Being charitable on a student budget

The start of November can mean only one thing – the emergence of stubble on the upper lip, destined for a moustache that even Hercule Poirot would be proud of by the end of the month. That’s right, Movember has come around again: a charitable campaign funding projects around the world to improve men’s health, from mental health problems to prostate cancer. (You can read more about the vital work of Movember, and the staggering statistics behind men’s health here.)

For many people across the nation, Movember is a chance to try your hand at obtaining the perfect handlebar moustache while raising awareness of the cause, and Durham students are no different. As a member of Grey College’s Charities Committee, I was impressed by the number of sports teams and societies who are taking on the challenge, and Durham Student Theatre has also taken on the challenge with gusto, intent on beating the sports teams on the Movember fundraising leaderboard. While it is heartening to see the student community getting involved with such a worthy cause, it got me thinking about how students – living on a budget and notoriously time-poor – can engage with charitable endeavours.

The rising cost of living is hardly conducive to making charitable donations – students already have their plates full balancing rent, bills and food shopping, alongside all the other hidden costs of university life; Palatinate’s article on the cost of freshers’ week particularly threw the latter into harsh relief. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that there is little appetite for formal dinners, bops and balls at the present time, despite organisers’ best efforts to keep costs as low as possible. Spending money has become a luxury, more likely given over to the Babylon bar during Cheapskates than an online charity donation form. Rest assured, this article isn’t here to preach about how you spend your money, but these factors are crucial considerations for charities committees to bear in mind when trying to organise charitable events and endeavours.

While Durham University’s annual Charity Fashion Show is arguably the highlight of the year when it comes to charity events, raising nearly £1,000,000 over the past 5 years, colleges and societies are instead resorting to low-cost, low-effort events such as raffles and sponsorship campaigns to help raise those vital funds. While smaller-scale charity events may be struggling to attract footfall, I was nonetheless struck by the willingness of local businesses to supply raffle prizes for an upcoming college charity event – a poignant reminder of the generosity within our local community that often gets overlooked in the busy humdrum of university life.

And the idea of charity and generosity doesn’t stop with monetary donations – volunteering an hour a week in aid of a worthy cause can make a huge impact and is arguably more fruitful for the volunteer and the charity rather than a one-off donation. Durham University’s Student Volunteering and Outreach program offers a huge breadth of opportunities to suit all availabilities and interests, yet the age-old saying that time is money comes to mind, particularly during deadline season. With mounting assignments and other commitments, volunteering can understandably get bumped down the list of priorities.

So perhaps that’s why the Movember campaign in particular takes Durham University, and indeed the rest of the country, by storm. It’s a simple premise, with free marketing courtesy of the various moustache specimens on display, and all for a cause which everyone can relate to in some way. With this in mind, perhaps it’s time to re-think the traditional methods of charitable engagement to suit ever-stretched budgets and schedules. Indeed, you can have a Met Gala-rivalling event with Kardashian-worthy social media marketing, but nothing beats a moustache, solidarity and determination.

Featured image by cottonbro studio via Pexels

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