Correction: the recipient of the 'Devil's Spawn Award' is Royal Mail, not the Post Office as stated in our initial press release.
This is the 11th annual Scrooge Award. Each year the Charities Advisory Trust surveys high street retailers to see who is using charity to help boost sales, but actually giving very little to charity.
A charity Christmas card can make a lot of difference:
'Winter Fun' sold in aid of Educate a Child in Africa - just 1 pack (£4.99) pays for a month’s schooling.
'Christmas Book Pile' sold in aid of The Gift of Sight - 6 packs pay for a cataract operation to restore sight.
'St Pauls from the Millenium Bridge' sold in aid of Books for All - just one pack (£6.99) provided 18 books for Carib children in Dominica.
After ten years of campaigning, generally retailers accept 10% for charity is the acceptable minimum. We do not think this is generous, but it is better than the quite usual 2-3% in earlier years. In this year’s survey only a handful of retailers went below 10%
Some retailers are clearly feeling the pinch and have reduced the amounts going to charity.
|% going to charity||Clintons||WHSmith||Debenhams|
There has been a marked shift away from charities providing help in developing countries to UK charities.
|Harrods||House of Fraser||John Lewis||Paperchase|
|% of cards sold in aid of international aid charities|
This year we award the Scrooge Award to Debenhams. Cards sold in aid of the NSPCC give only 8.33% to charity (10% after VAT). It is a shame because last year Debenhams gave a generous 20% to charity on its own brand cards.
This award goes to Rymans. We liked the 20% to charity on their own cards, but despise the 7.5% - 8.5% on the Special Edition range.
This goes to Royal Mail for raising postal charges, and refusing to produce a special lower priced charity stamp which could have been bought by those sending charity cards. If Royal Mail can give its customers' money to its Charity of the Year we see no reason for it not helping charities across a broader range.
In some cases retailers are selling the cards at a higher price than the card supplier expected, so the % to charity drops
e.g. Heal’s selling a box of Woodmansterne cards at £12 a box, with 90p going to charity (7.5%). The same cards are available elsewhere at £9 a box, which would be 10%.
Other offenders in this category were Harrods, and Ryman’s (who whilst their own cards give 20% to charity), sold Special Editions cards at a higher price than elsewhere. In these cases the retailers charged more, but the charity got no share of this extra money. The Charities Advisory Trust is not here to police what retailers charge. That is their decision and their customers’ choice. But we do think that if using charity to boost sales, the charity should get a fair share of the proceeds.
Offering three for the price of two, or buy one get one half price or simply reducing the price affects the amount going to charity. Different retailers use different formulae. Paperchase said, “The amount to charity was not affected by reductions.” Where the actual amount going to charity is stated this protects against reductions (e.g. 90p to charity) whereas if the amount is stated as a percentage, say 10%, but the price is dropped from £5 to £3.75 (e.g. BHS in aid of NSPCC) the 50p drops to 37.5p. Clinton’s states if the cards are reduced the contribution is reduced.
Anyone making a representation that they are selling something in aid of charity has to state how much. There’s no minimum (which we think there should be) but there has to be a statement of percentage or amount.
Several retailers completely ignored this regulation. This was particularly the case when cards were being sold online. For example, even the virtuous John Lewis is selling some charity cards online without showing the amount and even that they were for charity (though this was visible on the illustration). We don’t think this was wilful deceit, just incompetence.
“% to charity after VAT” is not very clear to most people.
Perhaps the most perplexing declaration was on Tesco’s cards:
Tesco will donate £250,000 from the sale of boxed Christmas cards to Cancer Research UK
We asked for the following clarification:
And Tesco were good enough to send a response:
Tesco is guaranteeing a donation of £250,000 to Cancer Research UK, its charity of the year, from the sale of boxed Christmas cards. The money will come straight out of our card department's profits and it means everyone who buys our cards is supporting our fund-raising, however much they spend.
Since Tesco were committed to giving the £250,000 regardless of sales, one might be tempted to advise people to buy other charity cards, to get extra money to charity!
You can buy very cheap cards that give 10% to charity. But the middle of the range cards from many high street retailers are in fact more expensive, with less going to charity.
For example, the 'Madonna of the Fir Tree' design, published by Museums and Galleries and Woodmansterne (both available at John Lewis) and Card Aid. The cards at John Lewis both cost more and give less to charity than cards of the same design purchased through Card Aid.
If you want to help charities buy charity cards directly from charities or temporary charity Christmas card shops. Best of all Card Aid (though we should mention WHSmith have a special card for Children in Need with 70% to charity. Didn't it used to be 100%)
For more information contact Hilary (the very chatty Dame Hilary Blume) on 020 7794 9835 or firstname.lastname@example.org