“Arrogant” Charities Campaign committee slammed over cap on support for charities

A decision by the Charities Campaign to prevent charities receiving support over consecutive years has been called “frankly ridiculous” by one of the societies affected.

The St Andrews Friends of Médecins Sans Frontières group (FoMSF), which raises money and awareness locally for the international medical aid charity, also questioned whether Campaign executives should remain in their jobs, citing a “lack of transparency”.

The Charities Campaign is the arm of the Students’ Association responsible for charitable activities. All Association events that raise money for charity, such as RAG Week, Race2 and Big Top Ball, are run by the Campaign.

Each year the Campaign officially supports three charities one local, one national and one international – as voted by the St Andrews student body. The cap, which came into effect last week, prevents a supported charity from seeking nomination again for two years.

Kyle Blain, the Charities Campaign convener, explained the reasoning: “We want our fundraising efforts to be able to help as many charities as possible…We have supported many of the same charities for upwards of five years. With the cap a student will see a minimum of nine different charities supported throughout their time at St Andrews, which we think is great!”

But FoMSF, which supports Médecins Sans Frontières as the Campaign’s international charity for 2014-15, said it had not been consulted or told about the changes.

Jonathan Gibb, the secretary of the society, said: “Médecins Sans Frontières has been successfully nominated as the international charity within the Charities Campaign for the past several years. We are extremely grateful for the support of the student body, and on behalf of the St Andrews FoMSF committees of previous years, we would like to offer our sincerest gratitude.

“The Charities Campaign executive committee voted to change their articles and by-laws regarding the nomination procedure such that MSF would be unable to run for the next two years for international charity. We have not been consulted during any part of this proposed debate or process. Additionally, we only found out about it through another nominated charity, to make matters worse.”

He continued: “In light of this, we would strongly ask the student body to support [a] repeal of this decision. We would also recommend them to consider the re-election of those who passed this, on the Charities Campaign  executive  committee,  as we highly doubt that this decision is in agreement with the student body that they are supposed to represent: the same student body that has continually supported the excellent and brave work of MSF.

“We  find  this  arrogance  to  be frankly ridiculous, particularly at the time where MSF requires assistance more than ever due to the 2014 Ebola crisis and the campaign against MDR-TB [multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis].” Although the Campaign’s executive committee decided unanimously to introduce a cap, the group was divided over how soon the change should  be  introduced.  A  7-3  vote eventually decided that it should be brought in immediately, rather than delaying for a year to give charities longer to prepare.

Mr Gibb, speaking on behalf of FoMSF, said: “We also criticise the unusually short notice given to  charities… This, in itself, is an issue highlighting the lack of transparency surrounding the change of procedure and  exemplifies the need for this issue to be referred to the committee’s parent organisation, for those who enacted this change to be held accountable.”

Mr Blain failed to explain why the cap had been introduced this year rather than next year. He said: “The decision to place a cap on the length of time that we support a charity for is one that has been in the pipeline for a long time in the Charities Campaign and something that has been thought long and hard about.

“This decision was voted in by the Charities  executive  committee  and has now been approved unanimously by both the Students’ Representative Council and the Student Services Council to come into effect immediately. We’re very excited to see which new charities the students choose this year!”

Morag Coleman, the manager of Families First St Andrews, which is the Campaign’s officially supported local charity for 2014-15, confirmed that she had not heard about the cap until The Saint contacted her for comment on this story.

She said: “Although it will be unfortunate for us not to have the opportunity to apply for funding for another two years I can understand the reasoning behind it, in that it will give other local charities the opportunity to compete fairly for funding. We receive so much patronage from the Charities Campaign in the form of financial, volunteer and ad-hoc support. This does not go unnoticed, and we really do appreciate all the support we receive.

“FFSA offer St Andrews students a unique opportunity to support local people whilst they live in northeast Fife, and we look forward to continuing to work with the Charities Campaign to provide work based volunteering opportunities for the students.“Going forward we would be more than willing to learn about any new funding opportunities that present themselves, as we are always looking out for funds to sustain our organisation and support the children and families we work with.”

