Posted by editor 15/11/2013 0 Comment 3014 views


Jenny McBain discovers some of the secrets of StreetSmart – an innovative charity raising money through restaurants to support the work of small, local charities that help the homeless.//

In these uncertain times of social divide, charities are lining up to ask the public for financial support.  So the need to make giving simple, attractive and effective has never been greater. StreetSmart is an organisation that lives up to its name.  It was established in 1998 and since then – throughout each November and December – participating restaurants have added a donation of just £1 to the bill of each table. This simple initiative adds up to over a half a million pounds a year which is then distributed to projects which tackle the problems faced by homeless people.

Well known actor, writer and directorpolymath Stephen Fry  is a StreetSmart supporter.  In his view, “Good food, good wine and good company enrich our lives beyond measure. Most of us don’t say Grace these days because we don’t know whom to thank for the inestimable pleasures of the table. StreetSmart lets us do a graceful thing. A simple thing. A kind thing.”

StreetSmart’s director Glenn Pougnet is clear about the reasons which lie behind the charity’s success. “Like all the best ideas StreetSmart is simple and it is easy for people to get their minds round,” he says. “By doing it in November and December we are tapping into seasonal goodwill just as (the weather) is beginning to get cold.  I think the local aspect is important too.  All the restaurants in Manchester that take part know that all the money goes to projects in Manchester.”

Another aspect of StreetSmart which accounts for its popularity with the public is that it has a very low cost base.  Its current sponsor, Deutsche Bank, pays for the salaries of its two employees and for some of its other running costs whilst Forward Publishing provides office space and accountancy and publishing services. So 100 per cent of all money raised goes directly to the organisations that need it.

Stephen Fry is not the only well known supporter of this innovative charity.  Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay is another keen advocate of their work.  His restaurants participate in the annual fundraising activity and their generous diners contribute around £40,000 a year to the campaign.  Ramsay says,  “StreetSmart has become part of Christmas for us. It’s everyone’s chance to do the right thing at the right time with only the gentlest nudge”

StreetSmart can lay claim to other successes beyond the provision of financial support to small charities.  There are times when its bulging contacts book has proved to be a valuable asset. Glenn says, “There is one guy who is now working for one of the restaurants that support us.  Previously he was sleeping rough until the St Martin’s outreach service was able to engage with him, get him a home and help him to enrol on a catering course.”

It would appear that asking for just a little and making sure that people know they have a choice, adds up to a great deal.   Glenn says, “The restaurants are very good at letting people know that they don’t have to pay the pound.  In my experience 97 per cent of people do choose to give a £1 and around 2 per cent give more. Sometimes restaurant managers have said they are not raising enough and that they want to do more.  But we have talked them down from that.  It is important that people who are dining out at Christmas are not being asked to give too much and that they don’t come to see it as a tax.”

Now StreetSmart is beginning to build on its success with a SleepSmart initiative which asks hotel guests to donate £1 every time they settle their hotel bill. And the next step is to try to engage younger people.  Glenn says, “We need to do more things to keep it fresh. Street food is taking off in this country.  It is popular with younger people and we feel there is some kind of energy and synergy with us.  So we are looking at adding £1 to street food event tickets. We are constantly looking to expand and do things differently.”

Over 600 establishments throughout the UK now take part in StreetSmart and others are invited to go to the website and sign up.  It is a simple process that is a source of seasonal goodwill and leads to lifesaving provision for vulnerable people.






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