The C word

The C word

The C word: Christmas of course! Tips on creating an outstanding Christmas campaign
Claire Bennett

Well I hate to say it, but for people working in the charity sector, that C word is upon us. Just as many people around us are off on their summer holidays, slapping on the sun cream and burning burgers on the BBQ’s. I’m going to remind you that if you intend to do a Christmas campaign, now is the time you need to be planning it. In our experience, a good Christmas campaign involves good planning, good testing of concepts and messages as well as a good understanding of your audience. That is not to say we feel that all charities should be doing Christmas campaigns, but if you are, here’s what we think:

So why are Christmas Campaigns important for charities?

On the whole, the Christmas season is based around the notion of giving and thinking of others which suits many charity causes. Many charities, use this time of year to target people and raise awareness about their work. This is perhaps why people feel they are hearing more about charities at Christmas in comparison to other times of the year:[1]

Public opinions on charities at christmas

Therefore, communicating with your supporters and non-supporters over this time can be beneficial and for some charities, essential. Causes such as homelessness, emergency health care, ageing and loneliness are particularly popular causes over Christmas. Charities like Crisis, the Salvation Army and Save the Children use Christmas as a launchpad for their campaigns and volunteers. For example, Save the Children run the Christmas Jumper campaign which had raised over £17 million pounds since it started in 2012.[2] In 2017, many charities such as Crisis, Emmaus and the Salvation Army had to turn down volunteers as the applications far outstripped the number a vacancy’s needed.

In addition, shopping in charity shops for Christmas presents is a popular choice for many, as our research from our Charity Awareness Monitor Nov. 2018 demonstrates.[3] This indicates that there is a likelihood that more people are going through charity doors at this time, so if you run a charity shop, are you capitalising on this seasonal foot flow?

giving to charity at christmas

There is also lots of commercial interest around Christmas time as many businesses arrange fundraising activities and encourage their customers to give generously. Despite attracting a certain level of cynicism regarding how many people can link the adverts to the charities and how much do charities raise, a partnership between charities and major corporations often go hand in hand at Christmas. For example, many see the John Lewis Christmas ad as the sign that the season is truly underway. So far, their adverts have supported charities such as Barnardo’s, Wildlife Trust, Age UK and the Elton John Foundation. Similarly, Sainsbury’s has in the past raised money for Great Ormond Street Hospital, Crisis and The Royal British Legion. There is of course also the Lidl ‘Ran-tan’ Christmas advert with Greenpeace last year, which although it was banned on TV, went viral on social media. For other charities, social media is their main route forward over Christmas, allowing access to key audiences at much cheaper rates than TV advertisements. For instance, The Dog’s Trust #WhyILeftYou campaign aimed to raise awareness that ‘a dog is for life and not just Christmas’ by trying to target people who were considering getting a dog for Christmas without considering the long-term commitments. Alternatively, on a much smaller scale, the campaign ‘sing for your heart’ was led by a 6 year-old boy with a rare heart condition who encouraged people to upload a video of themselves singing and donating to Heart Research UK. This small campaign attracted lots of celebrity endorsements across the UK.

So whichever approach you are planning to make, now is the time to make your plans. Think about what is realistic to you, what messages are relevant to your audiences and how are you going to cut through the noise of other charities at this time of year?

Don’t panic - We can help

So if you are sat in a hot and sticky office wondering what to do and how to mobilise your Christmas plans, don’t panic we can help. As a leading research consultancy for the charity sector, we have lots of experience in helping charities understand their supporters and potential supporters no matter what your size. Through our Charity Awareness Monitor, we can track your awareness, warmth to your cause and what messages are penetrating the different demographics etc. We also offer bespoke research with our Projects team, who can work with you during your concept planning phase. We often get requests for focus groups to test images, languages or key fundraising asks, ensuring your messages are reaching the right people. We can also work with you on understanding your own supporter base and their supporter journey. We have a supporter satisfaction benchmark survey or we can do something even more tailored to help you learn about your supporters and what messages attracted them to you and keeps them supporting you. Christmas is a competitive time for charities so make sure your message is simple, has resonance and you stand out.

nfp’s Top tips:

  • Have a clear message at Christmas
  • Be clear why your campaign is important and the impact you are hoping to see
  • Be relevant
  • Target your audiences
  • Be imaginative
  • Get in touch if you need support.



[1] Interestingly, nearly two thirds of our respondents (65%) agreed that they tended to hear more about charities at Christmas (see Figure 1 below). This was a significant increase on previous years (59% in 2017, 60% in 2016) suggesting that charities were especially prominent in 2018. Older people were especially likely to see more charity activity at Christmas, with 74% of over 65s agreeing.


[3] “To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements about Christmas time” Strongly agree + Agree Source: Charity Awareness Monitor, Nov 18, nfpSynergy | 1,000 adults 16+, Britain


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