About to enter its 10th year running, the multi-award winning Vertical Rush tower climb challenge, organised by homeless charity Shelter, is perhaps one of the most gruelling fundraising events on the City calendar.
The 932 step ascent up the narrow staircase of London’s iconic Tower 42 is endured by thousands of participants annually, and has grown in popularity every year since its launch in 2008. In its lifetime the event has seen 8,400 runners take part – many as part as corporate teams from around the City – and raised over £2m for the charity.
Tower-racers are chip-timed (the record for the fastest ascent is set at just under four minutes, but getting in under ten is a challenge for most) but perhaps more importantly, anybody who reaches the top is treated to a complimentary sports massage and a spectacular view.
Though Shelter’s Vertical Rush can claim to be the City’s most altitudinous fundraising event, across the rest of London the charity initiatives of businesses have been reaching new heights.
Sticking rather more closely to the ground, Wheels for Change is an annual cycling challenge led by Barclays to raise money for charity. More than 400 riders, including senior Barclays executives and sponsor partners, took part in the 100km challenge in September, which set off from – and finished at – the VeloPark at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London, with most of the route taking in the scenery of the Essex countryside.
Read more: Giving Magazine 2017
“Wheels for Change started off as a group of people getting out there trying to do their bit for charity and it’s just evolved from there,” says Shane Hawkins, Wheels for Change founder and managing director of Barclays Technology. “We’ve raised about £240,000 this year and the event continues to grow thanks to a small group of passionate volunteers.”
All the funds raised go to support the life-changing work of The Prince’s Trust – one of Barclays’ UK charity partners – as they strive to create brighter futures for young people, empowering them to get into jobs, education and training.
JP Morgan also brought its Service Corps – an initiative that places a group of JPM’s best employees at non-profits – to London for the first time in 2017.
Social mobility is also at the heart of JP Morgan’s philanthropic work in London. As part of a $250m worldwide initiative to provide jobseekers with skills training, the bank runs two annual programmes aimed at social mobility in the city – the Schools Challenge and the Aspiring Professionals Programme – both of which help young people from low-income backgrounds gain access to top universities and professions.
The firm also brought its Service Corps – an initiative that places a group of JPM’s best employees at non-profits – to London for the first time in 2017. “At JPM, we have committed $150m to help fuel the recover of the once-bankrupt city of Detroit,” says a company spokesman. “One of our key tactics was to field teams of our firm’s top-performing employees from around the globe (usually around 16 people) to work for non-profits in the city for three weeks. It’s proved a huge success.
“In June, we ran the programme in East London for the first time. This three-week program allowed 16 of our employees to use the business tools, skills and insights they’ve acquired during their time at the firm to help four non-profit grantees. Employees came from across the globe including Taipei, Taguig City and Sydney.”
The JP Morgan Corporate Challenge – a global series of races participated in by some of the world’s largest international firms – also reached its 31st year this summer, drawing 28,674 entrants and raising money for Cancer Research UK. The national charity funds over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses who work to save more lives by preventing cancer, diagnosing it earlier and developing new and kinder treatments. Thanks to donations, the charity’s work has led to some of the biggest breakthroughs in cancer treatments such as advances in chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery.
Individuals, as well as groups from several City firms, have taken part in organised sleep outs this year, in which fundraisers swap their beds for sleeping bags to spend a night living on the street, to raise cash and awareness of the homelessness crisis. The biggest such event in London is run by Centrepoint, which has organised a sleep-out for 12 years running.
In Chelsea this year, the Cadogan Estate sponsored a sleep-out run by emergency shelter Glass Door, and Tim Lawler, area director of London estate agent John D Wood & Co, took part for the third year running. “Since the first time I did this, I get into bed every night and think, ‘I am so lucky’,” says Lawler. “Having a safe, decent place to sleep should be a basic human right. I can’t imagine doing this with no end in sight.”
And, a little closer to home, our valiant colleagues at City A.M. slipped into their finest spandex shorts to take part in a round-the-clock cycling event, as part of the Lord Mayor’s Appeal’s annual City Giving Day. Fuelled by as much orange squash as they required to keep their legs moving, riders kept a pair of static bikes spinning for a straight 12-hours to raise cash for Maggie’s Centres.