FUNDRAISING: All Change Please

CASPAR VAN VARK

"The vast majority of our promotional costs were met by BP, so we just had some fulfilment costs such as sending out materials," he says.

All the countries which converted to the euro took part with BP in their country. By May, around EUR20 million had been collected, and the UK had collected £100,000. A lot of it was collected at BP stations, but people could also donate at British Red Cross branches, and there were 80 regional fundraisers who approached local communities at schools and companies.

Individuals with up to four mugs worth of coins were eligible for a pre-paid jiffy bag sent to them by the British Red Cross.

Collecting and sorting the money from all those countries was an extra challenge. The British Red Cross used Coin Co International, which brought all the money to the UK for processing.

"All the money was sent to them in West Sussex and they counted everything," says Vassallo. "The money is packaged and sent back to the national banks of each country, which credit Coin Co International, which in turn credits us. Banks can still change all this money for another five years or so."

According to Vassallo, the levels of donation have been fairly constant during the year, in spite of the fanfare surrounding the euro changeover in January.

"We were really geared up for January and had a big promotion then," he explains. "I was expecting a summer rush too as people found they still had some money lying around, but it's actually been quite steady all year. There was still a peak in January and February, though."

Even so, Vassallo does not plan to keep up a high-profile campaign. "Currency collection is still a tool that people are keen to use at the moment, but over time I expect it will trail off a bit. I'm going to stop actively promoting it after December."

The tie-up with BP was key to the campaign's success, and it also helped the British Red Cross form relationships with other companies.

Vassallo stresses the importance of having a major partner to function as a focal point for collections, and getting other large companies to join in gives the campaign access to donations from their workforces. In this case, the British Red Cross teamed up with Royal & Sun Alliance and KPMG.

An estimated £100 million in foreign currency is lying around in UK homes. Caspar van Vark looks at how charities can convert it to help their cause.

No holiday is complete without that last-minute dash through the duty-free shop and emptying your pockets of coins to buy a bottle of Malibu.

Even so, most people return home with a handful of change, and it probably ends up in a jam jar with a few buttons and a paperclip.

Estimates of how much foreign change is lying around in UK homes vary wildly, but £100 million is commonly quoted.

A survey published by ICM last year found that the average Londoner has £4.87 tucked away.

Many charities have caught on to this and for a good reason. The money is still usable and people don't know what to do with it because it's clutter but they feel they can't just throw it away. Handing it to a charity is the perfect solution.

Age Concern ran a collection last year as part of a "Winter Work" theme.

It raised £2 million and the charity is following it up with another campaign this year, but on a smaller scale. Ailsa Ogilvie, income generation director at Age Concern, attributes much of the success of the campaign to the introduction of the euro.

"We had a unique proposition in 2001 because of the change of currency in Europe," she says. "We're repeating the collection in a more limited way now because the opportunity is less than it was last year."

The euro has played a massive part in collections over the past year, with many charities taking the opportunity to collect money that was about to become redundant. The NSPCC ran a collection during the changeover period in December and January, raising a total of £1 million. But spokesperson Luisa Clarke says there is still plenty of change to be had.

"The euro (launch) was really a key time for charities to start these appeals, but I think there is still mileage in them," she says. "Not all the money lying around is going to be in currencies that have now changed into euros anyway."

The NSPCC collection, called Change for Kids, ran in conjunction with the Alliance & Leicester and The Sun. Stories ran in The Sun promoting the appeal, and the newspaper also included an envelope which it encouraged readers to fill with spare coins and hand in to a local branch of Alliance & Leicester. The Sunday Times also distributed the envelope.

"We had about 70 tonnes of money in 110 different currencies," says Clarke. "The total value of it all has only just been finalised."

Collecting that much money is great, but what are you supposed to do with it? Age Concern ran its collection through its major supporter Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBOS). There were collection boxes at the bank's branches and at 7,000 retail outlets. When the boxes were full, Securicor collected the money and took it to Travelex, which sorted and counted it.

Many charities use Travelex for that part of the process, which can take up to more than a year if there is a lot of money to be counted. The currencies are sorted then sent back to the national banks of each country. The banks then credit Travelex, which in turn credits the charity minus a commission. Age Concern is still receiving money from last year through staggered monthly payments.

