WrapUp London, now in its seventh year, is a call to action. It invites Londoners to clear out their old coats, take them to drop off points from where they will be sorted and distributed to partner charities who work with homeless people, older people, refugees and women’s refuges. This year I volunteered for two out of the three drop off days at Liverpool Street Station. It was tiring but brilliant work. Usually I work at home, mostly liaising with colleagues and clients by phone or email. This was a chance to talk to people face-to-face and be in the thick of something brilliant.
On Tuesday we filled 49 giant sacks with donations. Each sack took between 10-20 coats. Today we filled 89, plus two suitcases! In total the good people of Liverpool Street and Broadgate donated men’s, women’s and children’s coats filling 154 sacks over the three days.
Here’s why it works.
Clear branding and marketing
Wrap Up London – the name is beautifully clear, strong and emotive.
Clever marketing used red coats on London prominent statues which was eye-catching and simple. Amy Winehouse’s statue in Camden wore a red coat and branding on the banners included Nelson in a dashing red puffer jacket.
Of course, there were still people who hadn’t heard of the campaign (and those who weren’t interested) despite awareness raising in the run up to the collection days on social media and leafleting. But there were enough that did and many who had been looking out for the campaign after they had donated in 2016.
Get rid of your old coat and it will be given directly to someone who needs it.
This simple transaction is motivating. It helps the donor to clear something they don’t want any more and they can imagine the person who might benefit from it instead. It is a simple ‘from me to you’ without any cost to the donor and a streamlined, well organised process to drive it.
Most people have an old coat somewhere – maybe a child’s coat grown out of or an impulse buy. There are some who are moved on the day to donate. One woman actually took her coat off and gave it to us (and then came back to retrieve her train ticket from its pocket!)
However, although it is a simple ask, the process of donating for most isn’t without effort. It will be time-consuming to find the coats, put them in a strong bag and it will take effort to remember to pick them up on the way in to work, then lug them on a squashed-in commute, and potentially modify their journey to pass by a drop-off point. It is precisely all this effort which makes it meaningful.
Some people go the extra mile. For example, some had specifically washed or dry cleaned their coats before handing them over. Many gave large donations of heavy and bulky items, some delivered them in suitcases which they then took onwards, empty. There were some people who bought donations every day. Some had travelled a long way or in difficult circumstances (including several people on crutches). The highlight of my Wednesday was the stars from Spitalfields City Farm who delivered several bin bags and boxes of coats via three wheelbarrows which they’d pushed all the way from the other side of Brick Lane!
What struck me most was the urge people had to donate, to do something positive, something lots of other people were doing at the same time. The kindness and enthusiasm was reassuring and wonderful.
This is a London-wide event, now firmly in the calendar. There are six tube collection points (at the major train stations – London Bridge, King’s Cross, Waterloo, Victoria, Liverpool Street plus Canary Wharf – with thousands of people passing through) open for three days, all staffed by volunteers plus drop-off points at Safestores for longer.
Many of the people donating today came with bin bags full of coats which were a collective donation from their office. It was something they could do together as no cost.
Thanks and encouragement
Donors of course felt good about what they had done. The transactional process of handing over a bag was met with smiles, thank you’s, chat, selfies and a cool sticker. Sometimes it was quick as people were rushing off to work or to get a train. Other times people stayed to talk.
People were also being thanked on social media by individual volunteers and @WrapUpLondon using #WrapUpLondon and #HandsOnHeroes. The energy of the campaign was infectious especially through the three days of the tube collection.
It was brilliant. I thoroughly recommend volunteering next year if you get a chance (you can volunteer from 7-9 so still get to work on time) or taking part in other similar events. I can’t wait to hear how many sacks each of the locations collected and whether donations beat last year’s total and the difference they make.
In these miserable times, it was wonderful to see kindness and generosity first-hand and to see people doing something practical to help others.
Do can do something positive
You can still get involved – donation points are open until 24 November or you can text donations to 70070.
See also: WrapUp Manchester which happened at the same time. Here is a Moment from their day 2.
Think about how you could apply these principles to your fundraising or campaign.
If you want to galvanise collective giving, why not run a reverse advent calendar in the run up to Christmas.