Key considerations for designing a Christmas Appeal

Children watch a movie at Don Bosco orphanage, Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo.

The period of Christmas means different things to different people around the world. But it is widely understood as a time of giving, togetherness, and charity; and it is these sentiments that unite people at this time of year. As a highly emotive time for many, Christmas has also become a popular period for charities and NGOs to launch Christmas appeals. For these organisations, the popularity of this period for campaigns can prove problematic. Although it is proven that the amount of people donating to charity in the UK goes up in December ¹, the number of causes vying for these donations also rises. Therefore, the quality of the content in your Christmas appeal, the impact of your photography/videography and story, are increasingly important.

At Arete, we have helped many organisations with their Christmas appeals including Opportunity International, Water Aid and Unicef. Here we have put together some of our top tips on what to keep in mind when designing your Christmas appeal and how investing in high-quality photos, videos and storytelling can allow your campaign to stand out from the crowd:

Be specific about what the beneficiaries of your organisation need and what it will cost

When designing your Christmas appeal it is important to show what your beneficiaries need and how your supporters can help provide it. Be specific about what the people you help need and how much it would cost to provide, i.e. a donation of £5 will provide a school textbook. People are much more likely to support a cause if they can understand what each penny of their donation is being used for(2).

Children participate in an IT class made possible by the gift of new electricity supply from Team Rubicon UK and Virunga National Park, at Don Bosco orphanage, Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo. Eden Sparke/ Arete

Base your appeal around a strong and positive story

Every Christmas appeal should tell a story. Talk to and discover the stories of some of the people your campaign is designed to help and base it around one or some of these, focussing on the stories that are the most relatable and evoke a positive feeling. Your supporters are more likely to connect with uplifting emotions. Supporters want to see how their donation can elicit this positive feeling in others, especially around the Christmas period when feelings of ‘helping our fellow people’, family, and togetherness are magnified.

A Christmas appeal put together by Arete for Opportunity International UK

Images tell the greatest story

Whether it is through photo or video, images displaying positive feeling or deep-emotion can be the most powerful storytelling device in your Christmas appeal. A great image can elicit an emotive connection to your appeal that forms the basis of why people donate to your cause. Christmas appeals should not be about showing destitute people to shame the viewer or make them feel sorry for the beneficiary; they should be about showing positive emotion and eluding to the amazing possibilities life can bring with limited support.

A girl plays with a doll before she goes to bed at Don Bosco orphanage, Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo. Eden Sparke/Arete.

Stand out from the crowd

Images must be eye-catching, and will have an additional impact if they resonate with the viewer. At Christmas time, this means capturing imagery displaying family, gratitude and happiness. It is vital that a Christmas appeal is relevant; you won’t achieve this by showing beautifully wrapped presents or beneficiaries in Santa hats but rather by creating a connection between the viewer of the appeal and the person/s that the campaign is designed to help. This is the immense power an experienced photographer or videographer can bring to any Christmas campaign.

A child smiles as the nursey lights are turned on at Don Bosco orphanage, Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo. Eden Sparke/Arete.

Arete photojournalist, Eden Sparke, recently returned to the Don Bosco orphanage, in Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and has captured how the simple gift of electricity has transformed the lives of all its residents, just in time for Christmas:

“I first visited the Don Bosco orphanage in May 2019. As a large complex that provides a range of support for 2,500 children — they face daily problems ranging from ongoing war to Ebola. But there is one issue they faced more frequently — and that was the lack of access to reliable electricity. The on-site school had no lights to supplement the often dim natural light, the people working in the nurseries had to do night feeds with head torches, and the workshops in which the older children learnt vital skills, which would help them to enter the job market, routinely could not function. The generator used to supplement the unreliable state company power was old, in constant need of repair, polluting, and costing around 5000 USD per month.

The orphanage received a new power supply a month ago thanks to the work of both Team Rubicon UK,(add link) who installed the supply, and Virunga National Park (add link) who supply electricity from its new Hydro Electric Plant. I went back to document the huge impact this has had on the lives of the children and workers of the orphanage. Through my photos, I wanted to show the transformation that a regular electricity supply could have — something we take for granted. Children can now do their homework and play, rather than sitting in darkness from 6pm, and the young men and women in the workshop are busy learning skills like carpentry and welding that will help them to build their futures”.

