Share

Is it time to say goodye to the virtual goat?

Is it time to say goodye to the virtual goat?
News

Is it time to say goodye to the virtual goat?

Fundraising | Gemma Ware | 1 Jan 2007

It's been a bad Christmas for the virtual gift. In a torrent of negative press, spurred on by a series of provocative press releases originating from within the ethical gift market itself, virtual gifts have been attacked as misleading to the public and even environmentally destructive. Can charities recover from the bruising or has the virtual gift bubble burst?

Despite the recent negative news coverage, Oxfam, one of the biggest players in the market, insists it hasn't seen a knock-on effect of sales from its virtual gift catalogue, Oxfam Unwrapped. "We are still pleased with the results," said Rachel Brown, the catalogue's manager, who said the charity had already sold 340,000 gifts by mid-December and was just as successful as in the same period last year. "We think the debate may have confused customers but it hasn't put them off."

Other charities offering virtual animals say it is too early to tell what the impact will be. "We won't know really until the end of January," said Michael Newsome, director of fundraising at FARM-Africa, whose FARM Friends range offers shoppers bees and camels as well as goats. The charity reacted strongly to accusations in the media made by Animal Aid and the World Land Trust that sending animals to some parts of Africa caused deforestation and placed an economic burden on the animal's recipients.

"We're very disappointed that two very small issues-based organisations have been able to get so much coverage and jeopardise vital income to some hugely respected and very responsible aid organisations," said Newsome.

However, James Briggs, planning director at creative agency Bluefrog said many in the sector were expecting the backlash and he didn't think virtual gifts were in danger of collapsing. "The coverage has harmed things a bit, but I don't think it's going to be the end of virtual gifts," he said. "It'll just become more competitive which will probably mean some charities will withdraw from the market because it becomes less profitable the higher they have to compete."

The market has become noticeably crowded, with a whole gamut of gifts and experiences on offer in the lead up to Christmas. One new player, CLICSargent, which launched The Smile Shop offering the chance to buy gifts such as sleepovers for child cancer sufferers for £28, said it was happy with the way things were going so far. "CLICSargent feels this is a great way for us to engage with our donors and supporters while doing something innovative and creative," said Matthew Hunt, the charity's head of marketing.

Bluefrog's Briggs said it was inevitable that even more charities would start designing their own gift ranges out of fear of losing potential money from their existing donor-base. "Essentially it's income that they're giving away if they don't give their donors an opportunity to buy their gifts from them," he said.

But if the backlash continues, perhaps animals could be superceded by the more practical end of the gift range. Although Oxfam Unwrapped still offer the chance to buy a goat for £24, it has increased the range of gifts on offer and this year featured a £20 alpaca package, that included shears, shelter food and fences, as one of its "most wanted" gifts rather than a goat.

"We have always featured gifts other than animals in our catalogue, but sales figures are now reflecting that these other items, such as school desks, tree planting, water and toilets are becoming more popular with the UK public. We believe that this will continue to grow in the future," said Oxfam's Brown.

So although virtual gifts may have had a little bit of a wobble, it looks like they'll still be around next Christmas. 

Comments

[Cancel] | Reply to:

Close »

Community Standards

The civilsociety.co.uk community and comments board is intended as a platform for informed and civilised debate.

We hope to encourage a broad range of views, however, there are standards that we expect commentators to uphold. We reserve the right to delete or amend any comments that do not adhere to these standards.

We welcome:

  • Robust but respectful debate
  • Strongly held opinions
  • Intelligent relevant discussion
  • The sharing of relevant experiences
  • New participants

We will not publish:

  • Rude, threatening, offensive, obscene or abusive language, or links to such material
  • Links to commercial organisations or spam postings. The comments board is not an advertising platform
  • The posting of contact details for yourself or others
  • Comments intended for malicious purpose or mindless abuse
  • Comments purporting to be from another person or organisation under false pretences
  • Gratuitous criticism, commentary or self-promotion
  • Any material which breaches copyright or privacy laws, or could be considered libellous
  • The use of the comments board for the pursuit or extension of personal disputes

Be aware:

  • Views expressed on the comments board are left at users’ discretion and are in no way views held or supported by Civil Society Media
  • Comments left by others may not be accurate, do not rely on them as fact
  • You may be misunderstood - sarcasm and humour can easily be taken out of context, try to be clear

Please:

  • Enjoy the opportunity to express your opinion and respect the right of others to express theirs
  • Confine your remarks to issues rather than personalities

Together we can keep our community a polite, respectful and intelligent platform for discussion.

Free eNews

Wellcome Trust's investment portfolio reaches £18bn

19 Dec 2014

The Wellcome Trust has posted a 15.4 per cent return on its investment portfolio, earning £2.5bn for...

HMRC tax statistics suggest large rise in charitable giving

19 Dec 2014

Tax relief on giving is expected to rise by 11 per cent in the year to March 2015, suggesting a large...

Andrew O’Brien moves from NCVO to head CFG’s policy team

19 Dec 2014

Andrew O’Brien is to join the Charity Finance Group as head of policy and public affairs.

PDSA plans to change objects to offer paid for services

19 Dec 2014

The Charity Commission has sided with the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals on a decision that would...

Charity Commission exercises inquiry powers four times as often as previous year, report shows

19 Dec 2014

The Charity Commission investigated almost 2,000 charities in the year to March 2014 and used statutory...

DWP promises measures to improve charities’ experience of the Work Programme

18 Dec 2014

The Department for Work and Pensions has agreed to introduce measures expected to improve the Work Programme...

CRUK crowdfunding effort flops

15 Dec 2014

Cancer Research UK’s three new crowdfunding campaigns did not manage to raise even 10 per cent of the...

Volunteering platform Do-it relaunches

12 Dec 2014

Online volunteering platform Do-it has been relaunched today by its new owner, the Do-it Trust, with more...

‘The challenge is getting people to use IT systems’

28 Nov 2014

Whatever type of customer-relationship management system charities use, the biggest challenge is convincing...

Join the discussion

Twitter button

@CSFundraising