Something that always fascinates me, when I meet people who work in the charity sector, or who volunteer, especially those who have been doing so a long time, is what started them off? This was a key issue for the Growing Giving Inquiry that I went to last week.
I often find that once people have got involved with charities in a meaningful way, they rarely stop doing so. They may change their support from charity to charity but they have a general commitment to the idea of supporting charities.
I can’t personally put my finger on what it was that made me get involved, but I can think of a few early examples. I was a member of the Nautical Training Corps for ten years. As a young man, dressing up as a sailor in Kemp Town, Brighton was an education in itself, but I particularly remember the zeal with which I undertook my duties at a jumble sale. A rather tight-fisted lady wanted to buy a 5p dog bowl off me for 2p, and even as a child I was having none of it.
Despite not being a Catholic, I went to a Catholic secondary school and charity was quite a big part of our year. For this I had a small ‘business’ twice, once selling stationery (‘Swallow’s Stationery’ I believe) and once selling Brighton rock, which saw me mainly chase my friends through the school who were stealing from my stall to annoy me.
I was also involved in a variety of youth organisations in representational roles, including being Mayor of Hove Schools’ Council and even having a chain of office. I then carried on volunteering into University, where I also got involved in RAG.
I think that for me, one crucial thing was that charity never felt like something entirely separate, I got involved with it in the course of being involved with other things. The reason I was involved in those things to start with is because I had a supportive family.
I’d be fascinated to know what started off your engagement with charity and whether you think that this could be used to encourage others.