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CONSUMER - What percentage of Charity Christmas Cards actually goes to the charity?

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Almost all of us buy and send Christmas cards each year, and they are certainly a lovely way of letting people know you are thinking of them.

But do you choose to buy charity Christmas cards and if you do have you any idea how much of the price actually goes to the named charity?

Also people don't have as much money as they may have had in recent years, so when you buy cards thinking you are helping out a charity, you deserve to know how much of the total price you are paying is actually going to that charity, seeing as it is your hard earned money.

Tina Leonard, Consumer Expert

President Mary McAleese will be sending most of her Christmas Cards by email this year as part of her efforts to cut costs. As we are all cutting costs this year, we thought it was appropriate to investigate just how much of the money you spend on Charity Christmas Cards actually goes to the charity.

Charity Christmas Cards are a great way of making a donation to a charity that is close to your heart, but when you buy a pack of Charity cards do you know what percentage of the sale of the cards actually goes to the charity? Would you be better off buying a cheaper set of cards or like the President, sending E cards, and sending a nice donation directly to your chosen charity? The cost of Christmas cards and the stamps you need to go with them would be a nice sum to send off to your favourite charity.

There are three main ways that charities distribute Christmas cards; producing and distributing their own; selling via cooperation with a retailer; or a third party producing the cards to sell in a retailer and the producer decides what percentage goes to the charity.

We will look at three places you can buy your charity Christmas cards and investigate the percentage that goes to the charity from the sale of the cards.

The High Street Stores
What we noticed about all the cards that you could buy in high street stores, was that they published on the card pack exactly what amount or percentage went to the charity which we thought was very good.

A pack of 20 cards for €5.50. The pack says that 25p from each sale goes to the Irish Heart Foundation.

The Irish Heart Foundation say that they do not produce or organise the sale of their Christmas cards. A third party does all of this and the Irish Heart Foundation make approx €50,000 each year from the sale of the cards. They are very happy with this, as they see it as a big gain for little or no effort on their part.

So if you buy your cards in Next, approx 6% goes to The Irish Heart Foundation.

They stock a wide range of cards for UK charities. For example you can get a pack of 30 cards for €5 for Oxfam UK, and 40p of each sale goes to Oxfam.

So if you buy your cards in House of Fraser, approx 9% goes to charity.

Again the cards are for UK charities, but for sales in Ireland you can get a pack of 10 cards for €5 for the Irish Cancer Society.

The Irish Cancer Society say that The Irish Cancer Society say their cards are also sold through their website, through their shop in Dublin and in other retail outlets nationwide.

The Irish Cancer Society pays for the design, print, distribution and advertising of the cards. The profit to the Irish Cancer Society is 76% of the price of the pack of cards, after VAT, when the cards are bought on our website or from our shop. They say the amount they receive from retailers is commercially sensitive as different arrangements are negotiated with each retailer. However, at no point is the Society disadvantaged by these sales as their extra volume brings a reduced unit printing.

So if you buy your cards in Boots 10% goes to the Irish Cancer Society.

You can get a 20 pack of cards for €7 for Focus Ireland.

So if you buy your cards in M&S, 10% of the purchase price goes to charity.

Focus Ireland say "It is great that Marks and Spencers sell these cards and give a percentage of the money to Focus Ireland. M&S has a network of shops around Ireland and it means more people have a chance to buy cards where some of the money goes to help support Focus Ireland's work to combat and prevent homelessness'.

Recap Graphic: High Street Stores

NEXT Approx 6%

House of Fraser Approx 9%

BOOTS Approx 10%

Marks & Spencer Approx 10%

Irish Retailers

What we noticed about cards stocked in Irish retailers is that they do not tell you on the pack what percentage or amount actually goes to charity.

Tina spoke to the NCA about whether it is legal to do this and they said 'There is no consumer law that obliges the retailer / producer to put the percentage going to the charity on the packaging.

The National Consumer Agency (NCA) confirmed this is the case, but said that there is nothing stopping the retailer / producer voluntarily putting this information on the packaging so that consumers would have greater transparency.

Bear in mind that whatever the % given, the charity is still winning. You have a choice between buying cards directly from the charity (if available), where all proceeds go to the charity, in a retailer, where typically 10% - 15% goes to the charity, or don't buy cards and give all of the money to your chosen charity instead.

