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23 December 2016

After 14 Days Sleeping Rough, Homelessness Fundraiser James Beavis Gets First Big Donations

James Beavis, a medical student raising money for homelessness charity Crisis by sleeping rough on the streets of London for 31 days this Christmas, has this week received his first donations from professional business entities. Thermal workwear and leaisure clothing company FlexiTog is supporting the cause, with FlexiTog donating 10% of their profits from trading on 21st December. FlexiTog has also played to their warm clothing strengths, donating a woolly hat to James, who has thus far endured sub-zero temperatures overnight, biting wind and exposure to all manner of elements.

The fundraising target stands at £25,000. When I first interviewed James last Wednesday, the total was roughly £7,000. Over the course of a week, it’s risen to almost £15,000 (£12,700 of which is going to Crisis itself). Whilst the snowball effect does indeed seem to be taking hold, with interviews with both Sky News and ITV scheduled for Friday, James nevertheless says he’s unsure whether the total will be reached.

‘I’m nervous we won’t make it. People might stop donating after Christmas. The hard thing will be the January lull; people will be spending their money on the January sales.’

‘£25,000 would be a thousand people off the streets for a day…from there, Crisis could also put them into services to help them get their feet on the ground.’

With goodwill potentially set to decline amongst independent donors following Christmas day, James is consequently hoping that alternative sources of funding might pull the campaign over the line. In this regard, acts of corporate social responsibility are top of his wish list.

‘I’m grateful to FlexiTog, hopefully this will get the ball rolling with corporates…Crisis do have corporate partners already, but being partnered as an individual fundraiser is amazing.’  

‘Rather than “corporate social responsibility,” I really like the term “corporate philanthropy” makes it seem like corporates are nicer…Others aren’t so keen on it, but I like the idea of companies giving something because they want to give something.’

‘Fundamentally, without them, not as much good would be achieved…corporations are run by people, and it’s kind of nice that there’s a person who’s doing something. There’s often a personal connection with somebody who’s running a corporation and a cause; and if they can use that corporation as a conduit to raise more money for that cause, that’s fantastic.’

When James undertook an eight-day version of his present challenge in 2012, he didn’t gain support from the world of business. Nevertheless, he did see a small number of large, anonymous donations.

‘The idea of the project, whilst it is to get funds - because we know that makes a difference, we can quantify that – actually, one of the big things is awareness. This is why having corporate associations is so important, for any sort of cause: because you’re not just pushing the financial side…These are individuals and companies and organisations with immense responsibility, and they could actually make such a difference if they engaged with the cause.’

FlexiTog, and other corporate donors have a certain amount of social power to sway people’s views. James asserts the most important thing they can do in terms of affecting the kinds of social and economic change he’s seeking through the campaign is to share their professional networks.

‘The reason why so far it seems to be working is because people are allowing us to access their network…So, even if they don’t donate, whilst we’d like them to donate, even if it’s a small amount, because everything does make a difference, by accessing their network, we can access the potential donors within their network. And this is where corporates can come in really well, because they’ve got employees; they’ve also got other corporate associations who have employees, and it’s just a huge network market that we could tap into.’

When it comes down to the fundraising goal of £25,000 by 9 January, the latest news ultimately seems encouraging. With the help of companies like FlexiTog , James says, ‘we’re all optimistic that we might get there.’

Nevertheless, there’s a long way to go to the finish.

To support James in his fundraising cause, you can donate to Crisis via the project’s page, here.
Follow James’ progress on Facebook, here.
Use the hashtag #Homelessatxmas or follow James’ activities on Twitter, here.

James Stannard

James has a Bachelor’s degree in History and wrote his dissertation on beef and protest. His heroes list ranges from Adele to Noam Chomsky: inspirations he’ll be invoking next year when he begins a Master’s degree in London.