AS THIS year’s Christian Aid Week ends, the charity sees it as vital that the 61-year-old initiative continue to evolve as society changes.
The week of fund-raising brings in about £10 million a year, amounting to approximately five to ten per cent of Christian Aid’s total income. The figure has declined in recent years, however: in 2017, Christian Aid Week brought in £9.6 million — five per cent less than in the previous year.
Lianne Howard-Dace, who organises the week, said on Tuesday that door-to-door fund-raising still made up about half the total money raised; but that figure, too, was declining.
“It’s still massively successful, because it brought in £4.5 million last year, and lots of churches still really enjoy doing it as their time to get out in their community.
“Lots see it as an act of witness, but, for some churches, it has become more challenging, and that’s where we are seeing the bulk of the decline.”
The week was begun in 1957 by the Inter-Church Aid and Refugee Service, a department of the British Council of Churches. Since then, Ms Howard-Dace said, society had changed, and people no longer had a close bond with either their neighbours or their local church, and this affected the success of door-to-door fund-raising.
“The world is a different place now, and we have to be realistic about that.”
Although it was not a “concern or a worry” for Christian Aid, she said, the fall in cash donations was something that the charity needed to deal with, including examining what other organisations were doing to reverse the trend of stagnant charitable giving.
“Giving in the UK, if you take inflation into account, has been pretty static for the past decade; so there is a need for new and different ways for people to engage.”
To combat the falling interest in doorstep donations, Christian Aid has set up new initiatives and projects to complement its house-to-house efforts, Ms Howard-Dace said. “We are looking at increasing the ways people can take part in Christian Aid Week, to find ways that work for them and their congregation.”
Among these is a scheme, Big Brekkie, which encourages churches to put on fund-raising breakfasts. The charity also produces resources such as films, activity sheets for children, posters for schools, and ideas, and song sheets, devotionals, and talks, for churches to hold special services.
New in 2018 were e-envelopes: these enable supporters to create a message, with a photo or video, and send it digitally to friends and family, asking for donations online into the virtual red Christian Aid envelope attached to the message.
“It’s a way to take house-to-house online to their virtual community,” Ms Howard-Dace said. “We’re really excited about this, because house-to-house is synonymous with Christian Aid Week; so we see it as a big part of our heritage. The envelope is part of our legacy; so it’s not something we would give up lightly — we want to continue that as society changes, and the way people give changes, too.”
Some 13,000 churches took part in Christian Aid Week this year, showing that the 61-year-old initiative was still popular, Ms Howard-Dace said.
Christian Aid’s huge network of supporters and local fund-raisers was an immense asset, and probably the envy of other charities, she said. “We want to honour that heritage, and make sure we are offering ways that people can get involved and give, in ways that work for them, whether it’s a collection, or holding a sponsored walk, or a bake sale.”