Christmas campaigns for small charities and non-profits

Christmas campaigns for small charities and non-profits

Oliver Kennett

Oliver Kennett
13th December 2018

Christmas is a time where we think of others. We think of our family, where ever they may be in the world, and we think of our friends. Christmas also reminds us that there are people in the world who are less fortunate than ourselves and may need help.

December sees the peak in charitable giving with many nonprofits and charitable causes spending a great deal of money on advertising Christmas campaigns in magazines and on TV to get a slice of that festive pie.

But what about smaller organisations? What if you don’t have the budget of well-established charities to create and run expensive adverts?

Fear not, for I am here to guide you through some dos and don’ts when creating your Christmas campaign on a budget.

Give back to the lap

For illustrative purposes we are going to create a fictional cause. It is called “Give Back To The Lap” and aims to provide the workers of Lapland with tokens of gratitude for their hard work. This includes the hard-working elves who spend all year programming, soldering and testing new toys, elves dealing with the logistics of delivering billions of presents to children all across the world as well as the most famous postman in history, Father Christmas.


Like Santa himself, you need to plan for the season. Sadly, you do not have an army of elves at your disposal, instead, you’ll have to make do with some more tried and tested techniques.

Your timeline

The rule of thumb is that you should take as long at planning your campaign as the actual campaign lasts. For example, if you’re running it from the 1st of December until the big day, you need to leave yourself 25 days of preparation or, if my calculations are correct, right around bonfire night.

So, as the whizz and bang of glittering fireworks fill the air beyond the windows of our HQ, we start to plan.

The project

It is all very well having a cause and asking for money but givers will engage more with a specific project that has set goals.

In our case, rather than just asking for a fund for the Lapland lot, we decide that we’re going to raise enough money to send the whole bunch of them to Hawaii on an all expenses paid surfing holiday. So, our funding goal is £25,000 for flights, full board, and board hire.

Make a list of those who are nice

As well as defining your specific goals, it is also important to work out who you are targeting with this campaign. Furthermore, it is important to identify who might be early givers to get the ball rolling and then where you will find people that will make the whole thing snowball.

This part should be easy for us, everyone loves Santa, however, we decide to have an early launch for his friends. We plan to invite supernatural celebs such as the tooth fairy, big-foot, the Loch Ness monster, and the Easter bunny to make a pledge to their jolliest of fellows and his Christmasy colleagues. This means when the campaign is launched to the public there will be a greater amount than a big old sad zero in our stocking.

A Christmas tale

We need to think about our story, what the project is going to achieve, how it can be related to the givers themselves so that they are moved to donate money. A compelling story needs to sit at the heart of our campaign. With such a busy time of big charities such as Oxfam or Age Concern filling the airwaves and screens with appeals, it is important to have something exciting, fresh and unique.

We will tell a story about a hard-working group of individuals whose efforts bring joy to children across the world every December 25th. We will highlight their strong work ethics and self-sacrifice. We will show that, in all their years giving joy to the world, the workers of Lapland have had not one holiday.

Your Christmas campaign page

Now that you have a great story to tell and an idea of who you are going to tell it to, you need a page to host it. All the major fundraising sites such as Just Giving or Go Fund Me provide easy to use platforms that your supporters can use to donate to the project.

We decide to go with Just Giving and start building the page, filling it with bright and exciting pictures of children and adults alike opening presents, with an image headlining the page of the silhouette of Santa, his sleigh and his faithful reindeer passing before a vast pale moon.

Prepare content

We have a place to send our givers to actually donate money to the project but we need to snag them with interesting hooks. These will go out in a series of posts on social media and newsletters, but we need them in place before we launch.

We spend some time gathering anecdotes from Santa’s biggest fans. As you would expect, we get a lot. We decide to do an advent calendar of posts, so 25 that develop our story of the humble man and his hard-working helpers, culminating in a short interview with his wife with tales that will humanise the great man, explaining how tired he gets, how stressed and that, like everyone else, he sometimes finds it hard.

Ready for launch

The weeks have flashed passed and we are ready to launch the first stage of our campaign.

Get the bauble rolling

We have the story, we have the plan, we have the content and we have the webpage. All we need to do now is launch and get money rolling in so we can hit that final funding goal so the Lapland lot can go grab some bodacious waves.

We give each of our supernatural celebs a call on the 28th of November and personally ask them to make a donation before the main campaign starts.


It is often worthwhile investing time in supporters who are willing to champion the cause. They can help spread the project throughout their own social networks both on and offline.

Whilst asking our supernatural early givers to donate we ask them to spread the word about the project. Such celebrities have vast followings on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, Bigfoot is especially active on Instagram, constantly tagging himself in snaps of hikers that he has managed to photobomb. By championing this cause they will provide us with a far greater reach.

Engage with your supporters

It is important to acknowledge the gift that donors are giving. It is easy to craft and send a heartfelt, yet automated, thank-you message through the project site and for those who have donated a great deal a personal letter or a phone call can go a long way to building future relations between the donor and the cause.

Letting donors also know the progress of the fundraising allows them to feel more invested in its outcome and, as with our champions, they will work to improve the chances of the campaign’s success.


Of course, in a perfect world, we would follow these steps and the campaign would be a resounding success. Sadly, it is not a perfect world and certain considerations have to be made.

Correct content

When dealing with content it is important to remember that less can indeed be more. We need to consider whether the content is:

  • Informative
  • Unique
  • Relevant

Without these, content can become redundant, repetitive or irrelevant which is the last thing we want when attempting to engage with potential donors who are already inundated with charitable requests.

A competitive market

The charitable market is competitive during the Christmas period with so many attempting to key in to the feeling of good will, generosity and, in some cases, the guilt of privilege.

Unfortunately, there is very little we can do about this. The best we can do is to make sure that our campaign is as good as it possibly can be, beyond that we can consider that it is a learning experience which can be applied to next years campaign.

Failing to meet your funding goal

It may well be that, despite our hard work, we don’t reach our funding goal. In this case, we have to consider carefully how we proceed.

In donating to the project, givers are aware of the possibility that it won’t be successful, but to use the money that was raised for a completely different project could lose trust in the brand. Consider how we could change the project goals so that they fit our decreased budget. Think about how we can explain this to our givers whilst retaining their confidence and trust.

Christmas and beyond

It is far too easy to finish the campaign and move on, after all, the third sector is fast moving and there is always so much to do to keep ahead of the game. The problem is, this doesn’t consider the long-term effects. Remaining in contact with donors and providing updates about the project means that you are building brand awareness, creating investment in the cause and keeping lines of communication open for future campaigns.

With enough time and enough effort, and by following these suggestions, it is relatively easy to plan, launch and conclude a Christmas Campaign. Unfortunately, its success can very much depend on external factors but, by creating the best campaign we can with a strong rollout, an imaginative story, and achievable goals, our Christmas campaign can be a festive success.

It turns out that Santa is a gnarly surf dude. The photographs that we send out in our post-campaign update depict him riding a huge barrelling wave, his body low to the board, his white hair and beard flowing out majestically behind him. The smile on his face is huge and, if you look very carefully, you can see old big-foot poking his head out from behind a palm tree in the background… Oh big-foot, you rascal.