The season of giving: why charitable donations aren’t just for Christmas
If you work for a charity, you’re probably snowed under with Christmas activity right now.
You might be fulfilling orders from your give-a-goat virtual gift catalogue; processing donations made through newspaper appeals; or even providing resources to support corporate pantos. On the one hand, you’re undoubtedly grateful for people’s generosity. But on the other, you can be forgiven for wondering: is it ever possible to turn that Christmas rush into a steady year-round stream?
Here’s a brief round-up of some of the innovative ways in which charities can extend the season of giving into an all-season opportunity.
What’s so special about Christmas?
Christmas is certainly a peak time for donations: according to the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), some 36% of people gave to charity in December 2018. Only November, the time of the BBC’s Children in Need appeal, saw a higher level, at 39%.
In part, this is due to people wanting to rediscover the true meaning of Christmas. People of all religions and none yearn to replace the tide of consumerism with the spirit of peace and goodwill.
There’s also the winter effect: around 25% of people donate to homeless people and charities in December alone, according to CAF.
So why is this peak a problem? Firstly, without careful financial management, it can create cashflow problems during quieter times of the year.
Secondly, Christmas is a competitive marketplace – particularly for smaller charities. Organisations are at risk of investing the bulk of their marketing budgets into one Christmas campaign, only to see it fail to make an impact.
Recruit regular givers
So how can you prevent Christmas cheer turning into New Year gloom for your charity? Of course, the holy grail for charities is sustained donations all year round.
Guide Dogs’ Christmas TV advert for 2019 seeks not one-off gifts, but regular donors ready to sign up to Sponsor a Puppy for the long-term. It’s an engaging and heart-warming ad – and the strategy behind it makes sound financial sense.
Other charities seek to convert those who’ve engaged with them on a one-off basis over Christmas into long-term supporters.
If you’ve got their contact details – and their permission – you can thank them for their donation and explain what a difference it will make. Send them your newsletter, containing follow-ups to the campaign. Invite them to follow you on social media.
It’s never an easy task – but if you succeed, your charity will be celebrating Christmas all year round.
Offer gifts for all occasions
If you have a Christmas gift catalogue, virtual or otherwise, could you rebrand it for other special occasions? Weddings, Mother’s Day – even Valentine’s Day could be an opportunity for you to raise some cash, while also raising awareness of your work.
Macmillan offers ecards at Christmas – they’re free, but senders are prompted to make a donation, perhaps of the amount saved on paper cards and postage. Birthday, Easter, Congratulations and Sympathy cards are also available, making it a year-round earner.
Meanwhile, the online shop of campaigning organisation Amnesty International offers a large range of Christmas goodies, including wrapping paper, decorations and stocking fillers. The shop’s open all year round, selling everything from cushions to novels to gardening gloves.
Develop marketing activities for the warmer months
By investing in events, you can spread your fundraising activities into the warmer months. CAF figures show that giving through sponsorship is at its peak in April-October, as supporters take to the streets or hills on challenge events.
Charity places at challenge events offer the opportunity to raise both sponsorship money and the profile of your organisation. They’re particularly apt for health charities: Versus Arthritis, for example, has spaces in the London Marathon, the Great North Run, RideLondon 100 and several others.
Investing in resources such as branded running bibs is a wise idea for charities seeking to branch out into challenge events. Versus Arthritis even offers post-run sports massages for London Marathon participants!
Schools may also put on sponsored or other fundraising events for your charity, particularly if you can provide excellent speakers who can link their talks in to the curriculum.
Respond to the news
Usually, charity fundraising must be planned and developed well in advance. But sometimes, you just need to strike while the iron’s hot!
Appeals based around events in the news – for example, drought in Africa or a cold snap in the UK – can help your charity fund its work in that area. You need to be ready to move quickly, so social media is a vital tool.
On a lighter note, social media crazes such as the #IceBucketChallenge of summer 2014 can also prove a big earner for charities. Who knows what the next one will be – maybe you’ll even start it yourself!
Whatever your strategy, Connect Assist is here to help – not just at Christmas, but all year round.