Students have benefitted from the generosity of alumni and friends for more than 100 years, and we celebrate this each February as part of Student Engagement and Philanthropy month. From thousands of balloons representing donors to the University to a giant bow on clock tower, 'Old Joe', in 2015, the Development and Alumni Relations team share the many ways students are supported – from scholarships and bursaries to mentoring, work placements and guest lectures.
The University was founded by philanthropic giving, and the tradition continues to this day; in 2015 the University completed the Circles of Influence campaign, the largest and most successful charity fundraising campaign outside Oxford, Cambridge and London, raising £193.4 million. During the course of the campaign, more than 11,500 amazing donors helped to transform campus, fund research with global impact and give students life-changing opportunities.
This year, five students had the opportunity to go behind the scenes of this multi-million pound charity for a very special Charity Masterclass with the Development and Alumni Relations team, donors, volunteers and research project leads. As part of the application process students were asked to say why they wanted to take part and how the day’s activities would help them to develop a career in the charity sector or higher education.
Alumni Supporting Students
Click on the photos below to find out more about the students taking part.
2nd Year BSc Business Management with Communications
“I'm currently part of the University’s Carnival RAG (Raising and Giving) society on the Committee as Communications Officer. The work of charitable organisations is incredible and vital for the support of a number of extremely worthwhile projects. I'd love the opportunity to see the other side of the picture; to see things from the perspective of the charity.”
3rd Year BSc Business Management with Year in Industry
“As a student at the University of Birmingham, I have been lucky enough to witness the construction of the projects that the Circles of Influence campaign funded. I feel incredibly humbled to attend a University that is so passionate about having the most innovative, inspiring and state-of-the-art resources for its students, the local community and people around the world to benefit from. The way that the campaign has reconnected with alumni as one of the fundraising streams is inspiring and opens up new, long-term, fundraising potential now that these networks have been reconnected. I hope to pursue a career in fundraising after graduating, so this would be an incredible opportunity for me to learn more about different dimensions of fundraising and gain an insight into this inspirational, pioneering and hugely successful campaign.”
2nd Year BSc Sport and Exercise
'I want to take part because upon completing my degree I wish to enter the charity sector. So far at university I have climbed Kilimanjaro through Carnival RAG, raising £3,000 for Meningitis Research Foundation in the process, I am now challenge leader for the Machu Picchu trek and will be raising around £1,500 again, this time for Action Against Hunger whilst leading a team of 30 others to collectively raise around £90,000. This experience has opened me up to the charity sector, and shown me that I can make a difference in the world, so I want to complete a master’s degree in international development before entering the sector, specifically international aid.'
2nd Year BA History
“I am interested in working with charities, I've worked as the Campaigns Manager of the United Nations Society, fundraising for ‘stop the traffik’, and I would be really interested to see how different charities operate. As the University is an educational establishment it would be really interesting to learn how this type of fundraising differs. Also, given the changing climate of funds to higher education and to student support, I'd like to see how Birmingham manages to maintain some of its scholarship schemes and work experience bursaries.”
4th Year BA International Relations with Year Abroad
'I have experience working for charities, particularly in fundraising and I am very keen to work in the third sector in the future. I would like to gain a first-hand experience to learn how a large charity functions, particularly in project delivery, resource management and fundraising on a large scale. I believe this experience would help me to learn which step to take after university and the skills I will need before applying for a career in the third sector.'
Behind the scenes
The day gave students a glimpse into fundraising work at a higher education institution and what it can achieve for its students and society.
The students started the day by meeting with the University’s Director of Development and Alumni Relations, Simon Lerwill (BSc Geography/Planning, 2002), and Deputy Head of Development, Laura Fairbanks (BA English and Drama, 2008) to hear about their work in fundraising and the philanthropic history of the University.
As part of a philanthropic tour the students were given access to hidden spaces on campus including a visit to the Whispering Gallery in the main dome of Aston Webb and a tour of the new library building due to open later this year.
Dr Frank Mussai, a paediatric oncologist whose team at the University is conducting research to develop new life-saving treatments for children with cancer, informed the students about the difference charitable giving makes to his research.
The students also met with donor and volunteer Judy Dyke (LLB Law, 1975) who explained why she supports the University. Judy said of the day: ‘My degree was the foundation of a career as a solicitor, which I have found interesting and fulfilling. It also gave me the opportunity to give back to the community through charitable endeavours. I was pleased to be part of the Charity Masterclass, to meet five excellent students and to hear the inspiring presentation given by Dr Frank Mussai on his cutting-edge work to combat childhood cancers. I was also pleased to engage with the students and to listen to their passion and commitment to charitable causes. I left knowing that society's future is safe in such capable hands.’
The end of the day included a tour of the University’s Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-Upon-Avon, which is the subject of a current fundraising project, to support the digitisation of the library, provide scholarships and engage local and international schoolchildren with the works of Shakespeare.
The group had an amazing day, leaving with an overview of the work of the University’s role as a charity and experiencing the impact of philanthropy on campus. Watch the video to hear from the students, as they outline what they learnt from the Charity Masterclass…