I’ve been thinking a lot about Christmas giving lately. And I don’t mean the presents for my relatives.

For a fundraiser, November and December are fascinating. The sheer number and variety of Christmas appeals is simply fantastic. The news has been daily filled with charity announcements “Demand for service X increased by 50% in 2012”. And celebrity endorsements have abounded: from Dustin for Unicef to Jedward for ISPCC.

So what is the Red Cross equivalent of the goat? Well, with respect to my friends in Oxfam who would like to position Oxfam as more of an emergency response agency, Oxfam stands in my mind clearly in the campaigning and long-term development space.oxfam goat

It got me thinking. What figure or item best encapsulates what a charity is about at this time of year? When I worked in Oxfam, it was definitely the goat. Oxfam Unwrapped was a pioneering alternative git campaign that led with the personality of a goat very strongly. The goat neatly tied together a fun, alternative gift idea, with real live impactful goats in the developing world. I even led donor trips to visit some of these goats in Africa.

The Red Cross is a truly emergency response focused organisation. I can’t think of any other organisation that has its reach or global impact. And for the Red Cross, the Red Cross parcel encapsulates all this.

Red Cross Parcel

Red Cross Parcel

Red Cross parcels are perhaps best known as the parcels that were sent to prisoners of war – food, tobacco and personal hygiene items – during the two world wars of the last century.

The modern equivalent of Red Cross parcels may still contain food, and personal hygiene items, medical supplies and if you include plastic and metal ‘parcels’, vital bottled or tanked clean drinking water. While parcels might have historically been intended for PoWs, today they have a much wider application and are a life-saver for literally tens of thousands of ordinary civilians. When earthquakes, hurricanes, or floods strike, or when warring armies and militias drive people from their homes, the Red Cross offers safety and hope, the Red Cross parcel translates that into practical items.

From Spain to the Philippines, from Syria to Ireland, people will receive Red Cross parcels this winter.

Irish red cross parcels