Smart Consumer: Why it's time to lay your (charity) cards on the table
Texting, Facebook and Twitter may have radically changed the way we stay in touch with family and friends, but an update alert definitely doesn't have the same magic as the sound of a card plopping through the letterbox.
Of course you could make your own, but if you'd like to give to a good cause at the same time, you can choose a charity Christmas card.
You can buy these directly from the charity of your choice or they are available in stores throughout the country.
The difference is that the charity gets an average of 10% from the card bought in a shop but if you buy directly from them, they will receive a lot more.
The Irish Cancer Society cards sell for €6 for a pack of six and if purchased through their website or from their own shops they get 76% of that price after VAT, once production costs are taken into account.
At Oxfam, where they raised a total of €100,000 from Christmas cards last year, they say that "100% of the retail price of cards sold in Oxfam shops goes to our work". Their cards range from €3.50 for a pack of 20 small cards to €7 for a pack of eight luxury cards.
Likewise at the Irish Hospice Foundation they are selling their cards directly through their website or Facebook page, at €7.50 for six or €8 for 10 'fine art' cards, and say that when sold that way they receive 100% of the profits.
But how much will the charity receive from cards sold through other outlets?
According to a spokesperson from Easons: "The value of the donation given to the charity is decided on by the card manufacturers but it is generally in the region of 10% of the recommended retail price."
At Marks & Spencers, whose chosen charity is Focus Ireland this year, 20% goes to the charity when you buy the cards (20 for €3.50).
At Superquinn, who are supporting Barretstown, the cards cost €7.99 or two packs for €10 and they give €1 per pack sold to the charity.
So if you want to give most buy direct. Both Trocaire and Concern only sell their cards this way, so that all profits go to them.
Buying directly may seem like the obvious choice, but charities and shops do work very well together.
As Paul Dunphy of Oxfam says, it "allows us to reach a much wider audience for our cards and allows us to have dramatically larger print runs and consequently lower per-card costs -- providing more money for our overseas work".
The Irish Cancer Society agrees, with its spokesperson saying that "at no point is the Society disadvantaged by these sales as their extra volume brings a reduced unit printing cost" adding that this "brings in revenue that we wouldn't otherwise achieve".
In the case of the Irish Heart Foundation, they don't produce their cards at all, but still profit from sales and expect to collect between €20,000-€25,000 this Christmas from card sales.
So the charities, who are all experiencing a sharp decrease in revenue, will win whatever way you buy.
But if you care about them getting more of your money, check on the box first to see what percentage they get or buy direct.