Tis the season for more focus on giving

As we enter peak fundraising season, almost every major retailer is advertising some kind of charitable event or donation incentive to lure the good-spirited consumer. This year, retailers are trying harder than ever to fight the tight economy and do well by doing good.

As we enter peak fundraising season, almost every major retailer is advertising some kind of charitable event or donation incentive to lure the good-spirited consumer. This year, retailers are trying harder than ever to fight the tight economy and do well by doing good.

Canadian Tire is enticing consumers to buy its artificial Christmas trees with the knowledge that for each tree sold, $5 will be donated to the Canadian Tire Foundation for Families, which supports needy families. Although the foundation has been operating for many years, this is the first year that the fund-raising promotion has been the focus of a national TV spot.

‘In previous years we have mentioned the foundation during a spot for Christmas decorations, but never before has it been the heart of the spot as it is this year,’ says Eymbert Vaandering, VP of marketing at Canadian Tire. ‘This year, part of our strategy was to focus on community giving and we wanted to make that clearer in our advertising.’

Tim Hortons, which is well known for its support of good causes, is holding a food drive in Toronto, whereby customers are invited to donate non-perishable food items to the stores, to be distributed to those in need.

‘I don’t think there’s any question that giving positive contributions to the communities where we operate reaps very high returns for the company from a customer loyalty standpoint,’ says Patti Jameson, VP, corporate communications at the TDL Group, (operator of Tim Hortons).

Corus Entertainment has also increased its focus on giving this festive season with the launch of a promotion through two of its Toronto-based radio stations. Mojo Radio and Classic Rock Q107 are asking listeners to call toll-free hotline numbers to pledge donations to buy Mattel toys for terminally ill or underprivileged children. The promotions, Toys for Boys (which is a partnership with Big Brothers of Toronto) and Cares for Kids (organized in conjunction with the United Way of Greater Toronto), run from Nov. 19 to Dec. 16.

While Corus has a history of organizing cause-related promotions, this is the first year that a partnership with Mattel has been forged. Sherry Bent, promotions coordinator for the stations, says that callers are always very generous at Christmas time, but this year, on the back of Sept. 11, there has been a particular demand for an outlet to give something to the community. ‘This year has been over the top, for sure,’ she says.

‘We feel that our listeners appreciate the fact that we are not just entertaining and informing but we are also doing things for the community this Christmas as well.’

Shoppers Drug Mart and the Toronto Maple Leafs have also jumped on the charity bandwagon by continuing their annual calendar campaign. The 2001/2002 calendars are now being sold in Shoppers Drug Mart stores in Ontario, to raise money for various charities. The retailer has pledged to raise at least $50,000 through this year’s initiative.

And CP Rail’s annual Holiday Train will make its third journey from Montreal to Vancouver, collecting food for the Canadian Food Bank. The train decorated with 8,000 lights will make the 6,000-km journey from Dec. 7 – 21, stopping at more than 50 towns and cities. This year, two trains will also operate in the U.S, making a special stop at New York City to honor the victims and heroes of Sept. 11.

For the first time, CPR is promoting the train with radio and PSA spots in some of the markets to be visited by the train. Print ads will also run in local newspapers, as in previous years.

Yet, even in this time of heightened marketing focus on goodwill initiatives, the number of sponsors has declined this year, with Hudson’s Bay Company now being the only major Canadian sponsor. General Electric is sponsoring both the Canadian and U.S. trains. Canadian Tire, which has been a major sponsor in previous years, is involved this year only in providing the lights for the train, as the retailer is focusing its fundraising efforts on its own Foundation for Families.

‘This year, all the companies are trying to save their dollars for things that are most important for them,’ says Lori Crawford, marketing communications manager at CP Rail. ‘They are all concentrating on their own fundraising initiatives.’ She adds that many companies will be making one-off donations, however. Despite the decline in sponsorship, CPR will be putting on a bigger show with more lights than ever and has high hopes of toppings last year’s record of 11 tons of food collected.