Christmas And Charities

Christmas is an interesting time of year for charities.

For those embracing the principles of neutrality and diversity Christmas can be minefield. I still bear the scars of the ‘Red Cross bans Christmas’ story which it would appear is still having an impact over 10 years on. Nearly every charity I have worked with has angst ridden discussions on whether putting Christmas decorations up would offend some of their staff, volunteers or users and considers whether they should use ‘happy holidays’ rather than a more ‘loaded’ Merry Christmas.

For fundraisers the pressure to use the event to maximise income is immense. Loving Save the Children’s ‘wear a Christmas jumper’ day  (both my boys trotted off to nursery in theirs and our donation texted in). Favourites include the wonderful I CAN ‘Adopt A Word’ which meant that one year the whole family got part of the Collins dictionary.

And for campaigners the ambition is to beat the all-time best Christmas charity catch phrase (can you guess what it is?) It’s author Clarissa Baldwin gives such a good account of in this week’s third sector.

Charity Christmas cards are also a topic of much debate. Is it enough that charities get even a small return per card? Many would argue that it’s better than nothing and indeed for many causes it is a valuable income stream and awareness raising tool. The counter view is that it is likely to lead to people feeling they have ‘done their bit’ for charity at Christmas, maybe preventing other donations, and that the approach does less for charitable giving and more for corporate sales. Check out the Charities Advisory Trust to see which retailer got their Scrooge Award for a pitiful charitable return and see what you think.

But most of all, beyond communications, fundraising and diversity debates, for many charities the day job continues over Christmas. In recent years some of the biggest disasters including the Bam earthquake and Indian Ocean tsunami have struck at over the holidays with an immediate and massive response from aid agencies and public donations around the world.

In the UK organisations like Shelter and Crisis increase their services for the tragedy of homelessness is particularly poignant as the rest of us share our homes with our loved ones.

All of these are indeed worthy causes but for us this year we are focusing our donations on those volunteers and charity staff who spend Christmas day stuck by a pager or radio waiting to hear if their emergency services are needed to help someone facing a tragedy on what is for some the happiest day of the year. The RNLIKent and Sussex Air Ambulance, and Crowborough Community First Responders.

So  – donations and thanks to these wonderful organisations and to all those we have worked with, for and alongside this year – have a very happy holiday.