On Friday night, my fellow reporter Sophie Hudson and I slept rough in Spitalfields Market.
No, it wasn’t because times are tough in the journalism business these days. It was a fundraising event held by the charity Action for Brazil’s Children.
We managed to smash our fundraising target of £150 each: so far we have raised £456.65 between us, and there are promises of more now that we’ve done it.
The challenge was tough enough to warrant the sponsorship. Sleeping on a cardboard box on a concrete floor in the middle of November, even with plenty of layers, is not easy.
The next morning we felt groggy, dishevelled and very conspicuous as we walked towards Liverpool Street station with our sleeping bags and ruffled hair, smelling rather stale. We realised how quickly a homeless person could become a social outcast.
But we also realised how much potential there is for charities to raise funds by holding events that have a strong connection to their cause.
About 50 people were willing to sleep rough on Friday night, many of them socially aware, campaigning students looking for a new experience. It’s an exciting market for charities, and one that could probably be tapped into further with more unusual, attention-grabbing events.
But one thing did strike me about the event on Friday: there was little connection between the event and the charity’s cause area. Action for Brazil’s Children funds education projects in Brazil – a worthy cause but one with little connection to sleeping rough in London.
The experience has made me much more likely to give to charity, but I will probably choose a UK-based homelessness charity rather than Action for Brazil’s Children.
It begs the question: Should charities hold exciting fundraising events for their own sake, or should they hold off, in order to avoid saturating the market and to leave the space free for charities to whom the events are more relevant?
PS: Visit our Virgin Money Giving sponsorship page if you do still want to sponsor us.