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.



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