Everywhere you turn at this time of year, good causes are begging for some of your hard-earned cash, so the Salvos came up with a different kind of Christmas giving campaign, Julie Houghton reports.
Christmas is meant to be a season of goodwill for all, but it’s hard to feel the joy if you are wondering how to clothe the kids, where the next meal will come from, or feel isolated and desperate for a friendly shoulder and a cuppa.
The Salvation Army often comes to mind at Christmas as an organisation to donate to or somewhere that will provide help when you are down and out—and where you won’t find judgment.
But there are many charities that help people at Christmas, so at a practical level it’s easy for our spirit of giving to be overwhelmed by yet another direct mail promotion in our letter box.
The Salvos are well aware of this, and the Christmas Wishes campaign that recently landed in mailboxes across the country is a campaign with a difference.
Instead of a generic letter asking you to donate whatever you can to help the less fortunate members of the community at Christmas, the Salvos are doing it differently.
The Salvos’ approach to helping people has often been referred to as “Christianity with its sleeves rolled up” and the Wishes campaign is a perfect example of this.
The Salvation Army direct fundraising manager, Kate Houlter, says that the campaign provides donors with an opportunity to give a specific gift, worth a particular amount of money, that can make a Christmas wish come true.
“The Wishes catalogue offers a selection of Christmas gifts to share the spirit and goodwill of Christmas, and ensures there is something affordable for everyone, as well as educating people about the variety of important services provided by The Salvation Army,” Kate explains.
“We wanted to provide a range of different Wishes, and we understand that different services provided by The Salvation Army will resonate differently with our supporters.”
In the 2017 campaign, just $5 will provide ‘A Cup of Kindness’, which is a cuppa with a Salvo worker—the friendly shoulder and ready ear comes with the cuppa. Or just $8 will buy ‘A Christmas Lift’, enabling someone desperate for a job with the funds to pay for the public transport needed to get to the interview.
The presence of homeless people is very visible in Australian cities, and a $9 donation will finance a ‘Street Pack’ of dry socks, warm gloves and a blanket for someone who is sleeping rough.
These are just a few examples of how little it takes to make a difference to someone who needs it. All the above gifts can be provided for less than two lattes or one smashed avocado breakfast, making it achievable for most of us.
If you are a little more flush with funds, $29 will buy the ‘Christmas Hamper’ of essential food for a family at Christmas, or $82 will provide the ‘Family Day Out’ gift for a family with children to enjoy a rare day out during the festive season.
Donors are assured that each gift will be hand-delivered by a Salvo worker or volunteer, thereby providing an extra human touch for people who may feel isolated from society.
As a point of difference, donors will also receive a gift card where they can write a few words about how they hope their gift will help the recipient, and that card will be delivered with the gift.
And if you are looking for something to do with that nice Christmas bonus from your employer and are struggling to choose which gift to donate, $185 will buy every gift in the Wishes catalogue!
Christmas Wishes offers an opportunity for people to do something special at Christmas, to give back and share the joy of giving.
Kate is passionate about why this style of campaign has a real impact on both donor and recipient.
“It’s a more meaningful way to give a gift…rather than giving a donation of $30 to The Salvation Army, you have given a Christmas Hamper to help a family with essential food or a Christmas lunch they otherwise couldn’t afford. Much nicer, and connects the donor of the gift to the beneficiary, rather than just the charity,” Kate says.
“Some may feel helping people who are experiencing homelessness is really important, where others may value supporting those on low incomes. And our supporters have a broad range of giving capacities, so we need to have different Wishes at different values to suit a variety of giving budgets.”
Public reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, with Wishes donations often accompanied by a note from the donor thanking the Salvos for “compassion and kindness in helping people with their problems”.
When there are so many worthy causes, ‘donor fatigue’ can creep in, and the targeted Wishes campaign addresses that.
“We need to provide a clear and tangible way donors can help and Wishes helps achieve this. They are the heroes and we need to let them know this! They are the reason we can do what we do—it is through their kindness and generosity,” Kate says.
Territorial marketing and fundraising director David Drysdale agrees.
“The catalogue is uplifting and engenders feelings of hope and offers ways that people can support others. By purchasing a special card for family and friends, donors are able to share in the joy of giving at Christmas time,” David explains.
Social media has also embraced the spirit of giving at Christmas, with recent online publicity for a Reverse Advent Calendar, where instead of opening a little window on a traditional Advent Calendar leading up to Christmas, you put a non-perishable gift item in a box each day and take it to a charity for distribution in the week before Christmas.
If this idea appeals to you, just drop off your filled box to any Salvos corps (church) by mid-December.
Giving with a generous spirit has a long history, with many examples in the Bible.
“Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians chapter 9, verse 7).
Kate is clear about why supporting the Salvos’ Wishes campaign is a special kind of generosity.
“Christmas is a time when we take stock and are appreciative of what we have and mindful of those who have less. Christmas Wishes offers an opportunity for people to do something special at Christmas, to give back and share the joy of giving.”
To find out more about the Wishes campaign visit www.salvationarmy.org.au/wishes