Fundraiser Sleeping Rough for 31 Days Shares Publicity Tips

For James Beavis, a medical student raising money for homelessness charity Crisis by sleeping rough on the streets of London for 31 days this Christmas, social media is a vital tool in reaching out to potential donors. I met James for an interview last week, to find out more about the campaign, and to hear about the ways in which he’s used sites like Facebook to raise over £15,000 in the space of two weeks. Having undertaken a similar project in 2012 over the course of eight days, James ultimately says that things have changed a lot with regards fundraising on social media. 

So, James, you’re on a lot of social media platforms; Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter. Which is the best for your campaign?
Facebook. Facebook’s the best, although there’s a big debate between Facebook or YouTube. Facebook is good for starting a small campaign, for getting something started. But then it’s quite often good to move to YouTube once you’ve got your viewership. Facebook’s really good for starting something because you’ve got so many options to 'like', because you appear on people’s news feeds; whereas YouTube is really good for getting on things like Reddit, which is where something explodes.

Last time, I did the majority of the campaign on YouTube, and it did get on things like Reddit. But honestly, I’m sticking with my guns and sticking to Facebook, just because I know I’ve got a followership. If I was to do it again, I’d probably start on YouTube, but I want everything in one place, so people can watch [the videos]...I’m no good at video editing, I’m learning it.

Have you got software?
I’ve got iMovie. I know how to use it and I’m a technophobe.

How are you finding Snapchat compares? 
Snapchat’s been good as well because people sit there and they go “boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom” and I go “Jeez”.

It’s in their pocket and it’s there and—whereas with Facebook, where they have to seek [the campaign] out, Snapchat goes to them. That’s the biggest difference. Snapchat, it’s in their inbox whereas Facebook they have to go and seek it out.

It keeps people repeatedly engaged...touch fact, I was worried about it going down. In one of the videos, it was down four [thousand views] and in the last one it went up four [thousand]…and this is one of the issues. You want to up your engagement...[but] it’s so difficult. You want constant new material; but there isn’t constant new material. My days are actually very mundane. You want to see me - it sounds bad - but you want to see me with a black eye or something.

The use of hashtags; sharing Facebook posts; inviting people to join the group: which do you think is the most important, helpful and effective?
Inviting people to join the group, because then I’ve got a one-way connection with them, and I can get to them rather than having to go through someone else. By having that connection...I get access to that person, I can access them directly, rather than having to access that person’s network by virtue of another network.

Last time, I did an 'event' [on Facebook]. But Facebook has changed. Last time, the event had something like 120,000 people invited. That’s viral, I’d say, arguably. But, the thing was that Facebook, you used to be able to use codes and you used to be able to hack Facebook if you used Java script. Now, Facebook has changed it and it’s so difficult to do. We’re almost there, but the thing is, you can’t invite that many people to an event. The max is 200 in a certain time.

Could you not just invite a big group of people to the event and then invite a load more people again?
I could do, but that would take a lot of time. I’d have to go around on my phone and click everyone. And this is what I’m keen for you to do and what I’m really keen for people to just—it takes less than a minute to click 60 times; but if you just click through that list with your 60 most-talked-to people, they’re the 60 people who are most likely to engage with something that you do on your account.

Would you say it’s something of a hybrid, then, between social media and word of mouth? It’s not that you can simply set up a Facebook page and let it run itself; you’ve got to have people who know people.
Yep. I can show you the stats if you like.

Please do.
So, we’ve got 2,426 likes which is good in one way, but is sort of disappointing in another. I’ve got about 4,000 Facebook friends, so it’s a little bit disappointing because you’d like every one of your friends to like this.

Insights…when I last did it, this wasn’t so monetarised. And also, last time, Facebook, you know it puts [limits] on how much you hear on other people’s newsfeeds now? They didn’t used to do that, as far as I know. It used to be click-based. Which it still is, to a certain extent.

So there are certain algorithms that are getting in the way of your exposure. 
And that’s once it’s for charity. They’re trying to charge me. They own the platform, I get it, and thaey’re a business; but if they took way that [obstacle] for charities...[charities] would be able to exploit the platform so much more to promote the cause.

Is social media as reliable as the old fashioned methods of text messages and so forth?
There's two sides to that.

Yes, because you get 'seen' notifications; people have more pressure to reply...If you're asking someone to do something personally, you can see they've seen it; and they can see that you've seen that. Which is useful, especially when you're asking someone to do something which they can't be bothered to do.

No, because social media curtails your viewership. With text messages, if I send a thousand texts to people, a thousand texts will come to them. If I put out a status that should come to four thousand friends, five hundred will see it.

But social media is free. 
Text messages are free. There are unlimited texts on pretty much every contract.

Modern day social media is a blessing and a plague. It's a blessing in as much as it does let you reach a lot of people very quickly, it's easy. But it's a plague because it charges you when you want it not to...Social media four years ago was such a different creature. 

 How would you like people to get involved? What’s the best thing they can do?
There are three things:

The first one, just like the social media pages. By liking the pages, you keep up-to-date and you know exactly what’s going on, which enables you to take more action.

Second thing is sharing; sharing the videos. I’ve got a network, a reasonably big network; but if I can utilise other people’s networks - even if you’re not going to donate yourself, you’re sharing your network…So far, we’ve had, across all the videos, around a thousand shares. We’ve raised £6000. That means each time someone’s clicked 'share', that’s been worth around six pounds on average to the homelessness charity. Just by clicking share. That’s enabled maybe three or four people to have a meal on Christmas day. That’s incredible.

Third thing they can do, probably the most important thing, is donate. By donating they’re actually being part of the solution directly. They’re not taking chances, they can quantify the difference that they’re going to make. And that will make a difference.

Finally, solidarity. You're getting a lot of support and solidarity messages on social media. Does it help? 
It's frustrating rather than helpful. Quite often, you get messages saying the words “inspirational” and “hero”…but it’s actually quite upsetting. It's upsetting because people do this every single day; and the people who are the real heroes are the people who are actually out there doing it...People take the time to say it to me because I'm white middle-class.

I've got about 250 donators, yesterday we started receiving some new corporate donations like we had yesterday Thermal workwear clothing company FlexiTog and Cambridge based Digital Marketing Agency The SMF Group .
FlexiTog has donated 10% of their sells on the 21st of this month and The SMF Group has matched FlexiTog’s donation plus has offered to support us running a campaign on their social media and Social Ads. I've definitely had as well more than 250 people sending solidarity messages...I need them to donate. 
To support James' fundraising efforts, you can donate to Crisis via the project’s page, here.
You can follow James’ progress on Facebook, here.
And you can use the hashtag #Homelessatxmas or follow James’ activities on Twitter, here.

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