In Tesco you can buy charity Christmas cards for the following three charities: Irish Cancer Society, Crumlin Children's Hospital and Irish Hospice Foundation.

Tesco said in relation to these cards: 'All of these cards are bought through a supplier as per other items of stock in stores (not directly from the charity). The supplier deals directly with each individual charity with regards to proceeds'.

However Tesco adds that their 'staff charity of choice' is the Make a Wish Foundation, and that means that 100% of proceeds from the sale of those cards go to that charity.

So if you buy your cards in Tesco, you can choose cards where the percentage going to charity is between ??% and 100% depending on what your chosen charity is.

Easons stock a very large range of charity cards for the following charities: Irish Heart Foundation; Oxfam Ireland; Irish Hospice Foundation; Barnardos; The Children's Medical & Research Foundation; Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children; Make a Wish Foundation; Marie Keating Foundation; Breast Cancer Campaign; Action Breast Cancer and Irish Charity Cards who donate to The Alzheimer Society of Ireland, Arthritis Ireland, Irish Wheelchair Association, The MS Society of Ireland, National Association for the Deaf, Polio Fellowship of Ireland and Rehab Group.

For example an 8 pack for Oxfam costs €3.50; 6 pack for €8.99 for the Irish Hearth Foundation and a 12 pack for €7 for the Irish Hospice Foundation.

Easons say "the value of the donation given to the charity is decided on by the card manufacturers but it is generally in the region of 10% of the recommended retail price (RRP)".

So if you buy your cards in Easons, there is a wide range of cards for numerous charities with approximately 10% of the sale of the cards going to your chosen charity,

You can get a pack of 10 cards for €2 and on the packaging it says that part of the proceeds go to People in Need and the Irish Heart Foundation.

When contacted regarding the percentage of sales that goes to the charities, Dunnes said "we do not issue this information".

So we don't know what percentage of the sale of charity cards actually goes to the charity when you buy your charity cards in Dunnes.

In Superquinn you can buy a pack of 8 cards for €7.99 for Barretstown camp which supports rebuilding lives affected by childhood cancer.

Superquinn say that 12.5% of the sale price of these cards, i.e. €1 per pack, goes to Barretstown.

So if you buy your cards in Superquinn, 12.5% will go to Barretstown.

Recap: Irish Retailers

Tesco ?? % - 100%

Easons Approx 10%

Dunnes Unknown

Superquinn Approx 12.5%

Buying direct from the charities
Some of the larger charities have charity shops or websites where you can buy the charity cards direct but does this mean that all the profits go to the charity?

Enable Ireland
Enable Ireland produce and sell their own cards through their shops and so all profits go to the charity. They also sell via TK Maxx.

If you buy direct from Enable Ireland all of the profits go to the charity and only the cost of making the cards is taken away from the total sale price.

So if you buy direct from Enable Ireland between 100% of the profits go to Enable Ireland.

Oxfam also sell their cards directly from their own stores and also through other retailers. In total, over €140,000 was raised last year for Oxfam through the sale of their Christmas cards.

100% of the profit on all Christmas cards sold in Oxfam shops goes to their overseas work.

"Oxfam Ireland Christmas cards are also sold through commercial outlets including stationary stores, bookshops etc. The relationship with these commercial partners is very important to Oxfam as it allows us to reach a much wider audience for our cards. Our commercial partnerships allow us to have dramatically larger print runs and consequently lower per-card costs - providing more money for our overseas work. We also receive a royalty contribution for all cards sold through the commercial outlets".

Oxfam say that having their cards sold through other retailers provides them with a royalty, and also allows them to have a much larger print run, thereby decreasing the production costs and increasing profits. These factors combine to represent a contribution to Oxfam of approximately 15% of the retail price of cards sold.

Concern only sell their cards in their stores and on their website. You can choose between 4 designs and a pack of 10 cards costs €8. This way all of the money raised can go towards Concern's work.

Trocaire are selling a pack of six cards for €5. They do not sell through other stores which means all profits go to Trocaire. You can't buy them from their website (maybe in future), so only at their shops in Dublin, Cork, Belfast and Maynooth.