Christmas fundraising events

According to CAF’s UK Giving report, in 2017, November and December were the peak months for financial donations to charity. Established seasonal campaigns such as Movember, the poppy appeal and #GivingTuesday as well as the thousands of charities launching Christmas appeals and hosting street collections means it is a busy time of year.

If you are a small charity, it can be hard to cut through the national appeals and connect with your supporters. Finding a way to make your fundraising fun or useful can help to capitalise on the festive giving spirit.

Here we meet three local charities and hear about how they approach running Christmas events to raise much-needed funds for their organisations.

We Hear You

We Hear You provides free professional counselling for anyone (from the age of 4 upwards) directly or indirectly affected by cancer or a life-threatening condition in areas across Somerset and Wiltshire.

Gemma Wilkes, Fundraising and Communications Manager said: “Christmas is a busy time for us. We run even more supermarket collections, attend seasonal community events and host our own Christmas Fair. But our biggest seasonal event is our now-annual Santa Dash in Frome. Last year 130 people registered to run (or walk) 4km dressed as Father Christmas. It raised £2000.

“It’s a brilliant event. It is simple to organise because of our wonderful local partners. The event is fun and has a low registration fee which attracts a lot of people, and the distance isn’t too daunting. We don’t ask for minimum sponsorship. Instead we ask people to try to raise the cost of one counselling session (£44).

“The registration fee covers a Santa suit and medal with money to spare so we’re certain of a reasonable profit as long as we get the numbers. Thanks to our partners Frome Running Club and Frome Cricket Club, the event is professionally run and we have a warm, dry place for people to change and a space to sell hot chocolate and bacon sandwiches. This maximises the fundraising potential if not the average speed!

“The biggest challenge is probably the weather. The first year was blighted by freezing sleet. But it’s a fun, low-stress event with great visuals for press and social media.”

North London Cares

North London Cares is a community network of older and younger neighbours sharing time, laughter, and conversation to tackle the growing issue of social isolation and loneliness across Camden and Islington in London.

Victoria Buckle, Development Manager said: “Throughout Christmas we run lots of different fundraising events such as inspiring people to take part in Santa fun runs, carol singing, Christmas bake sales, as well as the Big Give Christmas Challenge.

“This year we’re also hosting a pop-up screening of a classic Christmas film. On 4 December, 120 people will sing along to the Muppet Christmas Carol in the beautiful St James’ Church in Islington. On the night we will run a Christmas jumper competition, create our own festive drinks, serve mulled wine and mince pies and run a raffle.

“This is very much a community event. Lots of local businesses are donating food, drinks, raffle prizes, as well as sponsoring the event. Our brilliant volunteer network are encouraging their friends, family and colleagues to attend. We hope to raise £5000 and inspire attendees to get involved with our volunteering and fundraising. Over 40% of our income is via community fundraising, so this type of support is crucial to make the charity thrive.

“My top tip would be to find the venue as soon as possible. Initially we found it very hard to find a suitable location. Early bird ticket sales have helped to encourage people to buy their tickets sooner rather than later. We have also used commercial platforms to promote the event and sell tickets to reach a wider audience.”

Volunteer Centre Croydon

Volunteer Centre Croydon is a department of Croydon Voluntary Action. Its small team of five staff and ten volunteers work hard on its mission is to promote more and better volunteering in Croydon.

Karen Chillman, Head of Volunteering said: “Christmas Gift Wrap is our seasonal fundraising event. It helps raise £10,000 towards our running costs. It brings people together to do something fun to help Croydon prepare for the festive season. From the end of November until Christmas Eve, we have a stand in the Whitgift Shopping Centre (who kindly provide the space and branding). For a minimum £2.50 donation we wrap gifts for shoppers.

“Each shift is 3.5 hours long. It is a perfect volunteering opportunity for individuals or small corporate teams. People tell us that it helps them to make friends, feel closer to the community and that they enjoy the festive spirit while doing something creative and fun.

“Some of our volunteers are very professional wrappers, others are happy to learn on the spot. They all have one thing in common: they love Christmas and they want to be part of it!

“If anyone else wanted to start something similar, the key thing is to prepare early. Order early to get the best deals on paper, ribbons etc. Boxes are a great addition if you can get a cheap supply. Be prepared to jump in if people don’t turn up.

“Also remember that this is customer service. We give everyone a briefing at the beginning of each shift which includes how to handle difficult customers. We get some tricky people, but most are just happy to have their gifts wrapped!”

Running your own events

Preparation is key to running a safe and successful charity event. If you are thinking about running a Christmas fundraising event, make sure you take a look at our simple guide to help you to make sure your events run without a hitch.

7 top tips for organising charity events

Photo credit: Clive Baker for We Hear You.