"The conversion is still ongoing," says Ogilvie. "It looked afterwards like about 11 juggernauts of currency - it was a monster amount. It will take between 18 months and two years to convert, so we're still converting the proceeds of 2001 as we embark on 2002."

The costs involved in a foreign currency collection can be considerable, which is partly why it makes sense to do it on a large scale. The NSPCC pays Travelex 20 per cent to sort, change and repatriate the currencies.

It's a fairly hefty cut, so carrying out the collection in a concentrated burst can make it more worthwhile by avoiding the need to repeatedly collect small sums from lots of points. That's also where major partners come in.

"Having Alliance & Leicester branches collect money was essential," says Clarke. "We needed that focal point and the bank's branches were also publicised in The Sun to make it easier. The press backing really helped."

But not everyone does it in this way. Unicef, for example, has a collection partnership with British Airways. Passengers are all given little bags which they can hand in as they leave the aircraft, but it's an ongoing initiative which has collected £40 million to date.

"We've been with BA for nine years," says Fiona Hessleden, head of national fundraising at Unicef. "The money comes off the planes at the airports and is picked up in a secure vehicle to be processed by Travelex. What we raise is linked to BA's level of business but, in our case, the euro hasn't particularly affected what we collect because people still donate in euros too. We also get a lot of money from long-haul flights."

Some other charities do collections on a much smaller scale. Action for Blind People, for example, has run an appeal since April this year but the lower profile of the charity means it can't engage prominent partners quite as easily.

"Ours is an ongoing appeal but it's not big compared with other charities," says Katrina Stevenson, supporter development co-ordinator at Action for Blind People. "We have a 'ps' on letters and leaflets with my phone number for people to contact me, and depending on the weight of the money they want to give, they can send it to me or another company, Coin Co International, can collect it. We don't have a partner because we're not well known enough to attract a big one."

Opinion is divided as to whether foreign currency collection will tail off now the euro has been brought in. Although people have less reason to dispose of euros, some do so anyway just because they want to give.

But one of the main factors in favour of charities which still want to collect is that a huge proportion of the UK population isn't even aware of the euro. A poll by Eurobarometer published in April this year showed that more than half of Britons did not know that 12 national currencies had been replaced by the euro, and 48 per cent had no idea what the euro was worth. It means that many people still hoard old currencies and possibly don't realise that any euros they come back with can be used in other countries.

Kate Powell, an account manager at Age Concern, agrees that even now there is still plenty of old currency lying around. "Travelex estimates that it has converted only 10 to 15 per cent of the old money in the UK," she says. "Age Concern thinks there is still about £95 million lying around and Travelex says it has seen less than it expected."

Nevertheless, Age Concern has dropped its target for this year to just £200,000. The lessened impact of the euro is one reason, but another reason is that it is only working with HBOS this year, and not with all the 7,000 retail outlets it used last year. The £2 million it raised in 2001 was double its target.

DO'S AND DON'TS OF FOREIGN CURRENCY COLLECTION

DO

- Use a partner. A big company with lots of outlets is best, such as banks, supermarkets, petrol stations and chain stores.

- Contact local companies. Foreign currency collections are often popular with businesses because they're a cheap and easy way of giving.

- Think big. Converting and processing the money is expensive and time-consuming, so the costs can outweigh the gains if you only collect a bag of Albanian coppers.

- Go for a short, powerful campaign. Part of your costs will be storing the money, so it's better to get it all in quickly rather than letting it trickle in for a year.

- Link your collection to a particular theme. It's better than just asking people to give you their money because they are not using it anyway.

DON'T

- Expect to see the money for a while. It can take 18 months for a large collection to be counted, repatriated and credited back to you.

- Turn your nose up at obscure money. Just about anything can be exchanged, even if you don't get such a good rate for it.

- Think you've missed the boat. Yes, the euro has happened, but it is estimated that there is still about £95 million worth of foreign currencies hanging around our homes.

CASE STUDY BRITISH RED CROSS TEAMS WITH BP FOR EUROPEAN APPEAL

The British Red Cross's Coins that Care foreign currency collection was unusual because it took place all over Europe. In the UK, it ran from December 2001 to February 2002. The campaign was sponsored by BP, which hosted collections in its petrol stations.

BP paid for the promotional material, including sturdy flat-pack boxes to be used for collections in the petrol stations. Nick Vassallo, senior corporate partnerships executive at the British Red Cross, says that having its costs covered by the sponsor was a real bonus.

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