How charity Hands On London jolted commuters out of their ‘blindness’ to increase donations by 50%

The charity dressed up some of London’s iconic statues in red parkas as part of its Wrap Up London campaign, in an effort to get Londoners to donate unwanted coats for the homeless and vulnerable.

Homelessness and the number of people living in crisis is at an all-time high in London. In winter, the struggle is only intensified as the temperature drops and nights get longer.

Each year, charity Hands On London runs a campaign called ‘Wrap Up London’, a drive to get people to donate old coats so it can distribute them to those in need. That is not just the homeless but also those fleeing domestic violence or children from low-income families.

But as the number of people living in crisis in the capital rises each year, the charity knew it needed to intensify its efforts. Seeing the problem escalating at a rapid rate, Hands On London increased its target by 50% to 20,000 in 2017 despite still having zero budget.

Although homelessness is a growing problem, the charity says Londoners are often “blind” to the issue so awareness is not particularly high. That meant Hands On London was not naïve enough to think that just because it knew it had a worthy cause that people would automatically take action.

Mirroring how homeless people often feel, Hands On London wanted people to take note of the other often invisible figures they pass every day – statues. It wrapped some of the capital’s iconic figures, such as statues of the refugee children at Liverpool Street and Amy Winehouse in Camden, in red parkas that featured the charity’s call-to-action stitched on as a label. Branded comms were also produced to support the initiative. The hope was that even if Londoners pass these statues every day they couldn’t help but do a double take.

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The only thing left to communicate was when and where to leave coats, which was shared via earned media in Metro, HuffPost, The Independent and Time Out, among others, as well as via interviews on radio stations including Heart and LBC.

To add an extra layer of complexity, Hands On London also had a maximum number of coats it could accept: its aim was 20,000 coats, but any more than 25,000 and it wouldn’t have the volunteer manpower to process and distribute all the donations, so it had to find the right balance of impact and scale.

In total, Hands On London collected 24,109 coats, with 50% of donors saying the statue activity had played an active role in their decision to participate, either because they saw it themselves or read about it via the 2.5 million media impressions. This impact resulted in the campaign picking up the award for charity and non-profit at the Marketing Week Masters last year.

The majority of coats were given to homeless groups (52%), with refugee organisations (14%), women’s charities (10%) and other vulnerable communities receiving the rest. The campaign also helped take Wrap Up London’s total collections past the 100,000 mark.

Hands On London CEO Jon Meech adds: “We’ve had a 200% increase in enquiries from those wishing to support as a result as well.”