Seasonal online fundraising ideas for Christmas 1998

Howard Lake | 9 November 1998 | News

Wrapping Christmas presents beside a tree, a family sits on the floor. Source:
Wrapping Christmas presents.

Forty three per cent of computer owners say they will shop online this season, according to a survey by Dell and Louis and Harris Associates. And with over 7 million UK adult Internet users, which charities have set out their trading stalls online?

UK Fundraising takes a look at just some of the online fundraising happening at Christmas 1998.

Selling Christmas cards online

Amnesty International UK Section Charitable Trust Christmas card design, showing a triangular green Christmas tree on snow against a dark night sky.
Amnesty Christmas card

The Charity Christmas Card Council developed a Web site earlier this year, but has now extended it to feature around 200 different card designs from 96 registered charities featured in its Executive Range Catalogue. 


Coloured sketch of a dove - Amnesty International UK Section Charitable Trust Christmas card design. Order on 0171 814 6200.
Amnesty Christmas card

The site lets corporate buyers search for an appropriate card by charity or by card content or theme. Information on the work of the participating charities is included, together with their logos. Thumbnails of individual cards are reproduced, such as these designs for Amnesty International UK Section Charitable Trust, together with ordering details. Orders have to be printed out at present, but 4C hopes to offer an online ordering and payment service next year.

Last year 4C distributed nearly £2 million to charity and over 30 years has paid out almost £28 million from the sale of Christmas cards to business.

Christmas cards are big business for charities, so a growing number now sell them directly on their Web site. CancerBACUP is selling a range of Christmas cards specially photographed and produced by the late Linda McCartney as a gift to CancerBACUP. You can order them securely online or using a print-out form.

Online charity catalogues

Other non-charitable catalogue companies are offering extensive online catalogues and raising funds for selected charities. StockingFillas sell a wide range of consumer and household products via catalogues and now via the Web. They have nominated the NSPCC as their recipient charity this year. As the catalogue contains an appeal fronted by Linda Robson, so the Web site includes information on how to give to the NSPCC. Interestingly, the Web site doesn’t include Linda Robson’s endorsement.

The site encourages buyers by offering a 10% discount unavailable to those buying from the paper catalogue. However, if you have a Stocking Fillas Catalogue, you can also use the film processing envelope enclosed with the catalogue to donate 50p to the NSPCC.

Only for Christmas

Some charity Web sites are published only for the Christmas holiday season. Radio Cracker, for example, only broadcasts in the run-up to Christmas, and raises money for charity. You won’t be able to listen to live broadcasts from Radio Cracker on the Net, unless the sponsor they are looking for comes forward, but they will add recordings of shows to the site as soon as they are available. Regrettably there is no secure online donation facility on the site, but Radio Cracker make it clear that they are publishing the site on a minimal budget.

Illustration of a Christmas gift

Another Christmas-only site is Sidewalk Santa, a 95-year-old fundraising tradition by the Volunteers of America. There used to be legions of these volunteer bell-ringing Sidewalk Santas across the US, collecting money from shoppers and passers-by. By the 1980s, however, you could find them only in New York. Until, that is, the fundraising programme was revived last year on the Web.

At the Volunteers of America site you can learn more about the history of Sidewalk Santa, send an online letter to Santa sharing your Christmas wishes, and visit Santa’s Advent Calendar to get a new present each day. When UK Fundraising visited, the gift of the day was a maze puzzle, which you could “give” to a friend via e-mail, if you wished. You can also, of course, “share the spirit of holiday giving” by making a secure online donation to support the needy.

UK Fundraising featured last year’s Sidewalk Santa site on its examples of seasonal online fundraising. With its return this year, this Web site looks set, like the Sidewalk Santas of earlier days, to become an annual tradition.

Charity gift vouchers

CAF have a good Christmas present although it isn’t being promoted as such. The Charity Gift Voucher was featured as a main story on their CharityCard site in November. It makes an excellent Christmas present. Any registered or Inland Revenue approved charity can benefit from the voucher – national or local charities, even some schools and hospitals – the person you give it to can choose. They simply fill in the name of the charity and give it to them like ordinary donations.

For your peace of mind CAF will check the charitable status of nominated charities when the voucher is processed and before they pass any money over to them. All the donor has to do is decide whether a £10 or £25 voucher is more appropriate. Donors can even use multiple vouchers for a larger gift. CAF Charity Account holders can purchase a Charity Voucher using their Charity Account. Alternatively, donors can purchase Charity Gift Vouchers by cheque, debit or credit card.

Virtual charity gifts

Sometimes finding the right gift can be very difficult. How do you find a unique gift for someone who already has everything? Heifer Project International (HPI) offers a solution on its Web site, the Most Important Gift Catalog in the World. This is a charity catalogue with a difference. You don’t just buy a calendar or t-shirt to raise funds for the charity’s work: you buy the key component of HPI’s living loan project, an animal, that will form the focus of the charity’s work with a particular family.

The catalogue lets you purchase an animal (or share of an animal) online for an impoverished family in honour of a friend or family member. Shoppers can find a wide range of gift donations to suit their budget, ranging from $10 for a share of a pig (which provides a valuable source of protein and income from the sale of piglets) to $500 for a cow (supplying enough milk for a family to drink, share with neighbours and sell for cash). At a cost of $5,000, the catalogue’s feature product, the Gift Ark, is the ultimate way for an individual, business or civic organisation to help build a menagerie that will help hungry families for years to come.

Online lottery

On December 1, PLUS Lotto will be reintroducing a feature which it says has proved very popular in past years, the PLUS Lotto Advent Calendar. If you turn up and play every day until December 25 PLUS Lotto will give you a free prize. It could be a cash prize, a Christmas idea or a joke. (The number of daily prizes was doubled on 11 December). PLUS Lotto donates 25% of proceeds to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and you can also donate directly via the site to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ Hurricane Mitch Appeal.

Christmas bauble illustration

Corporate partnership at Christmas

The Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture has ensured that its status as charity of the year for Waterstone’s is represented on the bookseller’s Web site. Waterstone’s are selling The Book of Light, “a collection of inspiring writing from authors including Harold Pinter, Rose Tremain, Marina Warner, Victoria Glendinning and Louis de Bernieres. The writers involved have kindly donated their contributions, and the book will be sold for £1.99, £1.60 of which will go directly to The Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture.”

Of course, not everyone feels happy about buying online. The same Dell/Harris poll reports that 89% of computer users are still worried about the security of online payments. But online charity traders can do something to improve sales: they can make sure that their Web-based transaction system is as clear and straightforward as possible. A poll by Zona Research found that 62% of prospective online shoppers had pulled out of a transaction because they had found it too frustrating.

Source: LILLINGTON, K. So you want to shop online, Online, The Guardian, 19 November 1998, p.4