Prince, 17, practices his welding at Don Bosco orphanage, Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo. Eden Sparke/Arete.

Sources:

  1. http://www.cgap.org.uk/uploads/Xmas_giving.pdf
  2. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/723566/Charity_Commission_-_Trust_in_Charities_2018_-_Report.pdf

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Arete, proud to feature in ‘BLINK: The End is in Sight’ exhibition by Sightsavers

Kate Holt’s photograph in a digital frame at the Sightsavers BLINK! Exhibition at the Oxo Gallery in London (Kate Holt/ Arete/ Sightsavers)

Perhaps the most poignant way to raise awareness about a medical condition such as trachoma is by providing people with an experience that illustrates its debilitating effects. During its time at the Oxo Gallery in London, BLINK: The End is in Sight exhibition set out to do just this.

Many of us won’t give a second thought to blinking; we do it mindlessly around 20 times per minute. For people with trachoma, every blink of the eye can cause excruciating pain. Trachoma is a painful eye condition where the eyelid starts to turn inwards; the eyelashes scrape painfully across the eyeball. The disease is infectious and can spread easily in areas that lack proper sanitation and clean water. It is a debilitating disease that worsens over time, trapping people in a cycle of poverty and dependence on others for their care.

Trachoma was illustrated during the Sightsavers BLINK! exhibition through the display of five very special photographs, each in a clever digital frame. Five top photographers, including Arete photojournalist Kate Holt, were asked to provide a photograph of the last thing they would want to see before they lost their sight. The exhibition was designed by Jason Bruges Studios. Each time someone looked at the photo and blinked, the image would gradually decay, representing how someone suffering from trachoma would see the world as their eyesight deteriorated.

Exhibitions are a powerful medium. My thoughts on ‘BLINK! The End is in Sight’ by Kate Holt

Photojournalist Kate Holt standing beside her photograph of the Mau Forest in Kenya (Kate Holt/ Arete/ Sightsavers)

“Innovative exhibitions such as BLINK! can change the way we look at the world and promote education and understanding. I was fascinated by the concept of the exhibition and also the technology behind it.

The Mau Forest, Kenya, in the very early morning. (Kate Holt/ Arete/ Sightsavers)

I chose the image of the Mau Forest in Kenya because it is one I love. It was taken very early in the morning as the sun was just rising and the mist was starting to burn away. Early mornings in Kenya are always special — the day still holds so much hope. When I saw it disappearing in front of my eyes though I felt sad thinking of the people who know they are going blind and what it must be like realising that, very soon, they won’t be able to see or experience that joy and hope of an early morning again. I have elderly parents with eye problems — this makes it even more poignant.

Exhibitions are a powerful medium for educating people and creating awareness amongst new audiences. It was amazing to see the story of this condition told in a new and imaginative way, bringing the concept of trachoma to life so effectively. The Oxo Tower has thousands of people walking past it every day who may not be aware that a disease like Trachoma even exists or what its impact is. The more engaging an exhibition, the more people are drawn to understand the subject further and see how they can help. Blindness as a condition is terrifying to most people and this exhibition illustrated that creatively and effectively.

The exhibition received overwhelming support and reviews and I was very proud to be invited to be part of it”.

A visitor of the Sightsavers BLINK! exhibition looks at a photograph of a woman lying in a meadow of wildflowers (Tommy Trenchard/ Arete/ Sightsavers)

Sightsavers, through ‘The End is in Sight’ campaign, aim to bring life-changing treatments to some of the most vulnerable communities across Africa. In 2019 they beat trachoma in Ghana and have now set their sights on eliminating the disease everywhere else by 2025. A straightforward surgery costing just £44 can reverse the disease and bring back eyesight for late-stage sufferers. Those with the beginning stages of the disease can take antibiotics costing just 15p per treatment. Up until January 9th 2020, the UK government will match all donations up to £2 million, to find out more or how you could make a difference please visit the Sightsavers website or their Medium page.

Are you an NGO, charity, agency, or corporation with your own story to tell? Here is how to get in contact.


SDG 17: Partnerships for the goals

SDG 17: Partnerships for the goals

SDG 17: Partnerships for the goals
Suzanne Harerimana, 24, harvests vegetables from her kitchen garden in Mirehe Colin, Mpinga commune, Rutana province, Burundi. These kitchen gardens are an initiative by UNICEF and WFP to help families improve their diet and fight malnutrition (Photo: Kevin Ouma / Arete)

The final Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) aims to revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development and strengthen the means of implementation of all of the goals; at the heart of SDG 17 is partnership and cooperation between governments, the private sector and civil society. These inclusive partnerships built upon a shared vision and shared goals that place people and the planet at the centre, are needed at all levels of civil society.

