Environmental and resource issues aside, the humble Christmas card is surely one of the greatest traditions of the season – sometimes an annual communication with a friend or loved one that might otherwise see contact lost forever, a time to reconnect, update and just bring a smile in a way that social media never can – it has to be worth the effort…for me at least!
That said, the resources used in producing, delivering and then recycling is vast, so it is also a no brainer to me that the opportunity should be taken to do as much good as possible in the process, which is why I always buy charity christmas cards. In fact, I just can’t imagine why you wouldn’t – what a perfect no hassle way of raising funds for excellent causes!
The truth is, however, that the process of choosing which charity christmas cards to buy is not that simple – in fact charity Christmas card donations are very far from equal. It is a massive market with many variations on how donations are calculated and most importantly, communicated. Some retailers, usually specialist ones, do indeed give generously, with others giving a proverbial nod of the head to the charity with whom they wantonly choose to associate themselves largely for their own benefit.
That is why I have done a forensic analysis of the charity Christmas card market – to satisfy myself that the money that I spend on Christmas cards is being directed to the maximum benefit possible, and that the fat cats of the high street are forced to be transparent about their actions!
Here are my top tips:
SHOP DIRECT WITH THE CHARITY
Go to the charity direct where possible, be it their stores on the high street or to their websites online. In fact a great many of the larger charities have extensive online stores with wrapping, decorations, gift ideas, creative ideas for ‘giving’, and even homeware and specialist items, enabling you to spread your Christmas charity footprint in one go. 100% of profits goes to the charity so they invariably offer the best deal. Simply Google your favourite charity and you may be quite surprised what you will find!
GO TO SPECIALIST CHARITY CHRISTMAS CARD RETAILERS
There are a number of specialist charity Christmas cards retailers out there – they sometimes also provide the mechanism for charities with their own cards to sell online in a ‘white label’ manner. They also sell direct through their own websites, or at pop up Christmas Card shops in many towns and villages. You may have seen the ‘Christmas Cards for Good Causes‘ signs at your library and other community locations. These shops are staffed by volunteers, reducing their retail costs, and therefore maximising profits and donations – they state that they will donate up to 70p in the £1 spent after costs.
The Greeting Cards Company is another retailer with an extensive range of charities – they also state the amount per pack which is usually around 3o-40p so you know exactly what you are donating, or check out Card Aid who donate up to 40-60% of the purchase price per pack. Many of these offer corporate and personalised options and also e-cards if you want to be totally environmentally friendly!
Check out their websites for a full list of charities that they support which are very wide and varied.
OUR PICK ON THE HIGH STREET
On the High Street, we are this year favouring Paperchase. They offer a flat rate of 50p per pack of 8 cards retailing at £3.75, which works out at just over 6p per card or 13% – double what most retailers offer. They support some large charities, but also some of the smaller ones such as Nordoff Robbins & Centrepoint, Children with Cancer and many many more so check them out. Clintons Cards offer a similar rate of 50p per pack for their nominated charities, including Rays of Sunshine, the NSPCC, Samaritans, RSPCA and the British Heart Foundation, albeit with a slightly higher retail price of £4.00 for 8 cards.
Topping the pack in terms of the high street percentage donation is of course John Lewis – their own brand card range offers a 25% donation to their 4 nominated charities, although that donation is split between St.Mungo’s, Barnardo’s, Marie Curie, Alzheimer’s Society. Make sure you buy their own brand cards though – they have a big range, and many of them are other brands with lower donations.
OTHER HIGH STREET SOURCES
John Lewis, Between the Lines, Waterstones, and other high street retailers also offer extensive ranges of charity Christmas cards packs from Woodmansternes, Almanac, Arthouse, Caroline Gardener, etc. Do check the packs which must state the amount donated to the charity. Try and work out the donation by card – typically it will only be about 10% of the purchase price, which works out at 4p to 8p per card.
AVOID SUPERMARKETS & FLAT RATES
In my view, the ones to avoid are the supermarkets and large retailers often paying a ‘flat rate’ associated with the ‘sale of charity Christmas cards’ – the bottom line is, whether you shop there or not, the charity will get the cash, so spread the love and increase the charitable donations through channels that will pay by volume. Tesco’s, Morrison’s and Marks and Spencer’s have all gone for a flat rate this year supporting the British Diabetic Association, British Heart Foundation, Macmillan and Breast Cancer Now – all big, well supported charities.
WH Smiths & Sainsbury’s have their own ranges of charity Christmas cards, but their charitable contributions can be relatively low at just 10% of the pack price – whether that is before or after cost of sales is hard to know! LIDL and Waitrose are doing almost nothing, the latter having sold out of their only charity pack, and in confusion about which charities they are supporting according to their website. Aldi, however, are offering a 50p donation to the Teenage Cancer Trust with their charity pack at £1.99 for 6 cards – that’s a pretty generous 25% donation! Shame I don’t live near an Aldi!
GOING SUPER ETHICAL
If you just want to make sure your charity Christmas cards are ‘ethical’, printed on FSC materials, and with all proceeds going directly to the people who need it, you might want to check out Traidcraft or The Ethical Shop who support Amnesty International, War on Want and Friends of the Earth.
THE BOTTOM LINE..
The bottom line is…when buying charity Christmas cards, shop direct or if you have a favourite charity, shop around! And if like me, you like a spreadsheet, here is mine – a full analysis including price per card by charity : Charity Xmas Cards by Charity 2017! Errors and omissions excepted, it gives you a good idea of the vast size of the market, and the many and various options out there! Still working on it, and next year it will include ‘green points’!