing, this donation hopefully becomes somewhat of an annual event. One of the key differences with Raise is that at the end of the academic year we have a celebration of all our work. You get together with like minded people, eat some nice food, listen to music, and enjoy the accomplishments of a group that you have actively contributed to. We can track every penny we have donated and see exactly where it goes, which really sets us apart from the traditional, put money in a box style of donating.”

Rhiannon: “Adding to what Chloe said, the movement really strays away from the “guilt” element of traditional charity. We at Raise would never try to induce someone to donate, and I think that puts us in a really sustainable position. People make this donation and feel good about it, and this makes them want to stay involved, in comparison to traditional methods involving guilt where people want the act of giving to be over with as quickly as possible.”

Andrew: “One final thing to add is that every single penny goes to charity. We have no running costs, no website to pay for, no staff wages to pay. Our summer celebration is all sponsored by corporate or individual sponsors. Moreover, any and all money donated to AMF goes straight to doing actual charity work. The running costs and wages of AMF are covered by their own sponsors.”

Why did you guys get involved?

Andrew: “I’ve always looked for fresh and challenging ideas and when I came across Raise I knew I had to give it a go. It was really refreshing to get involved with something that was growing so rapidly, and that had such a unique concept as well.”

Chloe: “I was first introduced to Raise by Andrew as we knew each other from before. He told he was looking to build a committee and I remember looking at the website at the start and really thinking hard about it. It seems crazy: asking students who are generally not in the strongest financial position and asking them to donate significantly. I trusted Andrew and it obviously had a lot of success down south, so I looked into it more and realised that actually it’s a great idea and already is doing well in Glasgow.”

Rhiannon: “Andrew sent out applications out to all the schools at the university and I remember getting quite stuck on the website. It asked students to donate £150 and I thought to myself: “What student actually has £150 lying around, and even then which student would just give it all to charity?” I sat on that for a few days, and thought that, while I couldn’t give £150, I could give a smaller amount. I realised that within three days I’d convinced myself on the concept, and so if I did it with myself, I felt I could convince others too. Another aspect is the sense of community that you get from Raise. I came back to Glasgow this year and didn’t really have many people I knew, and especially with the pandemic it’s difficult to meet new people. However, with Raise, you meet people that you know are similar to you, their morals align with yours, and that has really had a positive impact on my life.”

As there are no running costs, where does the money that matches the donated funds come from?

Andrew: “The matched funding comes from two individuals that have social philanthropy foundations which we have secured for the next three years at the very least. They have been very engaged with the idea and are always asking for updates as it is a unique concept and it involves students who traditionally are not a target group for charities.”

How can students get involved?

Chloe: “Well, we’re about to run an entire month of fundraising. Not the traditional balls and cake sales that everyone is used to, but a month of fundraising that aims to be educational. We will be running weekly events as well as a lot of activity on social media. As we’ve mentioned, it is a difficult concept to get your head around, which is why we are prioritising education and information at all of our events. We’re also available for any and all questions, and if it sounds like something you’d like to be involved with, we can give more information on how to donate and help out. We also have committee and rep positions that change every year, so you can find out more about the application process too!”

Any events to look forward to?

Rhiannon: “Our launch party on the 3rd of February and the 28th of May is our annual summer party celebration. We will also be having weekly events online, and more information about those will be on our social media pages.”

Sounds like something you want to get involved with? Find out more on @raiseglasgow on Instagram and Raise Glasgow on Facebook.

Image Credits – Raise Glasgow

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