Saba Salman (The Social Issue): “Sometimes the simplest of ideas can have a big impact.”
Sponsorcraft catches up with Crafter Ed Tolkien, a University of the West of England (UWE) Arts and Design student using the website to raise funds for his latest project – Undergarments For Everyone…
What’s the aim of the campaign?
“The aim of the campaign is to buy brand new pants and socks for homeless people in Bristol. The undergarments will be donated to two of Bristol’s homelessness charities: St Mungo’s in Stokes Croft, and the Julian Trust Night Shelter in St Pauls. Undergarments For Everyone follows on from my last project called Warm Clothes, where we collected donations of hats, scarves and gloves for homeless people over the the month of December 2011.”
Where did you get the inspiration for Undergaments?
“My final module at UWE, entitled ‘self-directed study’, meant that I got to write my own briefs and basically do anything I wanted. I chose to explore how I could apply my graphic design skills to help improve certain aspects of society. As I started planning my projects in December 2011 when we were experiencing temperatures below freezing, I figured homeless people would be the worst affected by the cold, so decided to do something to help them and started my Warm Clothes campaign. This involved making two donation bins and leaving one outside the Students’ Union office at Bower Ashton, and the other in the foyer of Hamilton House on Stokes Croft.”
How did Warm Clothes go?
“The response was amazing and I collected 126 items altogether, mainly consisting of wooly hats, scarves and gloves. I started by finding homeless people on the streets and offering them the garments myself. When talking to these people, a few of them said that the hardest type of clothing to come by was underwear and that although the shelters and charities do receive some donations of pants and socks, they are often in a less than desirable state, so any new items are always very welcome. This led me onto create Undergarments for Everyone. During Warm Clothes I also found that it was quite hard to actually identify someone as homeless unless they are begging or selling the Big Issue, so decided going to the charities instead would be a more effective way of reaching people who aren’t really visible on the streets.
You put together a really nice animated video to accompany the campaign. What was the story behind this?
“Homelessness is a big problem in Bristol. We’re keen to make people more aware of this. One of the things we tried was to produce the animated film to explain and promote the campaign. To form the content of the clip I asked the question – “Which words/sensations/emotions would you use to describe the feeling of putting on a new or clean pair of socks/pants/bra?” e.g snug, cosy, or bracing’ – and posed it to my contacts on social networks. The answers form a list which serves to remind the viewer of the benefits we enjoy from the simple pleasure that is new underwear. The text then goes on to explain how you can help provide this pleasure to a homeless person by donating a small amount of money to me!”
How would you describe Sponsorcraft?
“Sponsorcraft is a website where students can raise money for any projects or endeavours which are in need of funding. You can now easily donate any amount of money you desire to me, wherever you are, via their website. With Sponsorcraft you also receive rewards for your support. There are three donation levels; £1, £5, and £10, each with corresponding rewards set by me.”
How has setting up a project with Sponsorcraft helped?
“Sponsorcraft has been by far the most effective way of raising funds for the campaign. There is such a massive bank of potential sponsors online, and Sponsorcraft makes it a walk in the park to donate. I collected about £15 with all the donation boxes combined over three weeks, but £113 via Sponsorcraft in two weeks, with 1120 views to the project! About half of the Sponsorcraft donations have come from friends and family who are outside of Bristol so couldn’t have made it to a donation box. The other half are from people I have never met and who probably would never have found out about the project if it hadn’t been on Sponsorcraft. The updates feature of the website has been really useful too as it meant that I could fill sponsors/potential sponsors in on what I was doing with their money, and let them know it wasn’t going on a nice fish pie for my dinner. The rewards system is also really cool because I get to say thank you in a more personal way and sponsors get a memento that proves they are nice people!
“In short, it’s easier for me to connect with people online and I can reach a lot more people. Moreover, people don’t usually put large notes into a collection pot but I’ve had plenty of generous donations over Sponsorcraft. It allows people to donate at their own pace, in their own homes and in their own time. It’s more transparent so everyone can see the progress we’re making and how much has been raised. And finally, I can tempt potential sponsors with a little reward for their pennies like a poster. All of this isn’t the case with conventional methods of fundraising.”
Have you raised more than you were expecting to?
“I have raised over twice as much as I was expecting to, having to double my total half-way through the project! Persistent promotion on social networks and regular updates have been really beneficial as people are so bombarded by information on the internet everyday, they sometimes need reminding in case your cause has been pushed out of their consciousness by someone else’s cause. Getting your friends to share with their friends is a really good way of extending your views as well.
You’ve already hit your funding target… Can people still donate?
“The good news is you can still donate with Sponsorcraft. My project still has another week to run. Undergarments has already exceeded its funding target but Sponsorcraft allows Crafters to continue raising until a project’s completion date.”
What can people do to help out after the Sponsorcraft campaign?
“Aside from Sponsorcraft, keep an eye out for the donation boxes at the Salvation Army charity shops and hopefully at more shops and cafes in Bristol.”
Where are they?
“One is situated at each of UWE’s Frenchay, Bower Ashton and St Matts campuses, and at two different Salvation Army charity shops in Bristol.”
How will I notice them?
“They’re quite distinctive – whitewashed and decorated with socks and pants They’re made from recycled cardboard, with pizza box sides and corrugated cardboard lids for stability.”
Do you have any future projects to look out for?
“I am also planning a project to ‘renovate’ underpasses in the city in an attempt to make them less daunting and more enjoyable. So expect to see mirrors guiding you around dodgy blind corners, temporary, underground art exhibitions, and clean and tidy underpasses.”
Any questions? Please feel free to contact Ed at firstname.lastname@example.org
He also tweets from @edtolkien