Undergrads raise thousands for PSC

In giving campaign, classes compete to raise money for project grants

Last week you might have noticed an exceptionally high level of noise and number of people milling about Lobby 10. You might have also noticed the red pins popping up on friends’ bags and shirts. These were the telltale signs of the Underclassmen Giving Campaign (UGC), a fundraising campaign spearheaded by the Public Service Center. The campaign was held as a competition between the freshman, sophomore, and junior classes to raise the most funds to support the PSC.

This fall’s results have placed the Class of 2014 in first place, with 46.54 percent participation, followed by Class of 2012 with 34.57 percent, and finally the Class of 2013 with 31.1 percent participation. The combined efforts of 1172 donors amounts to $5,449.79, an amount that will be matched by this year’s alumnus challenger Anne Street ’69, the current president of the Alumni Association.

The fall campaign is over, however, the Undergraduate Giving Campaign will host the second part of the campaign this spring. If they are able to raise the same amount in the spring as they did this fall, they will close to $11,000, or about 37 percent more than last year’s campaign.

All of the funds raised by the campaign are directed towards funding expedition grants, which allow students to travel during IAP or the summer to start community service projects in areas of need. Ben S. Bradley, who manages the PSC expedition grants, said “the point of expedition grants is to give students a chance to go somewhere they’ve never been before where they know there’s a problem facing a community but they don’t necessarily know what the solution is.” Students propose ideas and apply for these grants, and the PSC gives up to $1,000 to each student. The PSC is looking to have sustainable community service projects all over the world. The Associate Director of Student Philanthropy Programs Rosheen B. Kavanagh, said, “MIT students have these amazing ideas based on research they’ve done at MIT and they want to put it to practical use in a region where there needs to be improvements.”

Last year, the UGC raised $7,960, which was matched by the alumnus challenger Donald E. Shobrys ’75. This money was used to send 14 students abroad, whose community service projects took them to countries ranging from Tanzania to the Kumaon Himalayas region during IAP and the summer. Some of the projects last year involved the creation of educational labs, the development of sustainable agriculture, and the installation of sanitation systems. Bradley said this year “they plan to send around the same number of students abroad to carry out community service projects.”

Since its first round in 2006, the campaign has seen significant growth in the participation of underclassmen. Last year they had a record-breaking percentage of participation, which was only half a percent below this year’s 37.48 percent of all the underclassmen.

Kavanagh attributes this to the “volunteer effort reaching out to their friends and telling them what they’re trying to raise money for.” Typically, the participation of the classes had followed a trend of freshmen in the lead, followed by the sophomores and the juniors. This year was the first time the juniors had surpassed the sophomores, and Kavanagh explains this difference with the PSC’s close collaboration with the 2012 class council, which allowed UGC volunteers to set up booths at a Class of 2012 study break.

According to Kavanagh, The overall increase in participation over the years has been a result of efforts to increase the UGC volunteer effort. The more eager volunteers at the booths try to catch the attention of students or friends, and the more compelling their explanation of the purpose of the campaign, the more likely students donated. As Kavanagh put it, “the volunteers who are most successful are the people who are able to explain how great the Public Service Center is and what good use this money is … If people stop and they talk to us and they understand what the campaign’s about, most people want to donate.”

In the past, they’ve also found that working closely with the class councils of each class has helped to boost participation quite a bit. For example, last week the president of each class sent out an email encouraging their class to donate to the UGC.

For the spring, the PSC has a few plans in mind to further increase student participation. Kavanagh expressed their hope to further diversify the campaign. They hope to expand the volunteer effort, extend their presence beyond Lobby 10, publicize the experiences of those students who received expedition grants, and to increase awareness of the purpose of the campaign.