BARBARA'S VOLUNTEERING STORY
In December 2012 my husband and I were staying in London, visiting our daughter and seeing the sights. Opposite our hotel was a fine old church and attached to the railings was a banner with the words ‘Cards For Good Causes’ on it. Intrigued, I went inside and was delighted to find a wonderful display of colourful, high quality Christmas cards, plus wrapping paper, gift tags and other Christmas items, all being sold on behalf of well-known national charities. As I bought some cards I thought to myself ‘What a brilliant idea – all those charities’ cards together in one place! Wouldn’t it be great if we could have something similar in Stoke on Trent?’ Back at the hotel, my husband agreed.
So when we got home I phoned the Cards For Good Causes Head Office and spoke to a nice lady about the possibility of selling the charity Christmas cards in our area of North Staffordshire. She was very positive and encouraging, and then asked where our premises would be – a church? a Visitor Information Centre, perhaps? or a vacant shop on the High Street? ‘We haven’t got any premises’, I said, ‘We’d like to have a mobile shop, taking the cards out to where people are, in community settings.’ ‘We’ve never done that before’, was the slightly doubtful response. ‘Well, give me a try - let me have a go at it’, I asked. And that’s just what happened.
In the spring of 2013 Joe and I met the Area Organiser for the Midlands, Lyn O’Toole. She came to our home to assess our ability to take on the responsibility of selling Cards For Good Causes and to talk through the practicalities. I could see straightaway what a kind and helpful person she was, well-accustomed to showing the ropes to new managers. Lyn explained everything clearly and answered all our questions. We would be classed as a small shop and would receive a delivery of goods at our house in October, on a sale or return basis. Anything not sold could be sent back by courier in mid-December. She would come again to see us on the day the cards arrived and bring all the equipment needed. A certain amount of paperwork was involved, there would be weekly banking to do, and obviously arrangements had to be made with local venues, but it all seemed quite straightforward.
How excited I was that first year when the boxes came, unpacking the contents, checking them off against the delivery note, and looking at the beautiful designs on the cards, especially the traditional and religious scenes which can be so hard to find. I loved them, I knew other people would love them, and they did!
In 2013 we sold £1,223 worth of cards at around a dozen venues in our local area – schools, churches, the library and our Christmas Fair. It was great fun doing it and we were so pleased when customers asked ‘Will you be here again next year?’ Since then the number of venues has increased to about 25, and we now go a bit further afield each year. Sales have grown steadily as customers value the high quality and wide variety of the cards and come back faithfully each year to buy them. In 2019 we sold £3,564, almost three times as much as we did in the first year! In addition, we sold cards for our local guest charities: an adult hospice, a children’s hospice and our county Wildlife Trust.
Lyn has been with us every step of the way over the last 7 years, keeping in frequent touch, always supportive and encouraging. Early October is still a time of eager anticipation for my husband and I, as we count down the days until the Christmas cards arrive!
Volunteering to sell Cards For Good Causes has raised some useful income for our community events group. It’s enabled us to make enjoyable visits to diverse locations including university campuses, historic places of worship, Council offices, libraries, village halls and country pubs. Yes, it’s quite a lot of work. Yes, it takes up quite a bit of time. But if you like people and you like Christmas cards then it’s very rewarding to know that the simple gift of your time and labour for a few weeks each year can translate into many thousands of pounds of funds raised for truly worthwhile causes you believe in.
Cards For Good Causes is a great organisation to be part of and I’d recommend anyone who’s interested in selling the cards to make a call to Head Office and arrange an informal discussion with the Organiser for your area. Also, as Christmas approaches, visit as many CFGC shops as you can, see how stock is displayed, and have a chat with the managers and volunteers on duty. You can pick up some very good tips that way and really sense the enthusiasm, passion and commitment which several thousand volunteers across the country have in promoting 300+ national and local charities.
If you are feeling inspired to join the Cards for Good Causes volunteering team then you can find all the details on the Get Involved page of the website.