Last night, I joined over 1,000 executives around Australia and participated in the 2012 Vinnies CEO Sleepout. We braved the elements and spent a night outside to get a taste of what life is like for the estimated 100,000+ homeless people around the country who do the same thing every night.
The aim of the event was to raise money for the St Vincent De Paul society (the Vinnies) through sponsorships and to raise awareness about an often-neglected group of men, women and children living on the streets every night. We raised a total of $4.7m – and a whole lot of awareness!
Sky News was also on the scene. You can watch the quick interview below to see my thoughts on the event and technology in general:
Like I said in the video, the event was satisfying in and of itself, but it was also a good opportunity to see how helpful technology can be for not-for-profits.
Online donations are easier
The CEO Sleepout website had a big task – to collect funds from seven different electronic payment gateways, deliver them to the Vinnies and make sure they were correctly accounted for. It was also used to coordinate the various events, as the CEO Sleepout was held in cities throughout Australia.
Web design agency and Xero customer Osky Interactive fulfilled this task by creating a powerful online hub behind an intuitive user experience design that made it easy for people to donate. It’s interesting to think about how difficult coordinating the events and collecting the sponsorship money would have been without the aid of a powerful website. Since most of the donations were relatively small ($100ish), there would have been a lot of admin if they’d all been by cash and check!
Social media to spread the word
I also liked how we used social media to spread the word to potential donors. As a participant, I found it so easy to use Twitter, Yammer and the occasional email blast (for those not yet embracing social channels) to keep up the awareness and fundraising momentum.
Social media offers a lot of potential for not-for-profit fundraising. One tweet from me got the Vinnies message in front of a little more than 500 people; imagine if I’d had to make that many phone calls! By getting people involved in their personal channels, we were able to raise a lot of money without spending a lot of time or money.
So it was an eye-opening event, both in terms of learning what the homeless go through each night and seeing how technology can help these people by making fundraising faster, easier and more effective. It felt good to be involved – both as a Sleepout participant and as a Xero employee supporting better technology that helps not-for-profits thrive.