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Shining for whom? Students should be aware of who they’re donating to before they fundraise

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Photo by Silhouette Archives

Every Welcome Week, McMaster reps across faculties and residences partake in Shinerama, a fundraiser for Cystic Fibrosis Canada.

Shinerama is an incredibly successful fundraising campaign as McMaster fundraises over $100,000 every Welcome Week. Altogether, over 40 Canadian colleges and universities fundraise money for Shinerama annually, collectively fundraising approximately $500 thousand every year. However, it may be time to question our fundraising efforts—where exactly is our money going, and why are we doing it?

While Shinerama can bring students together to promote working towards a good cause, it can also alienate first years of a low socioeconomic status. Being asked for money constantly, especially during a week where many first years are acclimatizing to a new environment can be daunting.

Being asked for money can make students uncomfortable, especially when university tuition and housing is a huge financial burden for many. First years may not have money to spare but being constantly asked and reminded to donate can make people feel obliged to contribute money. As a result, many first years often feel uncomfortable going up to reps who are shining, as they’ll feel the need to give money they don’t have.

One way to tackle the issue of soliciting first years for donations is to solely run a fundraising campaign during the summer or during the school year. Welcome Week often is a place where first years feel very vulnerable due to such a new environment and asking students for money who may not be financially stable can put them in an uncomfortable position. This issue has been ongoing, but with the OSAP cuts this year, this problem may have been especially prevalent this past Welcome Week. Simply changing the time of our annual fundraising campaign so that it is no longer during Welcome Week can help alleviate this problem so that first years don’t feel obliged to donate when they have tuition fees to cover as well.

Another issue that has been raised is Cystic Fibrosis Canada’s efficacy as a charitable organization. In 2017, around 30 per cent or approximately $4 million of total funding for Cystic Fibrosis Canada went towards administrative costs or fundraising fees. Although McMaster raises over $100,000 for Shinerama each year, that does not even cover overhead fees. Cystic fibrosis is a good cause to raise money for, but it is also important to critically analyze how much money actually goes towards funding research.

Cystic fibrosis is a common genetic disease in Canada which is one of the reasons why fundraising efforts are so large. However, it is important to note that Cystic Fibrosis Canada states that Caucasians make up 93 per cent of diagnoses in Canada. While Caucasians are not limited to only white people, the Caucasian population in Canada is mainly white. According to Genetics Home Reference, the disease has been found to be most prevalent in White Americans (around 1 in 2,500 to 3,500) compared to African Americans (1 in 17,000) and Asian Americans (1 in 31,000).

As most people affected by cystic fibrosis are white, many students feel unrepresented by our fundraising efforts. As McMaster likes to promote the fact that their students are diverse, they should consider contributing to diseases or causes that affect a diverse population, not a mainly white population.

Evidently, Shinerama has a lot of room for improvement. As McMaster raises a large amount of money each year, it is important to critically analyze where our money is going. So what are some other options?

One solution to this problem could be rotating charities every year. Many local grassroots organizations such as sexual assault centre (Hamilton) are in dire need of funding and $100,000 could really benefit their programming and resources. SACHA currently only has six full-time staff, one part-time staff and the rest of the organization runs solely on volunteers. As a result, SACHA is often flooded with requests for sexual violence support. If McMaster chose to raise money for SACHA even for only one year, it would provide a huge support to an organization that provides crucial programming and training on sexual violence and bystander intervention.

By raising money for local grassroots organizations, McMaster students could also improve relationships with the Hamilton community, which is one thing that many people really enjoy about Shinerama fundraising during the summer.

Fundraising efforts done by McMaster students can have incredibly positive effects on our community if we do it correctly. Moving forward, we should critically analyze when we fundraise and who we are fundraising for so that our efforts can be allocated more effectively.

A previously published version of this article stated that there was only one part-time staff working at SACHA. It has since been corrected to state that SACHA has six full-time staff and one-part time staff.

A previously published version of this article stated that almost 60 Canadian universities fundraise for Shinerama, collectively raising approximately $1 million every year. It has since been corrected to state that over 40 Canadian colleges and universities fundraise, collectively raising approximately $500 million annually.

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Author: Steffi Arkilander

Steffi is in her third year of Health Sciences. During the school year, you can find her hiding out at Innis Library and off-campus coffee shops, where she spends a bit too much time watching bad TV shows and playing Pokemon Go. She enjoys hikes, plants, frogs and empowering other voices through opinions pieces.