Next weekend 140 Edinburgh students will take to the roads and raise money for charity in the annual ‘Race to Paris’. The rules: that they cannot spend any of their own money getting there. This means they rely on the kindness of strangers, not only for lifts but for tickets across the Channel.
Once in Paris the competitors have earned the right to a potential two-night stay in a hostel as well as a free night out. This bonus holiday has called some to question whether or not this type of fundraising is actually about charity. Maybe it’s really about having fun with your mates for free.
For some, fundraising efforts like this do pose problems. This can be viewed as a way to distract attention away from the very real issues at the heart of charity work. Recently fundraisers have been accused of ‘attention seeking’ rather than shining a light on the work charities do. In doing something silly, scary or funny for charity, are participants really making it about themselves?
Overall, this criticism isn’t valid. In the case of the Race to Paris, competitors have to pay £49 to enter, so the money for the hostel and the night out is not taken out of funds meant for the charities. Second, before you are even allowed to start hitchhiking you have to have raised £250 at least. This means that the Race to Paris will raise a minimum of £35,000 for charity before the race even begins.
Indeed, often the point of fundraisers is to have fun while also helping a good cause. The slogan of Comic Relief’s campaign is ‘Do Something Funny For Money’. Comic Relief raised over £55 million last year. Clearly this tactic works.
In a much broader sense the idea that giving to charity should involve some sort of sombre self-sacrifice isn’t relevant. There’s nothing wrong with helping a good cause and having fun at the same time. In fact, for whatever reason, this type of fundraising is often the most successful – we’re more likely to give money to a friend doing a fun run than a stranger holding a bucket for loose change outside a supermarket.
While it is certainly true that we shouldn’t need ulterior motives to give what we can to those in need, grand gestures like hitchhiking to Paris, abseiling down the side of a building or running a marathon can draw attention to larger issues that charities attempt to resolve. In the case of Comic Relief, the fact that that the viewers’ money is going to help children in need is not lost.
Overall, fundraising is one of the most effective ways of raising money for charities. Often the more outlandish the act, the more money someone can raise. While one motivation for this type of fundraising is certainly to have a laugh, this doesn’t negate the act of giving to those in need. All types of charity are important. Everything ranging from volunteer work to stand up to hitchhiking can be used to help a good cause.
Image: Daniel Brachlow via Pixabay