The UN Conference on Trade and Development says that to achieve the SDGs will require between $5 and $7 trillion in annual investment. However, as of 2016, only 6 countries were meeting the international target to keep official development assistance at or above 0.7% of gross national income. With the world being more interconnected than ever, improving access to technology and knowledge is an important way to foster innovation and make the SDGs more attainable for many of the worlds developing countries.

 

We are already seeing this cooperation at a UN Agency level with joint missions carried out where both agencies have similar goals. In Burundi we worked on a joint mission between UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP) to create films and stories to highlight solutions to malnutrition; Through this cooperation, UNICEF and the WFP were able to achieve excellent coverage across Burundi and raise awareness about malnutrition worldwide.

To mark the first UN summit on the SDGs on 24th and 25th September 2019, we have been publishing a daily blog on how we help organisations to meet the Sustainable Development Goals. Check out our blogs here.


SDG 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies

SDG 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies

SDG 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies
Rose, 26, prepares food for the family she works for in Nairobi, Kenya (Photo: Kate Holt / Solidarity Centre)

Sustainable development goal (SDG) 16 focuses on society as a whole; aiming to reduce violence, promote the rule of law, strengthen institutions and ensure access to justice. Many of the other SDGs play into the success of SDG 16; there can’t be sustainable development without peace, stability, observance of human rights and effective governance, based on the rule of law.

Armed violence and insecurity have a destructive impact on a country’s development, affecting economic growth, and often resulting in grievances that last for generations. Sexual violence, crime, exploitation and torture are also prevalent where there is conflict or no rule of law, and countries must take measures to protect those who are most at risk

According to the UN Development Programme, by the end of 2017 68.5 million people had been forcibly displaced as a result of persecution, conflict, violence or human rights violations and 1 billion people were classed as legally ‘invisible’ as they could not prove who they were. Without strong institutions and a rule of law, exploitation will continue to take place leading to millions more people becoming trapped in slavery.

 

SDG 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies
Rose, 26, prepares food for the family she works for in Nairobi, Kenya (Photo: Kate Holt / Solidarity Centre)

At Arete, we work with organisations such as Solidarity Centre, which aim to end the slave trade for good. Often in poorly developed countries, Solidarity Centre rescues hundreds of people from slavery each year. When documenting this it is essential to highlight individuals stories — helping the viewer understand how they got there in the first place and what could have been done to prevent it.

In a story covered by Arete photojournalist Kate Holt, Rose, a Kenyan citizen, was recruited for what was believed a well-paid job in Saudi Arabia. When she arrived her passport was confiscated and she was trapped. What followed was 2 years and 7 months of enslavement, working all hours of the day with little food or water. Only by publicly telling these often heartbreaking stories, can organisations such as Solidarity Centre hope to gather enough support to combat modern slavery.

To mark the first UN summit on the SDGs on 24th and 25th September 2019, we have been publishing a daily blog on how we help organisations to meet the Sustainable Development Goals. Check out our blogs here.


SDG13: Climate Action

SDG13: Climate Action

SDG13: Climate Action
A child sits on a newly felled tree trunk on the edge of the Kahuzi Biega National Park near Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo (Photo: Kate Holt)

Every year global greenhouse emissions continue to rise, which is why Sustainable Development Goal 13 is centred on taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. According to the Global Forest Watch the world’s tropical forests are shrinking at a staggering rate, the equivalent of 30 football pitches per minute. In 2018 alone, over 12 million hectares of tree cover (an area nearly the size of England) were lost as a result of human causes.

NASA reports, there are many more indicators that climate change is taking place including a rise in global temperatures, warming oceans, shrinking ice sheets, retreating glaciers, decreased snow cover, and rising sea levels. The effect of this climate change is catastrophic for both animal and human life, particularly in coastal settlements below sea level, such as Jakarta, which could be flooded by rising sea levels.

