My First Raid


Posted by Ian Beningfield on 19 October 2011

Former University of Bath student Alex recalls his first experience raising money for MRF.

Bungee jump. For free.
It was with these words that I was lured into my first ever Rag meeting. Rag, for those of you who don’t know, is a student society found at many UK universities dedicated to charity fundraising, often in a slightly cheeky or politically incorrect way. “Doing bad things for good causes”, as they say in Birmingham.
At that meeting, there was talk of a great number of exciting events, including the aforementioned bungee jump, a fireworks display, hitch-hiking to Paris, fashion show, a Duck Race and “raids”.
Raids are known in CV terms as “volunteer charity street collections”. The first one, mentioned at that meeting, was arranged for the coming Saturday, to collect in either Taunton or Newport. It was largely an arbitrary decision that saw me pick Taunton. I had been there as a child but had no clear memories of the place.
Having had meningitis as a teenager, I felt a personal connection to the cause we were collecting for. But what really got me excited was the prospect of persuading people to donate apparently ridiculous amounts of money over the course of a day. That, combined with the pirate fancy dress theme, really sealed the deal.
On the day in question, then, I met up with a load of other first-timers, most of whom were freshers (first year students) like myself. As well as us, there were a few more experienced collectors who were going to give us some guidance. Having arrived by train around mid-morning, each fresher in Team Taunton (we didn’t really call it that) was paired up with a more experienced collector. In my case, I was posted across the street from a man called Panda. 
Most of the specific details of the collection have long escaped my memory. Indeed, I have since been on so many collections and received so many donations that a lot of it is a bit of a blur. But I am left with a few general impressions. It is these recollections that I treasure and that motivate me to carry on collecting.
Firstly, it was overwhelmingly fun. I can’t stress how important that is. When you’re volunteering, it is critical to remember why you’re doing it. If you ever forget, then your incentive disappears and you don’t do as good a job as perhaps you could. So, for me, having fun came out on top. In the case of meningitis, as mentioned above, it’s personal. That has meant that in more recent collections I have really put some effort into that cause. But when I was starting out, it was all about the fun. That is still the case for every other cause. Over time, admittedly, I have increasingly come to care about the charities I promote and fundraise for. Nonetheless, the “fun” in “fundraising” remains key.
There are a few other bits and pieces which always come back to me when I think about that first raid. Specifically, I had my first “unusual” reaction to asking for money. Generally, people’s reactions fall into a small number of categories. In this instance, a middle-aged man walking past on his own from my right (don’t ask why I remember that bit) stepped off the pavement behind me, glanced at me in disgust and crossed himself as he accelerated by. It was as if, instead of saying something like “Please help fight meningitis,” I had said “I am fundraising for child molesters.” I didn’t let it phase me and I carried on asking for money.
Apart from “Please help fight meningitis,” it turns out that pirate-themed raids are a treasure trove of money-related puns. These I picked up quickly from Panda, implementing them in my avowedly terrible Piratical accent. Over the course of the day, I variably sounded like I was from Cornwall or Ireland, or a weird mix of both (which on average is somewhere off the coast of Wales, I think). Highlights included demanding to see people’s “booty” and for them to get out their “chests”. I doubt I need go on.
In the afternoon, we took some time off to wander around some shops, a well-deserved break indeed. I got better acquainted with my fellow collectors, some of whom are still amongst my best friends.
Overall, it was a fun day out and left me feeling very pleased that I had done something slightly unusual, gone out of my comfort zone and raised some cash for charity, particularly one I cared about. In the end, it transpired that I made just over £100 that day. Team Taunton made just over £1000 in total, beating Team Newport’s result of just under £1000. £2000 in a day. Not bad for a  load of newbies. Everyone expressed their thanks and congratulations and asked me whether I would be interested in doing it again.
How could I refuse?

Taken from Alex's Blog, following on from that first raid Alex continued to fundraise for us and many other charities. You can check out just how successful he's been here. Including a fantastic performance at our London Loot event raising £1281 in a single day.

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