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From Salvationist 7 December 2019

FEATURE | Christmas fundraising

The ministry of Christmas fundraising

 Julius Wolff-Ingham explains how national and corps fundraising work together

FOR many people, Christmas is The Salvation Army. While Christmas should always focus on Jesus, the season presents many opportunities for the Army to raise funds and help people understand our mission. About half of the donations we receive in a year, locally and centrally, are given during November and December. Why is this? And how do we marry up the opportunity for corps fundraising with a national fundraising campaign?

While we celebrate the mystery of the Christmas story, perhaps it’s time to de-mystify Christmas fundraising.

WHY DO PEOPLE GIVE SO GENEROUSLY TO THE ARMY?
Research reveals that the public see us as a practical, faith-based, trustworthy organisation that strives to meet the real needs that exist in their communities. We are well known for our services for people experiencing homelessness, and that is a big driver of donations, but generally, people trust us to use their contributions where we think they will have the greatest impact.

WHY AT CHRISTMAS?
When asked to name a charity most strongly associated with Christmas, people name The Salvation Army. They see us as a cause they care for but, unlike many other charities, not one that is always a priority for them to support. People prefer to give to us when they feel like it or when asked. The Christmas season is therefore really important to us, as people tend to think more about giving to charity in general – and, as we all know, if we don’t ask, we don’t get!   

WHY IS LOCAL FUNDRAISING POWERFUL?
Corps that engage in carolling will know which carols get people giving in their area – it’s often ‘Away In A Manger’. Even street collecting in the right spot will work better at Christmas than at any other time.

We field hundreds of calls during November and December from people wanting to raise funds for The Salvation Army and wherever possible we ask them to give to their nearest corps.

WHAT ROLE DOES CENTRAL FUNDRAISING PLAY?
We have a solid base of supporters who give to the appeals we send them. This raises £40 million each year. Alongside a further £50 million from legacies in wills, this is the funding that keeps The Salvation Army alive. These funds are not ‘THQ funds’ but are the lifeblood of us all: they support everything we do, including Lifehouses, social work, mission support to corps and other programmes, property schemes and funding for frontline and support services.

IS ONE MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE OTHER?
I see this as a powerful two-way street. We know the central campaign raises awareness and improves the likelihood of people giving locally, and increases the amount given. Local visibility, meanwhile, helps reinforce the credibility of The Salvation Army, reminding people we are active in their community.

True, sometimes someone will say to a street collector that they have made a donation by post, but there is not a corps in the territory that has not benefited in some way from those donations, so please thank them!

WHY DO WE RUN A CHRISTMAS APPEAL?
Our wonderful supporter base needs replenishing with new supporters, and Christmas is by far the best time to do it. This is why we run TV appeals, put leaflets in magazines, send unaddressed door-drops in the mail and have a notable presence on social media. This part of the Christmas campaign secures support from tens of thousands of new donors who go on to support us again – many, ultimately, with legacies in their wills.

The campaign is very much about giving people an opportunity to support a wonderful organisation at a time when they want to. It is a campaign that protects our future.

Christmas is the season when our need for funds is met with real warmth by the public. Army members give generously – sacrificially, sometimes – but that alone is not enough to keep us going, and we should thank God that for every £1 a member gives, the public contribute £5. This is a huge privilege; these additional funds enable us to put our belief into action and be what we are.

This Christmas, spare a few moments to be grateful for the people who will give to The Salvation Army with the sole intention of keeping us going. Let us thank God that we receive such support, given so freely, and ensure that we are fine stewards of these gifts.

JULIUS IS ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR COMMUNICATIONS AND HEAD OF MARKETING AND FUNDRAISING, THQ

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