Johannesburg - The CEO SleepOut has raised R34 million for beneficiaries, including educational organisations and homeless support groups, in the two years since its inception.

The event sees South Africa’s C-suite members and influencers spend a winter’s night on the street to raise funds for vulnerable communities.

Read also: CEO SleepOut is 'ubuntu in action'

The first event last year raised over R20m for the Founding Beneficiary Partner and Girls and Boys Town.

The 2016 Sun International CEO SleepOut took place in July on the Nelson Mandela Bridge in Joburg.

Efforts this year focused on education as the primary means to eradicate poverty and homelessness.

“Just over R20m has been collected and banked this year,” said Gawie Marais, partner at BDO, one of the CEO SleepOut's auditors.

One of the trustees, Darren Olivier, said: “Donations of R9m will be awarded to the three primary beneficiary partners equally - the ASHA Trust, Columba Leadership and the Steve Biko Foundation - all of which upskill the youth and youth educators or train in early childhood development.

“As just over R30m was pledged, a further R10m will also be divided equally and awarded to those beneficiary partners when collected,” he said.

Secondary beneficiaries included Homeless Talk, the Salvation Army and Gift of the Givers, which all benefited from the projects affiliated to the CEO SleepOut.

The remaining funds were used to manage this mammoth operation and its associated logistics, with R3m being kept in reserve to launch next year's event.

Olivier said in two years, R34m had been donated to charity, representing 73 percent of the project’s income revenue.

The chief executives who raised the most funds were Brett Levy, joint chief executive officer of Blue Label Telecoms, Paul Dunne, chief executive at Northam Platinum, and Gavin Varejes, executive chairman at Richmark Holdings.

“It would be a lot easier for people to put money in a bank account and stay in their bed, at home, but people put in the effort. You’ll obviously never feel what homeless people feel - I don’t believe this event is about that,” said Levy.

Last year, the social return on investment as measured by IQ Business was 1:3.15. This means that for every R1 received by the beneficiaries, R3.15 was realised in terms of social impact, based on an analysis of select stakeholder groups - an over-300 percent return on investment.

“We expect this number to increase for 2017, based on the success of the various associated events that took place,” says Stephen Smith, associate partner: sustainability and impact measurement at IQ Business.

Graeme Stephens, chief executive of title partner Sun International, said: “The 2016 event saw 168 C-suite members register for the first time this year. The current business leaders also brought with them an exceptional colleague, outstanding student and inspirational matric learner. Together, they sparked an inter-generational discussion about creating change,” he said.

The 2016 SleepOut was awarded protected event status by Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies, and the event helped local, vulnerable communities in other, more immediate ways.

Items from the event were recycled back into the community in keeping with the event’s ethos “to arrive with nothing, and leave with nothing”.

The morning after the event, working from Gift of the Givers, over 1 000 members of the local homeless community were invited onto the bridge, where they could help themselves to blankets, sleeping bags and food.

The sheds used to house the activities that night were donated to the Zandspruit and Itsoseng communities.

More than 600 books collected at the Brand South Africa Play Your Part Library of Hope were awarded to the beneficiaries and to Lesedi Day Care in Alexandra.

Sixty five schools, 44 companies and nine tertiary education institutions participated by collecting stationery, technology, food and clothing for under-resourced schools.

Speaking about the event, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said: “Events like this continue to build a social consciousness that reflects human solidarity, human empathy and the spirit of sharing, so society can be better off.”

Vodacom chief executive Shameel Joosub called on other corporates to get involved.

“This activity brings together corporate South Africa and gets them to rise up,” he said.

THE STAR