The Ghost of Christmas Present

The biggest story around the Western World in December, is not the pleasure of the build up to Christmas, the expectation of connecting with family and friends or the joy of giving and being part of community, it is the unbelievable consumerism of Black Friday that has now stretched over a weekend and includes Black Monday. A new phenomenon that started in 2000 in America and follows Thanksgiving Day; this year in the US 133 million shoppers spent $51 billion over the weekend. In the UK it was not just about the spending but the extra police required to control mob scenes as people practically fought for bargains.

Black Friday is the ultimate demonstration of how consumerism has literally consumed our society with people wanting more and often losing sight of what they really need. As countries tip into being developed, economically successful markets, we see this outlook arising all over the world, people pursuing the ‘good life’ regardless of nationality, ethnicity, gender or religion. Christmas was always the key point in the year for giving and thinking of others but now it competes with a different mind-set and context, which is growing at a faster rate than the desire to give to others. At end of the Festive Season 2014 it will be time to reflect on results and ask if the same old mailing or telephone campaigns are keeping track with the market and truly delivering; in my view the same as the previous year plus 5% isn’t really enough. Remember the old mantra, ’if it ain’t broke, why fix it?’ but the point is, we need to fix it before it breaks! especially with more than 30% of charitable giving happening in December.

If modern life accelerates at Christmas, we need to accelerate too and rethink how we ‘carve out’ mind and heart share and keep giving as an integral part of the DNA of Christmas. We need to invest in greater insight into the world around Christmas time. It is not just about big campaigns or initiatives it is about greater integration into everyday life at a busy but happy time of the year. Communication channels become saturated as commercial players fight for position, many people are busier with less time to think and plan, and the weather changes the mood and outlook of people.

#Givingtuesday has been a great example of cross sector co-operation, encouraging giving and harnessing the power of social networks to reach further and deeper. But as a global day for giving is it a destination or should we think of it as a start to a month where charities raise their game and push harder to keep a strong presence in different communities, segments and audiences.

So where should you focus? What should you look for? The future is not simply looking inside at your donors and current strategy, it is about looking outside and trying to map what people are doing, how people are thinking, where people are and what they are likely to be responsive to:

  • Think through the different age groups – millenials are more responsive at Christmas and more willing to take action and to reach out to their networks.
  • Think of how to engage people in fun, news, challenges or thought without necessarily making an ask – multi channels means more opportunities to engage and not just solicit.
  • We’ve been talking about channel mixing and integration for years but now it has to be reality; in 2015 the UK will be the first country to spend over 50% of total advertising online.
  • When people do give early for Christmas think about fresh ways to thank people to bring them true joy in their giving. Surprise people with your thanks; try over thanking.
  • Ask people to reach out to others and share your message and vision – in the world of social networks donor get donor/ member get member are back in the mix of marketing options/asks.
  • Think CHRISTMAS, think creativity; a time of imagination so find space to unleash that imagination to inspire and delight people.

Philanthropy has to shine at Christmas, it is an integral part of Christmas, but I do feel that times are overtaking us and we should act now while ‘things are not broken’ and reinvent the position of every cause and every vision we represent. Christmas is a time of joy and joy is at the centre of giving, so this is one partnership worth fighting to retain.

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