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How generous are charity Christmas cards?

Christmas cards

With the season of goodwill upon us you might be writing this year’s batch of Christmas cards. For many people sending cards is not only a way to spread yuletide cheer, it’s also an opportunity to give to good causes.

Many cards include a donation to charity – but just how generous are charity Christmas cards? Well, Which? research has found that some retailers donate less than 10% of the sales price of their cards to charity.

We looked at charity Christmas cards on sale at 15 high street stores. Sadly Asda was the least generous – it donates just 20p from the £3 sales price of its charity Christmas cards – this works out at a donation of about 6.7%. John Lewis on the other hand donates 25% of the sales price across its full range of Christmas cards.

Varying donations for charity cards

Other stores donate different amounts depending on which pack of charity cards you buy. For example WH Smith and Waitrose both sell one pack of cards where 100% goes to charity. But on most of their cards they donate just 10%.

There’s also a lot of variation in the number of cards that include a charitable donation. Next for example includes a 15% charitable donation on its entire range of Christmas cards but Marks and Spencer only include a donation on some of their cards.

Check before you buy

Another thing to watch out for is whether VAT is deducted from the donations or not, some retailers include it, some don’t. For example WH Smith does not include VAT in the donation therefore cards promising a 100% donation only provide an 80% donation fee, and those offering 10% in effect donate 8% after VAT.

Some retailers also told us that they don’t donate percentages of the sale price of their cards. For example Morrisons will be donating £50,000 to Save the Children and Tesco is guaranteeing to donate £275,000 to Diabetes UK. So even if a retailer isn’t passing on your money it may still be giving in other ways – it’s worth checking out the shop’s donation policy.

So will you be sending charity Christmas cards this year? Has our investigation given you motivation to check just how much your charity of choice will receive?

David Soward says:
29 November 2013

Why don’t you mention the many outlets which sell the charities’ own cards direct? In Oxford there is a stall at the Town Hall. There’s bound to be one near you…

This has annoyed me for years, and I feel that at least 50% of the price of charity cards should go to the charities, without exception.

I buy cards direct from charities if possible, to help ensure that the charity benefits as much as possible.

Norman Foster says:
29 November 2013

This is by far the most sensible way to ensure that the maximum donation goes to the charity of your choice!

If you buy cards direct from the charity or one of its local branches/shops then probably 50% is going to the charity. I once helped with a big name charity’s local group and I believe most of the big charities all got their stock from the same wholesaler and paid 50% of the marked price for it.
(This was 6 or 7 years ago, maybe not the same now).

Gill Moseley says:
29 November 2013

The best place to go if you want maximum choice of charities and designs is the ‘Cards for Good Causes’ pop-up multi-charity Christmas Card shops. To locate your nearest shop go to http://www.cardsforcharity.co.uk or you can buy on line. There are around 300 shops nationwide. At least 70p in every £1 from the card sales goes back to the charities. Out of that amount, they have to pay for the cards and other associated costs but apart from buying cards direct from a charity, there isn’t a better way in my opinion. Shops are run mainly by volunteers and raise thousands of pounds each year for national and local charities. There’s a huge range of cards from contemporary to traditional, cards to make you laugh, smile or with an unusual twist. Shops are found in churches, libraries, town halls, information centres. Look out for the triangular Santa!

The Rainbow Centre says:
30 November 2013

As a small charity for bereaved children and their families in Bristol we produce all of our own Christmas cards in house. The cards are designed for us by staff and volunteers and some of the children who have used our services. Our volunteers help with the production, folding and packaging of the cards. The only cost is that of the materials and all the profits come directly back to the charity to fund our work providing free therapeutic support to enable families to cope with the emotional impact of their grief or loss. http://www.rainbowcentre.org.uk/#/shop/4561136700/Christmas-Cards

Our Card sales so far this year have raised over £1200 which is the equivalent of supporting over 2 children through therapy and makes a vital difference to our work.

Personally, I don’t really buy Christmas cards for the purpose of donating to charity. However, I usually go into the charity shops to buy cards because they seem to have a better selection than the recycled horrors in the supermarkets.

Purposeful donations to charity are through Gift Aid donations – never in a box or at the door.

While I agree with Terfar that buying charity cards is not the best way to donate to a charity, they do help raise awareness of charities. The use of paid chuggers by some larger charities has made many people wary of supporting charities in general, so we do need to entice some people to make donations or give up their time to support charity work.

Charities could do more to promote themselves on the back of their Christmas cards. At present there is often just a pretty logo and a vague statement that a donation will be made to the charity for each pack of cards sold.

Re-think if you are thinking of reducing your Christmas card list. Ignore the journalists about round robins and make sure that you do write something for those friends and family who are may read and re-read them as well as use them as Christmas decoration.

Yes, it is disappointing when some cards marked as charity ones receive so little for their charity. I agree with Wavechange that charities could do more to promote their charities on the cards.

In some places the Scouts deliver Christmas cards. Would/could this work where you live so that you could reduce the number that you need to post?

Our six pop-up shops in Cheshire and Trafford guarantee some 50 participating charities 100% of the sales value of their cards. We’ve been going since 1971 and have raised over £4.5mn for the charities. Have a good festive season, everyone.

[Hi Patrick, I’m afraid that we don’t allow promotional comments on Which? Conversation as per our Ts&Cs. Thanks mods]