IWITOT 2020: Action for Children’s Be a Secret Santa’

Exhibited by
Lara Joyce, National Campaigns Coordinator at the Irish Cancer Society
September 10, 2020
Medium of Communication
Target Audience
All donors
Type of Charity
Country of Origin
Date of first appearance

SOFII’s view

Another gem from I Wish I’d Thought of That 2020, the virtual edition. Lara Joyce celebrated a wonderful digital campaign from Action for Children which allowed donors to become a Secret Santa for vulnerable children. Working with a restricted budget, the charity created a superb online platform that was interactive, user-friendly and fun. We think the results show just why a focus on the donor experience is vital.


Action for Children’s vision is that every child and young person in the UK has a safe and happy childhood and the foundations they need to thrive. They do this by working closely with children and their families, from before they’re born until their twenties. 

Summary / objectives

In 2018 Action for Children launched the digital donor campaign ‘Secret Santa’. The idea behind this concept is pretty simple: donate money to support a child at Christmas. In 2019 Action for Children grew the campaign and some would say it ‘snowballed’ into something more.

This campaign had huge digital presence. From an interactive website, to social media, to a pop store with an AI (artifical intelligence) gift predicting machine. Christmas is known as a festive season, like most campaigns around Christmas, the aim of Secret Santa was to pull at heart strings to get the general public to choose them for their donations ... but they took a crafty approach. The children don’t know who it is that made sure they were fed, or that they felt loved, but the donor is making sure their Christmas is a little bit brighter. 

Special characteristics

As Action for Children had to work within a small budget for this campaign, keeping it digital was key to sticking to that budget.

  • Social media was a huge part of promoting the campaign along with the hashtag #IAmSanta.
  • Their donation page was even interactive – but fun and bright – playing on the words ‘Make Christmas that little bit brighter’. By increasing the donation amount on the page a brighter illustrated scene appeared in the background to encourage donors to give that little bit more. 
  • The website even had an elf name generator so donors could share their elf names.
  • Donors had the option to buy gifts like a hot meal, warm clothes or a safe place to sleep. They could even buy a gift on behalf of someone else, turning a friend or family member into a Secret Santa too!
  • All Secret Santas received a special Christmas card to say thank you.

In addition, a pop-up store was launched in London’s Covent Garden. In the store they had an elf AI that was a gift predicting machine so donors could give the gift that also meant the most to them. This made it an even more interactive experience.

For instance, if seeing a child opening a present makes you smile the most, you will be recommended to buy a present for a child that would otherwise go without this Christmas. However, if your eyes light up at the sight of a delicious Christmas dinner, you may wish to buy a hot, nutritious meal for a child in need.

And crucially, the charity was able to get around 30 celebrities involved with the campaign, who posted all over social media and shared videos asking people to be Secret Santas.


£442,932 raised from over 19,000 Secret Santas.

Watch the video below to be wowed by Lara’s presentation.

Action for Children’s 2018 Christmas campaign allowed donors to be Secret Santas for a child in need.
They created a site where donors could see how the campaign was progressing and how much money had been raised.
The campaign made excellent use of social media.
Donors could even generate their own Secret Santa names and were thanked accordingly.
A pop-up store was launched in London to boost the campaign.