StreetSmart’s clever initiatives and strong partnerships help them support thousands of people experiencing homelessness every year. Their relationship with Sheridan Australia is just one example of corporate relationships done right.

COVID-19 has acted as a giant magnifying glass for disadvantage, with life getting harder for those already doing it tough, as well as bringing hardship into the lives of thousands of Australians for the first time.  

WA homelessness charity, Indigo Junction, knows this only too well, witnessing a sharp increase in demand for their services in recent months.  

We have noted a 600% increase in calls for assistance and one of our services has noted 132 new families needing help within one month.” 

Thank goodness then for the support of StreetSmart, a Melbourne-based charity with a unique funding model; the organisation fundraises from the community and then distributes funds via community grants to nonprofits providing homelessness supports across Australia.  

It was while working at a small youth service in 2003 that StreetSmart’s founder, Adam Robinson, first experienced the barriers to funding faced by grassroots organisations. He was inspired to start StreetSmart, with the aims of breaking down inaccurate prejudices about homelessness and raising funds for small community-based organisations supporting the homeless.  

StreetSmart has distributed more than $8 million to almost 800 local organisations across Australia in grants that include food and material aid, housing and accommodation support, rent arrears programs and youth support.  

So how do they do it? What is the secret to their success? Finessing the art of strong corporate partnerships has certainly helped and their relationship with Sheridan Australia is exemplar of working in unison with a business to create collective impact for people in need.    

The SleepSafe initiative  

In 2018, luxury linen company, Sheridan, were on the search for a charity partner. StreetSmart’s ‘funds stay local’ model aligned with their desire to have a local approach across the communities in which their stores were located.   

What started as a conversation between the new partners about where need existed and how to create impact, soon became the SleepSafe initiative. Sharing StreetSmart’s belief that everyone should have a safe place to sleep, Sheridan have created Sleep Kits that provide people experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness with a sheet set, pillowcase and towel. 

So, how does the fundraising and gift-in-kind components work?  

Both partners are fundraising for the Sleep Kits. Sheridan then work with their suppliers, manufacturing the sheets and towels with excess fabric and subsidising the cost of the products.  

On StreetSmart’s side, they are making use of their digital channels, with a dedicated appeal page on their website, emails and strong social media presence.  

Sheridan is also fundraising online, offering various touchpoints for their customers with checkout donation prompts and eDMs to their customer audiences during peak times.  

Both organisations are making effective use of floating donation banners on their websites, which have the appearance of linen tags that move up and down with page scrolling and occasionally ‘shake’ to gain your attention.  

Recent support from The Media Shop has enabled the partners to add prominent outdoor advertising to the promotional mix. 

Sheridan also fundraise in-store. SleepSafe is part of every store’s visual merchandising plan, with staff trained and educated on homelessness and who their local community partners are. Customers are asked to donate upon checkout.  

Recent lockdowns have obviously impacted in-store fundraising and the partners are looking forward to when retail opens its doors again.  

In the meantime, SafeSleep has raised more than $500,000 since 2018, which has assisted 296 community partners to help over 37,000 vulnerable Australians. Community partners like Bonnie Support Services 

 

“When women and children first arrive at their room at Bonnie’s they are greeted with the beautiful sheet sets and towels included in the kits. That first night is often the first safe night’s sleep they have had in a long time.” 

 

As SleepSafe progresses into its third year, a goal has been set to reach the target of 60,000 sleep kits. Geoff Hills, StreetSmart CEO, is rightly proud of the successful relationship the organisation has built with Sheridan, saying: 

“Sheridan have been an absolute dream to work with. The staffing, resourcing, commitment and support has been 5-star.”  

StreetSmart’s other initiatives and partnerships  

5-star relationships are something StreetSmart does consistently well, with the benefits felt across their multiple programs and the communities they serve.  

DineSmart, one of the charity’s first fundraising campaigns to launch in 2003, partners with restaurants across Australia in an initiative that sees diners chip in a $2 donation with their bill. In a savvy move, StreetSmart have secured the support of media partner, Broadsheet, who promote the campaign widely. To date it has raised $4 million, with funds currently channelled into pandemic crisis response. 

CafeSmart works on a similar model and its yellow smiley face branding has become a recognisable feature in many coffee haunts across the country. Raising over $1.5 million to date, corporate partnerships come into play again via sponsorships with Vitasoy and la marzocco and media support from Broadsheet and BeanScene magazine 

 

SmartMeals, with the slogan ‘Meals. Training. Jobs’, was established in March 2020 as an emergency response to COVID-19, providing nutritious meals for people impacted by the pandemic, while also keeping hospitality workers in jobs. The campaign provides ready-made meals to vulnerable people, made by food-based social enterprises. home.one café, where 100% of profits are reinvested into a hands-on hospitality training program for young people experiencing homelessness, is one the 72 participating hospitality partners. Tenille Gilbert, co-founder and managing director, says:  

“SmartMeals has been a lifesaver for home.one cafe during the lockdown period in Melbourne. It has not only allowed us to keep our cafe running, staff working and driving purpose into the everyday of what we do, but it has also allowed us to extend our community impact into emergency relief whilst building on our connections with local housing service providers.”  

Another campaign, born of pandemic necessity, is SmartCarean initiative dedicated to providing grants to community partners that help them establish reward and recognition programs for frontline homelessness workers, who have experienced an enormous, and often distressing, increase in workload since COVID-19 reached our shores. SmartCare provides these workers with psychologist sessions, mental health first aid courses, and self-care initiatives including vouchers, new staff equipment and fresh fruit and veg boxes for team building sessions. 

Both SmartMeals and SmartCare have attracted philanthropic, as well as corporate support, with assistance from the Besen Family Foundation and Australian Communities Foundation 

StreetFunder and RunSmart are the charity’s regular giving and peer-to-peers offerings respectively, and their newly launched StreetSmart Collective aims to double annual grant distributions from $450,000 to $900,000 by engaging philanthropic and corporate funders with a commitment to match their gifts with community funds by a multiplier of x3.   

StreetSmart’s different campaigns each have unique brand identities with clear messaging that secure community funds. Each campaign exists to serve a different area of need, but all share in the common goal of improving life for people experiencing homelessness.  

There’s no doubt StreetSmart is a charity who truly has the smarts when it comes to corporate partnerships and delivering enduring, well-recognised and clearly communicated campaigns. As a team of just five, this is beyond impressive and shows that, with effective collaboration, from little things, big things can certainly grow.  

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