Round­about’s Sleep out

Exhibited by
Harry Owens
March 29, 2018
Medium of Communication
Online, Social Media
Target Audience
Students, Public, Local businesses
Type of Charity
Youth homelessness
Country of Origin
Date of first appearance

SOFII’s view

By encouraging supporters to spend a night sleeping rough, charities like Roundabout give them a glimpse of the very real problems homeless people have to face every day and night. This connects donors intimately with the cause they are supporting, and with the organisation's beneficiaries. The event has the potential to connect people outside the charity's supporter base to the cause and transform them into dedicated fundraisers. Whilst the event might be fun in places, it also highlights why the support is so necessary, reinforcing the bond between donor and organisation.

Summary / objectives

To raise funds by encouraging participants to reach a sponsorship target while also generating awareness of the issues faced by homeless people in the UK.


A recent survey shows that one out of ten Britons think homeless people are beyond help. There are currently 83,000 young people at risk of homelessness in the UK.

in 2017, Sheffield youth housing charity Roundabout organised a sleep out event as part of a nationwide, multi-charity event that saw 2,300 members of the public taking part by fundraising and sleeping rough at 14 different locations. Eighty people participated at the Sheffield event alone.

For a while the event was fun, with participants given free pizza, songs around the campfire from celebrity guests, speeches from people who have benefited from the program, and a quiz.The true challenge began after midnight, as participants had to settle to sleep on a rock solid concrete floor, in freezing temperatures. And that was with a belly full of hot food and the knowledge that everyone would be going home in the morning.


Roundabout aimed the event, which was marketed as a fun experience, at people who  aren’t aware of homelessness as such but are looking to do something fun. They aimed to tap into the enthusiasm of young people and students, taking advantage of Sheffield's significant student population.


The Sheffield based event run by charity Roundabout in 2017 raised over £13,000 from around 80 participants.That amounts to £162 per person.

Perhaps more importantly, participants came away with a new and meaningful understanding of the difficulties of sleeping on the street. As Harry says: '[After a night sleeping out] I rushed home, got a hot shower, brushed my teeth and got back into bed for a few hours. It changed my perception of homelessness to the realisation that it's more than just sleeping rough. How can we expect people to wake up after a night like that, feeling much worse than I did after doing it for a long time, or in the wet and still put their best foot forward? To do well in a job interview? Without the support of charities like Roundabout breaking the cycle of homelessness is an incomprehensibly difficult task.'

The event gave participants a direct experience of what Roundabout does for its beneficiaries and the challenges the latter face. It brought donors closer to the cause they were supporting. Harry: 'Fundraising is storytelling, but lets go one step further. Let a potential supporter experience the story for themselves and I guarantee that you will have them for life'

Final notes

Because the event utilises the traditional benefits of challenge fundraising in that it attracts people from outside a charities current supporter base and turns them into dedicated fundraisers while simultaneously showing them first hand why the charities work is so important and has the potential to convert them into lifelong supporters.

Other relevant information

Harry Owens is the Fundraising Assistant at the UK Sepsis Trust and presented this case study at SOFII's  I Wish I'd Thought Of That (#IWITOT) 2018. Harry was one of the audition winners for I Want To Talk At That #IWTTAT and was mentored by Lucy Edwards, COO of Open.