Charity Christmas cards

Not all charity-branded Christmas cards are equal. We highlight some of the more generous givers.
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01 .Cards on the table

Unicef Christmas card
CHOICE looked into Christmas cards that give a portion of the sales to charity, and found even savvy consumers can misunderstand how much of their dollar goes to charity. Almost half the respondents in our online charity Christmas card survey expected that between 20-50% of the cost of a card would be donated to charity, and almost a third put that figure at 51-70%. With those figures in mind, it may surprise you to learn the actual percentage donated by many card providers.

We found several charity Christmas card providers donating as little as 10% of the wholesale price of a card – which really amounts to small change. On the upside, charity cards are still a way to make a small contribution with an item you are likely to purchase at some point anyway.

  • Flaming Rhino Design , one of the smaller greeting card providers we surveyed, donates 10% of the wholesale price. It has raised in excess of $410,000 for its chosen charity, The Salvation Army, since 1997 when the program began.
  • Hallmark , Australia’s largest greeting card provider, contributes 10% of the wholesale cost of nominated card box sets to its chosen charity, the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF) at both Christmas time and Mother's Day. This has resulted in donations totalling over $1 million since the program began in 2002.
  • Of course, there are examples of card providers donating more than 10% too. Charity Connections is a small outfit based in Adelaide’s CBD that donates a whopping 79% of all proceeds to the 45 different charities it supports. The different charities and cards associated with them are listed on the website so you can choose who your money goes to.

However, probably the easiest way to ensure the highest amount of your money goes to the cause is to buy direct from the charity. Most now have websites where you can order online. One great example we found was the Cards4Kids program, which is run purely to assist Barnardos, a charity dedicated to helping children facing abuse or neglect. You can buy Christmas cards and other festive items online at Oxfam and Unicef. In these cases, all profits are delivered to the charity organisations. At Oxfam's website you can actually custom design your own printable cards or e-card, a personalised touch which is also a bonus for the environment.

While not strictly a charity, Mouth and Foot Painting Artists has been operating since 1956, allowing its members to completely support themselves through sales of their paintings, reproduced as cards and other items. Through illness, accident or birth defect, members have been deprived of the use of their hands, but taught themselves to paint with their feet or mouth. As the group is at pains to emphasise in its literature, "AMFPA is run by mouth and foot painting artists who want - not pity - but a chance to earn a living".

Other reasons to buy charity cards

Of course, buying a charity Christmas card provides more than just the sum of your donation. While the fundraising is an important element to charity Christmas cards, many organisations also see it as a way to raise awareness of a cause and a charity’s brand.

“Offering cards is just one way to engage people in our work at Christmas and spread brand awareness and goodwill,” says Barnardos Marketing Director, Jill Atherton. "The most effective way to help the children we care for is still to give a direct donation. That said, Cards4Kids, the social enterprise that produces and sells our cards, provides a valuable income stream and we are very glad to provide our supporters with the opportunity to involve us in their Christmas celebrations.”


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Many charities have their own online gift catalogues that allow you to choose a gift to purchase, or you can donate in someone else’s honour. You can find most charity websites easily using Google, or check out the following sites:

World Vision‘s Smiles program allows you to purchase everything from a garden, school pencils or even a goat for communities in need.
The recipient receives a card detailing the donation made on their behalf. 

Oxfam Unwrapped is a similar program. Your purchases deliver much-needed items to those living in poverty. 

The RSPCA  has released its 2010 Christmas online catalogue. There are Christmas cards, pet products and a whole lot more, and all purchases go towards supporting the charity that looks after all creatures great and small.

Unicef has a long-running charity gifts program that’s easy to browse and purchase online. Best of all, a high percentage of the profits go to supporting Unicef’s important work. 

The Kmart Wishing Tree appeal lets you donate directly to children who need it most at your local Kmart store. You can choose to donate a gift (does not have to be purchased at Kmart) and place it under the Kmart Wishing Tree to be distributed via the Salvation Army.

This is just a small sample of the many worthy causes seeking donations. You can share your chosen charity or preferred method of donating in the article comments.

A cautionary note

While companies are obliged to be upfront about what percentage of card sales go to charity, distilling this down to an exact figure can be challenging, as our 2008 investigation into cause-related marketing (CRM) shows. CRM occurs when a business aligns with a charity, and typically, charity branding is applied to a product in exchange for a portion of the sales. In other words, consumers can choose to buy a product to support the charity in question.

In the absence of any uniform accounting or reporting standard for charities, it can be hard to cut through the various administrative and marketing costs to get a bottom line figure of how much exactly ends up in the charity’s bank account. Purchasing cards direct from a charity, such as through a charity’s website, will typically ensure the most money goes to the cause.

Remember the following tips:

  • A direct contribution to a charity (without buying merchandise) is always the most effective way to donate
  • Any time you purchase a charity-branded product, you are essentially entering into a business transaction, which means not all the money will go to the charity. Typically, a portion will go to the cost of the product, and then the business and the charity will usually divide the remaining profit. Check to make sure you approve of the portion the charity receives.
  • With charity-branded products, you should always practise buyer discretion and assess the price and quality of the product before making a purchase.
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