Climate change is now so widespread that it is has become a relevant factor in many of the stories we document. In an article, we recently prepared for The Guardian, Arete photographer Kate Holt covers the multi-faceted problems with protecting the rainforests of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). These forests take up to 120 years to mature and a matter of days to destroy. But the people destroying them are only doing so to earn a living.

 

SDG13: Climate Action
“Bonne Annee”, an Eastern Lowland Gorilla, sits and eats vegetation in the Kahuzi Biega National Park, Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo (Photo: Kate Holt)

There is a careful balance to be struck between the people of the land, the animals that reside there, and the preservation of the rainforest. Although combating climate change is of the utmost importance in developed countries, to the people of many of the worlds lesser developed countries, it is seen as a luxury they cannot afford or do not understand. This is why as photojournalists we must take a nuanced approach when reporting these stories, taking the time to understand the situation and motivation of all parties involved.

In the run up to the first UN summit on the SDGs on 24th and 25th September, we have been publishing a daily blog on how we help organisations to meet the Sustainable Development Goals. Check out our blogs here.


SDG 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

SDG 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

Sarah Mujuma, 5, poses for a photograph with a cup of water in Kimaswa, Western Kenya. 375 schools in Cheptai and throughout Western Kenya are currently being given Lifestraw Water Filters to ensure that every child at school has clean water to drink. (Photo: Kate Holt)

Worldwide material consumption has expanded rapidly, which is why Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12 is about ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns. It is clear that we, as humans, need materials from the earth to thrive and survive. However, through means of science and invention, the hope is that we can discover new and more sustainable ways to consume making use of less environmentally invasive materials like plastic.

This is why SDG 12 needs support from both companies and countries alike. Companies and industries have long been some of the biggest contributors to consumption and pollution, to get anywhere near achieving SDG 12 it is important that these companies change their ways and give back to the most at-risk communities, around the world.

 

A member of the Lifestraw team teaches school children how to use the Lifestraw filter to clean their drinking water in Western Province, Kenya (Photo: Kate Holt)

A good example of this is Corporate Social Responsibility at Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), which has invested in Lifestraw to bring clean water to 375 schools in Kenya. Through the lens of SDG 12, the benefits of this sort of project are two-fold. Firstly, it allows polluted water to be safely consumed reducing the strain on the freshwater supply. Secondly, it removes the need for plastic bottles with many of Lifestraw’s solutions allowing water to be consumed directly from the source.

In the run up to the first UN summit on the SDGs on 24th and 25th September, we have been publishing a daily blog on how we help organisations to meet the Sustainable Development Goals. Check out our blogs here.


SDG 11:  Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

SDG 11:  Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

SDG 11:  Make cities and human settlements
A family poses for a photo in their house in Africa’s largest slum, Kibera, in Nairobi, Kenya (Photo: Kate Holt)

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11 is geared towards making all types of human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. The settlements that are of the most concern are slums. According to the Report of the Secretary-General, although the proportion of the global population living in slums fell from 46 to 23 per cent between 1990 and 2016, more than 1 billion people continue to live in such situations.

Although this SDG is focussed on settlements, it is the lives of the humans who live within them that we must focus on as photojournalists and storytellers. When telling a story, in order to drive change, it is important to create a connection with the reader. For slums, this means covering, in detail, the living conditions, the challenges the people face, the amount of money they require to live on, and more.

 

SDG 11:  Make cities and human settlements
Collins holds his baby daughter Raquelle, who is 11 months old, accompanied by her mother, Sharon who is 23, next to a river that flows through the centre of Kibera Slum in Nairobi, Kenya (Photo: Kate Holt)

Globally, 2 billion people do not have access to waste collection services. This is poignant in our documenting of the Kibera slum in Kenya for The Guardian. The river Nygong runs through the middle of the slum and brings with it tons of human waste. Although the waste situation is dire in Kibera, it is important to think about how to frame the story, bringing the focus back to the people who, despite this, portray a revered amount of positivity and resilience. These stories are as much about the people as they are the landscapes.

In the run up to the first UN summit on the SDGs on 24th and 25th September, we have been publishing a daily blog on how we help organisations to meet the Sustainable Development Goals. Check out our blogs here.


