Meningitis Research Foundation

on 14/04/2017

So this week I turned 29 and if you want to hold back the clock then spending three days immersed in the London Loot (Meningitis Research Foundation’s (MRF) annual student fundraising event) is one pretty awesome way of doing it!

I began my week at MRF’s head quarters in the centre of Bristol and was pounced upon by the lively (and lovely!) student fundraising team who were kindly looking after me this week. From creating snapchat filters with the marketing team to swapping tips and best practice with corporate and community fundraising to a briefing with the research team on the latest scientific developments, my first day with MRF was certainly varied.

Meningitis and septicaemia are diseases we've all heard of before but if you’re anything like me you may know very little about them. This week I learnt that meningitis is the inflammation of the brain and spinal cord lining and septicaemia is the blood poisoning form and that (frighteningly) both diseases can kill in hours. Many types of germs cause the diseases with the most common being meningococcal bacteria and whilst many of us do carry such bacteria, it is when it moves from the nose and throat into the body that the diseases can take hold. Babies and young adults are the two societal groups at highest risk and this goes some way to explain why national student support for this charity is so strong.

From conquering Kilimanjaro to hitchikes to european marathons to skydives to city bucket collections, the student team work hard to offer students and their RAG societies options for whatever your flavour of adventure. Now around half way through my year and 20 charities down, I have yet to encounter a student team as resourceful or enterprising as the one at MRF. The London Loot is a fantastic example of these mad skills in operation. This is not just any old bucket collection - over the course of two days 160 students from 12 different universities around the country convene at the Generator Hostel in London for 48 hours of bucket collecting mayhem! Whilst the final count for this year is not yet in - the fruits of Wednesday’s labour alone stood at a whopping £32,227.57!!

So what is the secret of their success? Of course such an operation takes some serious planning and this week I mucked in with the student team to see just what it was all about. I learnt pretty quickly that it is all hands to the deck -4:30am and the team and I are up and at ‘em setting up the room for permit and bucket distribution. Early starts are essential if collectors are to catch the morning commuter rush. Fancy dress clad, bleary eyed and buckets in hand, the student force take to the underground to assume their positions. At 8.30am calls are already coming in thick and fast to the ‘Loot phone’ in the Generator Hostel (the nerve centre of operations) from students requesting bucket emptying.

In rapid response myself and Clare head out with empty backpacks to rescue the arms of our intrepid collectors. We empty buckets at Moorgate and head onwards underground to Farringdon. We meet three students from Plymouth there elaborately dressed. Angel in particular is donning an inflatable unicorn outfit which is certainly doing the trick with passers by and indeed as I empty her bucket into my backpack it feels as if there is already several hundred pounds worth of donations here and its only 10am. I heave my ruck sack back onto my shoulders, a veritable pack horse of loot. Clare and I hobble onwards, doing our best Quasimodo impressions towards another pick up at Liverpool Street in the direction of HQ.

Once back, I take a turn manning the Loot Phone and map of London. With students dotted around all major train stations, the logistics of ensuring buckets are emptied in a timely manner is more demanding than you would imagine. I feel like I am playing air traffic control, taking calls from collectors and issuing instructions to the team via the whatsapp group. After my shift is over, I take a turn in the counting room run by head of team, Benny. Three machines whir, count and sort change from buckets to bags. I have to admire the orderly procedure in play here to count and sort tens of thousands of pounds a day. I empty a few bags which seems oddly therapeutic after the frenetic activity on the Loot Phone but the machine’s whir is quite noisy and the room is piled high with buckets and money. Make no mistake about it there is a heck of lot of toil that goes on behind the scenes to keep this event ticking over. The student team finally hit the hay at around midnight and its game on for day two.

It is not just the team’s hard work or the enthusiasm of the student volunteers that makes this event so lucrative for MRF but something ought to be said about this charity’s relationship with its volunteers and fundraisers. RAG leaders, student volunteers and the MRF staff are genuinely a tight bunch - there are no handshakes or formal letters of thank you here but rather chest bumps, high fives and dabbing are the order of the day (I had to look that last one up - codger alert!).

The total for #Loot17 is not yet in but it has been an epic week for me with the MRF team - high intensity but high fun and fund yield. You may be wondering where the money raised goes to exactly. MRF’s vision is a world free from meningitis and septicaemia where vaccinations can protect everyone. Through research, policy and practice their teams work tirelessly to fulfil this vision. MRF are key players on the world stage in scientific research and provide essential support to people and families affected. If you want to learn more about the work of MRF specifically then please do check out their website here.

For now, a bucket load of thanks to all the students and volunteers at this year’s London Loot and in particular to Andy, Clare, Jen, Chloe, Imi, Jonny, Benny, Sam, Ian and Katie for being so blimming marvellous and at times super human!

All good things,


Alice Biggar

Author: Alice Biggar

Alice is our National Philanthropy Manager & current holder of The Nicest Job in Britain.