Macmillan Cancer Support, the Campaign’s national charity this year, did not respond to a request for comment.

8 thoughts on ““Arrogant” Charities Campaign committee slammed over cap on support for charities

  • October 23, 2014 at 3:36 pm

    The Charities Campaign does support three nominated charities every year – but those are not the only charities that they support. Over the past two years – when I have personally signed the cheques given to the charities we support – the Campaign has supported upwards of 30 charities a year. That is because (as discussed a lot this week with the whole That’s Union Campaign) all students at St Andrews are part of the Charities Campaign. Any St Andrews student that has raised funds for a UK registered charity can ask the Charities Campaign to process their donation. Funds raised by Halls of Residence are processed by the Charities Campaign and support a variety of charities selected by their residents. All affiliated charitable societies can request funding (and other means of support) from the Campaign for their own fundraising.

    Friends of MSF can and I’m sure, will, absolutely still raise funds for MSF next year. Halls can still support them, Friends of MSF can still host events throughout the year, including RAG Week (which was changed a few years ago to be more inclusive – UNICEF has hosted the popular St Andrews Got Talent despite not being the nominated International Charity for several years) and Friends of MSF are welcome, like any charitable society, to come to any Charities meeting or ask to be included in the weekly Charities email to advertise their events or appeals, to ask for volunteers, to request supplies etc. There is a dedicated member of the Charities Campaign Exec Committee (Charitable Societies Coordinator) that is a go-to resource for all of these things.

    The cap is fantastic (and a result of a multi-year discussion) on how the Campaign can bring focused awareness and support for a variety of local, national and international charities to the bubble while simultaneously supporting the many St Andrews students and organizations that are already passionate about a particular cause.

    Chazza – give Rory McLion a big hug from me. I hope you guys have an amazing year. x

    • October 23, 2014 at 6:43 pm

      Well said, Kelsey! The decision is not ‘to prevent charities receiving support’ as stated in the article, in fact all the hard work done by the Charities Campaign enables students to support whichever charities they choose.

      The Campaign have launched a fantastic initiative this year: they hold open forums at meetings where anyone, or any society, can go along to talk about their fundraising activity and will receive support.

      Huge well done to everyone involved with the great work that the Charities Campaign has done so far this year, you’re going to have an amazing year!

  • October 23, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    Shoddy student journalism. When did ‘slammed’ come to mean ‘was the target of weak criticism from biased perspective’?

  • October 24, 2014 at 12:54 pm

    This is very disappointing.
    The Charities Campaign is clearly trying to spread their help over more than just the same three charities. I think the two year policy is a great idea – it will help more charities, not just with the money, but with the student awareness. Did MSF and MacMillan even campaign to be elected? Or did they rely on their already well established name for student votes?
    I think this new policy will greatly benefit the less well known charities who are equally deserving – and who also actually have an election campaign and put the work in. It’s time the bigger well known charities stop relying on the Charities Campaign. Give someone else a turn.

  • October 24, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    Really? Have everyone involved with charities re-elected?
    Half the people involved with the charities campaign weren’t invited to vote. I don’t think they should be punished for something they had no say in, so I think for their sake, you should specify exactly who you are slating. To generalise about ‘the charities campaign’ is including people who were not involved -the sub-committee members of RAG, Race2, BigTop etc. You are giving these innocent, kind and dedicated people a bad name – when all they care about it raising money for a good cause.

    • October 24, 2014 at 1:20 pm

      Yes!! All I want to do is help charities, I’m not involved with the politics.

    • October 24, 2014 at 4:59 pm

      The use of “Campaign executives” doesn’t leave as much ambiguity as you suggest.

  • October 24, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    I’m sorry this has angered you – I do appreciate it’s a pain to not be consulted and MSF and the others will be missing out. But don’t you think all charities are worthwhile causes? No matter who the three nominated charities are, I’m sure they will all be doing an excellent job and making a positive difference to the world. All charity is good charity.


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