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 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.