SDG 9: Industry innovation and infrastructure

SDG 9: Industry innovation and infrastructure

SDG 9: Industry innovation and infrastructure

Without basic transport infrastructure, many of the world’s least developed countries face serious challenges, particularly in meeting the sustainable development goals (SDGs) set out by the UN Council. SDG 9 focusses on building resilient infrastructure, which will promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and innovation. This is why SDG 9 is one of the most important of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Resilient infrastructures such as roads, railways, and mobile phone networks act as the veins and arteries of any country, facilitating communication, transporting people and goods and ensuring general accessibility. Properly developed transport and communication infrastructure ultimately leads to a more developed country, economy and society.

 

SDG 9: Industry innovation and infrastructure

In developing countries like Uganda, the annual occurrence of the rainy season is enough to wash away many of the dirt roads, leaving millions of people cut off and sometimes dangerously isolated. We worked with a UN agency to create a video, for a local audience, that highlighted the importance of building new roads in Uganda. When documenting infrastructure projects, such as road building, it can be challenging to make it interesting.

Video tends to work as a better medium for this subject than photography as it tells more of a story. Making use of visual storytelling techniques, such as drones and animation, will create more interesting and varied footage, which in turn should lead to higher levels of engagement from the audience. However, the focus of the story should ultimately be on the challenges faced by the lack of infrastructure and the benefits improved infrastructure could bring.

 

SDG 9: Industry innovation and infrastructure

In the run up to the first UN summit on the SDGs on 24th and 25th September, we have been publishing a daily blog on how we help organisations to meet the Sustainable Development Goals. Check out our blogs here.


SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth

SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth

SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth

Women who get loans from Opportunity bank pose for photographs on their farms in Garue, Mozambique (Photo: Kate Holt / Opportunity International)

Sustainable Development Goal 8 is focussed on providing decent work for all and continued global economic growth. According to the report of the UN Secretary-General, access to finance is on the rise globally. Access to finance means access to opportunities, this is why micro-finance is transforming lives.

Micro-finance, which in this case refers to small scale loans, are giving people across Africa the ability to develop and grow their own businesses without being exploited. Organisations like Opportunity International recognise that there are many people in developing countries who have the skill and determination to make a success of their own business but lack access to any form of finance.

One of the first and most important steps, to boost economic growth and break the cycle of poverty, is to empower people to start their own businesses. As these businesses grow, so too will employment opportunities and as a result access to formal employment for everyone.

 

SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth
Isabelle Celestina Alberto who has received three loans from Opportunity International Bank poses for photographs on her farm and with her children at her home near Gurue, Mozambique (Photo: Kate Holt / Opportunity International)

We worked with Opportunity International on the Saving Circles Project, which provided small loans to farmers in Mozambique, enabling them to purchase inputs that can increase their production. Our team of photojournalists were tasked with capturing the farmer’s stories and showing the transformational impact this project was having. Our images were subsequently used in an appeal by Opportunity International, raising over £6 million.

In the run up to the first UN summit on the SDGs on 24th and 25th September, we have been publishing a daily blog on how we help organisations to meet the Sustainable Development Goals. Check out our blogs here.


SDG 7: Affordable and clean energy

SDG 7: Affordable and clean energy

SDG 7: Affordable and clean energy
A woman demonstrates how she uses Mkopa, a Pay as you go solar electricity provider, to make jewellery at night and to charge a portable light at her home near Nairobi, Kenya (Photo: Kate Holt / AECF)

Societal access to affordable, clean energy is essential for progress in Africa. This is why many NGOs and charities focus their efforts on providing at least a basic electrical infrastructure to communities who can’t get access to the national grid.

Carrying out any task after dark, whether it is doing homework or preparing food, becomes impossible and security at night is a constant concern. Without access to mobile phones or the internet, communities are isolated.

 

SDG 7: Affordable and clean energy
Young boys do their homework by the light of a lamp which uses electricity that is powered through a Mobisol Solar Unit at their home near Arusha, Tanzania (Photo: Kate Holt / AECF)

Documenting the theme of this sustainable development goal can prove challenging. When trying to elicit a connection with the reader, a photojournalist should focus on telling the story of all the new opportunities access to electricity can bring. In addition, it is important to capture the emotions of the people who have access to power for the first time.

Any person, anywhere in the world, can connect with these positive emotions captured on camera. Our client for these photographs wanted to show the positive impact electricity was having — and the photos were widely used in company reports and for external communications.

In the run up to the first UN summit on the SDGs on 24th and 25th September, we have been publishing a daily blog on how we help organisations to meet the Sustainable Development Goals. Check out our blogs here.