Christmas Tree Collection launches

Organisers of one of the most successful fundraising campaigns in the country, the East Cheshire Hospice Christmas Tree Collection, are planning to move on from the old and bring in the new.   

Today (Wednesday) sees the launch of their 18th campaign and the registration site for the collection of trees will feature online payments, brand new IT back-up support and a 21st century professional route-mapping system.

With more than 7,000 people registering for the tree collection last year, the team behind the mammoth collection are planning to ensure that new technologies support and help to grow the phenomenally successful scheme which last year was awarded the prestigious Queen's Award for Voluntary Service.

Collecting the 80 tonnes of trees now requires a crew of 300 volunteers and more than 40 vehicles to cover the 200 square miles of the county over a two-day collection period in January. And the organising team behind the epic assignment have spent months ensuring that the operation will cope with increased demand and run as smoothly as ever.

Whilst the registration procedure for donations remains exactly the same, the backend support for the website will now be handled by the Hospice IT and fundraising teams ensuring a secure and easy process.

Over the last 16 years, donations have been pinned to the trees upon collection meaning that monies collected need to be taken by hand to the bank. Whilst this donation route will still exist, it is believed that the bulk of the donations this year will now be transferred virtually online.

Richard Raymond of the organising committee says running the annual event is akin to running a small business.

“And like any business, we’ve got to move with the times and acknowledge that more and more people are at ease with giving online,” he says. “Though we’ll still be very happy to collect money on the collection days as well in the old, time-honoured fashion.”

The new system will also allow donations to be given by those who don’t have a tree to be collected helping the organisers get closer to their £1million fundraising target.

To date, the collection has raised almost £800,000 since its inception in 2001 and, if money raised matches last year’s £114,000 total, 2019 could be a golden year.

“We are all hoping that the new plans in place this year will ensure that we reach the £1million mark next year, which would be incredible,” says Richard. “Our new standardised systems will ensure that other people can pick up the reins in the future and have good guidelines about how to operate a successful scheme”

And Richard’s own family are all on board to ensure that word about the fundraising operation spreads far and wide with his 24-year-old daughter Eleanor helping out with a social media campaign.

Also relying on the family support of his four sons will be co-organiser, Pete Chapman, who remembers scribbling down the names of the very first Christmas tree donators in his Wallace & Gromit notebook all those years ago.

“I’d been given it for Christmas, and when we decided to use the family trailer to collect a few trees, I used the notepad to make notes of the names of those who wanted their trees to be collected,” says Pete.  “It was all pretty amateur at first but we’ve come a long way since then.”

Pete, an IT consultant, is particularly excited at the involvement of a professional logistics company who are helping to map out the routes around the 2,100 roads where collections take place. 121 Systems from Nottingham will help to ensure the most cost-effective and efficient routes are used on the collection dates of Saturday and Sunday, January 13 and 14 2018.

The collections will cover the post codes of CW12, SK9, SK10, SK11, SK12 or WA16 – the areas of Macclesfield, Wilmslow, Alderley Edge, Bollington, Prestbury, Poynton, Congleton and Knutsford.

“ We are very proud of the fact that we’ve got one of the best fundraising teams in the country working with us every year to help raise much needed funds for the Hospice,” says Lisa Ball, Hospice Community Fundraiser. “The volunteers and the whole team are amazing, generously giving up over 2,000 man and woman hours over the collection weekend.

“All the money raised goes directly to the Hospice to help care for local adults with life limiting illnesses.”