The Big Issue Foundation, as a leading movement for social change, offers some of the most excluded people in the country the opportunity to earn a legitimate income. Sales and Money Fortnight aims to support our vendors to become more financially included.
What is Sales and Money Fortnight?
This fortnight of activities targets the short-term financial thinking which most vendors fall back on as a means of survival. Through workshops and discussions, we promote long-term budgeting and offer advice on choosing financial products. Service Brokers review each vendor’s sales history with them, tackling difficulties and setting new targets. Importantly, all themes and activities are based on questionnaires completed by vendors previously. The fortnight offers further chances to talk in depth with vendors about personal financial worries and ambitions raised in these questionnaires.
With a professional advisor from Lloyds and Lee Financial Planning during Sales and Money Week, August 2015 (Bath)
Themes and Aims
Sales, Locality and Community
- Increasing sales through new sale targets; in some cases training to improve English language communication
- Pitch Awareness, exploring the potential of pitches which may be unused in the local area
- Social Media awareness and self-promotion, for example through writing for the ‘My Pitch’ page of The Big Issue Magazine
- Improving relations with local services
Money and Personal Planning
- Advice on long term financial planning: budgeting, saving and record keeping
- Debt Management
- Helping vendors to find out whether they are entitled to any benefits they may not be receiving
- Discussing the opening of Bank/Credit Union Accounts and improving vendors’ knowledge of financial products, particularly savings products
- Promoting the in-house Vendors’ Savings Scheme, a short-term programme which allows vendors to save up to £100
- Advice and workshops on self-employment and acquiring/managing accommodation.
For 81.31% of vendors, selling The Big Issue is their primary source of income. It therefore makes sense for Sales and Money Fortnight to focus on increasing magazine sales, the first step towards greater financial stability. While vendors are not always keen to set high targets, competitions and rewards created a surge in sales and regular follow-up sessions have been planned to ensure that ambitious targets are carried through. In Birmingham, a vendor who has long term mental health problems, and had “previously erratically sold The Big Issue”, attended finance workshops all week. With encouragement and coaching he was able to beat his target by 40%.
Personal planning: a Breakfast Brainstorm in the office in Bath
One-to-one meetings with Service Brokers allowed vendors to inquire about particular areas of support. 47.66% said they did not save at all, and many have now applied for a Vendor Savings Account as a first step. Drop-in sessions from Barclays and financial health checks from Lloyd’s Bank encouraged over 50% of vendors without bank accounts to consider opening one. For Phil in Oxford, the stability offered by his new bank account encouraged him to go after his ambition of learning to drive.
Professional workshops (from the Citizen’s Advice Bureau in Bath and Birmingham, ‘Talking Money’ in Bristol, and Edinburgh Voluntary Organisation Council’s (EVOC) Financial Inclusion Service) were very popular. Sometimes the simplest practical advice can make huge changes - such as paying for a monthly bus pass rather than individual tickets, or keeping financial record books. Workshops on setting up home also gave vendors greater awareness about planning for the future. In Oxford, St. Ann’s Advice Centre offered advice on benefits, which many vendors were entitled to but had not been claiming.
Extended one-to one sessions at pitches were extremely valuable, especially for issues like debt management, a delicate topic due to the shame and anxiety it can incur. In Bath one vendor was supported in dealing with a debt he had been avoiding for years, reducing stress and improving wellbeing as well as enabling him to access services without having to declare a debt. In Bournemouth, on-pitch reviews allowed service Brokers to engage more of the ‘out of town’ vendors not so close to the centre; in Birmingham widened participation in workshops and surveys by including a wider area of West Midlands outreach.
A vendor’s pitch is an important part of their life. Those who feel comfortable in their pitch were encouraged to use the Big Issue’s ‘My Pitch’ to explain more about themselves. Vendors who felt less settled were encouraged to explore the area, with the result that some are now trying out new pitches, particularly in London and Bath.
Anthony in Bath, meeting with a Service Broker at the pitch to discuss social media
Social media workshops explored the options offered by Facebook and Twitter. In Bath, working with strategic outsourcing company Mitie, vendors and volunteers enjoyed putting together a large tweet bank, plus photos and snippets for Facebook. This was not all: the six vendors who took part worked with Bath-based writer and film-maker Matt Nesbeth to produce five short films. BBC Bristol then picked up the story and it was broadcast on both Saturday and Sunday mornings on local radio with interviews with two of our vendors - an exciting success!
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival provided excellent grounds for some fun and socialising – namely Silly Hat Day, and free entry to two Fringe theatre performances. Vendors wrote reviews for The Big Issue Magazine’s website, one of which featured in The Times newspaper. Sign-up to pitches was left open, to encourage vendors to mingle, explore and make the most of all the Festival activity.
For some vendors the English language is a block to communicating. This year saw an encouraging increase in participation from Romanian and Polish vendors who have previously found it difficult to take part. In Bristol we were able to source a volunteer Polish guide, which has led to interest in Polish sales training sessions; Crisis Skylight in Edinburgh provided language classes; and in Glasgow a Romanian translator was provided by Govanhill Housing Association.
Often those living or working on the streets have no chance to build up a relationship with local services, or are unaware of what is available. In Bournemouth, vendors were introduced to the NHS Blood Borne Virus service. In Oxford a joint workshop was run with Thames Valley Police to improve vendor-police relations and explore the ways in which the police can support vendors in their sales.
Working for the first time with varied organisations, for example Mitie, EVOC and Sound as a Pound in Nottingham, has made future collaboration seem more possible. Spending was minimal over the fortnight thanks to generous support- including complimentary meals - from companies ranging from Pret a’ Manger to Lloyd’s Bank. As always, volunteer contribution was essential, and much appreciated. Thanks to the two volunteers in Bath who came to help out unexpectedly!
Improvements in confidence and wellbeing were ranked second only to income, in a survey which asked vendors what they considered the most important benefits of selling The Big Issue. This shows the value of projects like Sales and Money Fortnight which open new channels of communication to vendors, while raising awareness and sensitivity in the wider community.