Shopping: Charity begins in the post

Jenny McClean on how Christmas cards are vital money raisers

The Royal Mail and Christmas card manufacturers predict that we will be sending more seasonal greetings this year than ever before. And an ever larger proportion of them will be charity cards. But how much of the average pounds 2.50 to pounds 5 for a packet of 10 goes to the charities?

The Charity Christmas Card Council, known as 4C, is reputedly the largest and oldest umbrella charity card sales organisation in Britain. Set up in 1970, it now has a membership of more than 100 registered charities as diverse as the Worldwide Fund for Nature and the National Asthma Campaign. Non-profit retaining, 4C returns 17 to 45 per cent of the VAT-exclusive retail price to members.

Costs are kept down by free seasonal loans of vacant premises staffed by volunteers, says 4C spokesman Neville Bass. "But now the retail market is booming, these temporarily vacant sites are much harder to find. We have had to pull out altogether in Belfast - because of the economic recovery, not the political situation."

When it comes to Christmas cards, tradition wins hands down. Mr Bass has noticed no significant change in content or design over the years. "But shoppers are becoming more discerning and want quality materials. Christmas cards are no longer price sensitive as they were during the recession. And we send feedback to our members: a lot of research is going into what customers want."

There are signs, too, of the caring Nineties. "Over the past decade," says Mr Bass, "companies have been making a point of sending cards that are more ethically oriented and which have a more international flavour. They see it as an investment."

Altruism or a shrewd business move, the main thing is that charities are benefiting. Susan Burton, who administers card sales for The National Autistic Society through 4C and Cards for Good Causes with a return of 35 to 55 per cent, reports a strong rise in corporate business and generously points out that some companies have always been charity-conscious. "Christmas cards are extremely important to us - they not only make money but generate publicity." Something that is hard to put a price on.

Charities benefit considerably more if we buy direct from them or a non- profit retaining agent rather than from high-street retailers who slap on an average 100 per cent mark-up. But Claire Jarvis, speaking for Oxfam, pointed out that most charities are pragmatic about this commercialism. "It's not realistic to expect retailers to sell at no profit. We may only get 10p in the pound but it's l0p we would not otherwise have got. And having other outlets increases public awareness."

By comparison, of each pound spent on cards from one of Oxfam's own shops 17.5p goes in VAT, 30p in production costs and 55p to the charity's funds. Last year Oxfam Trading sold pounds 4.75m worth of cards with a gross profit of pounds 2.25m.

Some stores offer their own brand charity cards. Boots the Chemists, 40 per cent of whose range carries a charity contribution, are supporting the RNIB this year, though still only 10p in the pound goes to the charity. However, cards can raise funds a second time around through the recycling bins available in 1,300 of the company's stores during January and February. Money raised from recycled cards will go towards planting community forests.

The card industry is an important money-spinner and provides jobs, too, but if you really want to control where your money goes, revamp last year's used stock with some stiff card and glue or spend a creative afternoon with your children designing your own, then send the money saved direct to your favourite good cause. Blue Peter would be proud of you.

Charities Advisory Trust (0171-794 9835)

4C (0171-336 7580)

Cards for Good Causes (01962 862272)

Suggested Topics
Voices
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Saunders stars as Miss Windsor, Dennis's hysterical French teacher
filmJennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Voices
Jimmy Mubenga died after being restrained on an aircraft by G4S escorts
voicesJonathan Cox: Tragedy of Jimmy Mubenga highlights lack of dignity shown to migrants
Life and Style
Sebastian Siemiatkowski is the 33-year-old co-founder and CEO of Klarna, which provides a simple way for people to buy things online
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

    £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

    Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

    £40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

    Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

    £70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

    £30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

    Day In a Page

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum