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Guest Scot Meyers

Wanting your advice

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Guest Scot Meyers

All

Last season I had many people offer up donations. Just because they really liked my christmas display. I turned them down.

This year I have been struggling to make repairs and complete some of the projects that I really want to add to my display. I have been bothered by the increase in costs of copper, wood, motors, lights and electrical costs. I believe many of you may be in the same boat.

What I am about to consider may spark some spirited and at some times heated debate. so please try to keep emotional outburst in check...

I am seriously considering(and struggling) with the idea of a DONATION BOX to try to off set these costs. Trust me, This is not an easy decision and i'm am not taking this lightly.

I want people in these hard times to enjoy the display. However, the costs to operate it are becoming increasingly more difficult. A donation box could help off set display operation costs and may alleviate some of the repair and build costs.

After much consideration I decided to get YOUR (my friends') advice. If your willing to give me honest heartfelt advice please reply to the thread. If your just gonna hit me over the head. I would rather you not reply..

Thanks

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I guess part of the decision has to be based on, does the amount of traffic you get actually going to be worth the effort/hassle of a donation box?

If you decide to proceed you could always do a 50/50 with a charity of your choice to reduce the negativity from anyone.

There was also a thread about adding an animation element to a donation box, so that by putting something in, it caused something to move or light up.

Good Luck on your decision.

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I'm not hitting you over the head, but personally I wouldn't do it. Seems a little tacky to invite others to donate to your lighting cause.

I like the idea of setting up the charity thing and splitting the donations with them.

but my best suggestion is to do neither and when someone offers a donation, accept it and give them a very heartfelt thank you and say you'll put it towards the electric bill. That way they'll know your sincere and get a little laugh out of it

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Guest Matilda

This does not directly answer your question... but perhaps can be a little something to put on the 'pro' side of your consideration of whether or not to put up the donations box...

Before I began displaying... for years I would drive around to neighborhood towns with my young handicapped son as he loved to see Christmas displays... at some point during these years, we decided to get a Christmas Card and put a few dollars in it and pick which house we liked the best each year and leave the card in their mailbox. We did not identify ourselves but to express our sincerest and heartfelt thanks for their display and what it meant for our child and told them we just wanted to give them a little something toward the electric bill in appreciation.

(Oh... and we live in a rural very blue-collar area... these homes and displays are modest... and I feel very comfortable that no one was ever insulted by our little display of gratitude.)

Sooo... the point I'm trying to make is simply that sometimes making a donation can make people feel good... spreads the good will... helps them feel 'connected' to something wonderful. Some of these people have made your display a holiday tradition for their families... and by being able to donate to your display... it helps satisfy the natural urge for reciprosity.

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I don't see why anyone should care if someone collected money to help off set some of the display cost.

It is up to people who visit the display to decide if they would like to help pay for the efforts they are viewing.

I do think that the "donation" box should clearly state what the donation is going for. (IE "Help pay for my display") So as not to lead people to think they are donating to a cause other than the display.

I also think that some people will/would feel obligated to donate if they were at the display and saw the donation box.

Me personally, I think I would just scale back the display or sell some things I do not need/use anymore to help with cost.

JMO

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I would never solicit donations that would benefit me personally

Your display should be something that you can do based on what you can afford. If you are seeking money to help fund it maybe you should scale back and then make a plan and build it slowly.

You said

[QUOTE=Scot Meyers;352785]I want people in these hard times to enjoy the display.

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I think soliciting donations for charity is ok but when it comes to paying for and adding to a display that should be your burden. If you can't afford to foot the bill it's time to scale back some.

If you get unsolicited donations then I would take them and say this will help with the electric bill...but I wouldn't ask for money to keep up the display.

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Along the lines of what Jen and Phillip said. I was raised to accept a token of appreciation (whether it me monatary, food, or otherwise) and say thank you because denying the token of appreciation could rob that person of a blessing because they want to show thier appreciation for your deed. That being said I would not feel right to collect for my display, but if offered I would accept it and say thank you.

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I don't believe in *asking* for donations for my operation of the display. I consider the display a gift to the community, and feel it's a little like handing a friend a wrapped gift, and saying "now could you defray some of the costs? Things have gotten more expensive, you know..."

That said, I have not turned down donations if people hand me them. We've had a number of display elements donated. Some I could use. Others I could not, so I sold them and rolled the money back into the display. Once I was given $100 in cash "for the electric bill". I told him we did it as a gift, but he insisted.

I think you should do the display within your own means. If you get to the point you can't afford to do it without donations, I think you should scale back. Just my own opinion, and I won't think less of you whatever you end up doing...

-Tim

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but my best suggestion is ...when someone offers a donation, accept it and give them a very heartfelt thank you and say you'll put it towards the electric bill.

I agree! If someone hands you a donation or puts it in a card or your mailbox - accept it with a thank you. People are grateful for all your effort and expense and want to say thanks with a little gift. (I had someone give me a box of chocolates once). I would only put a donation box in the yard if collecting just for a named charity.

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Scott,

You may want to look at it from another angle also. If you personally accept donations for your display and play Christmas music, the artists

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Scott,

You may want to look at it from another angle also. If you personally accept donations for your display and play Christmas music, the artists

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Guest Scot Meyers

all

very good points so far some I have not thought of. thanks for the advice keep it coming.

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In response to these:

Scott,

You may want to look at it from another angle also. If you personally accept donations for your display and play Christmas music, the artists’ may see that as making a profit at their expense. You could get in trouble with copyright troubles. I would be really careful.

Mira

Right on target. Plus some mucipalities may get involved if they find out as you are excepting money for your show. This could open a huge can of worms. If someone wants to give you something keep it on the downlow.

There is nothing illegal that violates any copyrights by playing a song and then taking a donation. If you charged admission (which you are not advocating) and then held a concert-style event where you played the music, you'd have an issue. It falls under that "private home use" part of any copyright statement. You have a right to play the music... have at it!

On to the question at hand: I have also thought long and hard about a donation box. I don't think there's anything wrong with it at all, for any reason (charity, collection point, pay the electric bll) as long as you are direct in what you are collecting for. Many people have mentioned a 50/50 split on donations, which you could do, but I think that may be a little misleading to some people (they'll think they're giving to the charity when in fact the charity is YOU, at least in part).

My suggestions (and they're just mine so take that for what it's worth):

  1. If you're giving to a charity, be specific into what the charity is. "Greater Colorado Soup Kitchen", "Scot Meyer's Defense Fund", "Free the Wumpus Fund"... whatever it is, say it up front.
  2. If it's for you and your costs, don't hide that with some 50/50 technicality. Just put out your donation box and label it simply "Donations Accepted". If anyone asks where the donations go, be honest, and tell them that while you do the display for yourself and the community, it is a costly endevour. If they grumble, turn off the lights until they go away (just kidding!).
  3. If you use voiceovers, have one for your charity.
  4. Empty it nightly.
  5. If you are really concerned about people being angry or annoyed, set yourself up as a non-profit organization. It's not hard, it's legal, and then no one can say anything about it. Believe me, there are a lot less deserving non-profits out there that get an awful lot of donation money than your display!
BTW- I am doing a donation box this year for my daughter's diabetes fundraiser (www.hayleysfight.com). It's a worthwhile cause, it's personal to my family, and I think that it's completely appropriate. At the end of the day, that's the real answer Scot: if YOU can sleep at night and have a clear conscience about collecting donations, then do what's best for you.

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(Pre Script: Sorry Paul R. I count you as a friend, but must disagree with you on this one.)

Here is my humble opinion (I wrote about this very topic last year).

http://cr.planetchristmas.com/showthread.php?t=24749

How dare you disagree with me.:mad::mad:

JK:giggle::P

From reading what you wrote at the link you posted looks like we do agree.:confused: I totally agree with the "feel obligated" part.

Guess I must have worded my post wrong here. Maybe it was the "I don't see why people should care" part.

Edited by roberson3

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Guest Matilda

I've thought about this matter for a couple of hours now... and I would like to add a 'con' to my earlier 'pro'...

There could be a side effect to this that you cannot anticipate...

I homeschooled my disabled son... and one year I was having a yard sale like anyone else does... and I intended to buy some new school supplies with any money made at that yard sale...

My mother... meaning well.. put up a little sign that said the yard sale was to buy school supplies for my disabled son. I don't know why she wanted to do that... perhaps she thought it would encourage sales... It didn't matter to me... it was just your everyday normal yard sale... everyday normal prices...

Nonetheless... apparently... (keep in mind I live in a small town)... there are some that still comment negatively on every improvement we do to our home... or if we get a new car... or yes.. especially that we put up a display... all stemming from some kind of 'perception' they got from that sign at the yard sale... Sort of a "Oh she had to beg for money for school supplies for her poor kid... but she can put up all those decorations...." One thing had nothing to do with the other... I was getting rid of stuff... no 'begging' involved... My mother mistakenly thought it would make people feel 'good' to know what they were helping a disabled child...

I don't understand the psychology behind this at all.... If I had the yard sale and just took the money and bought the supplies... that would have been the end of it... But because the sign was there... it changed the complexion of the whole event entirely... and there WILL be people who view this negatively... and you won't believe how petty they can be...

I just wanted to share this unfortunate side of this with you as well... by soliciting donations you will have some who will feel 'vested' in your life...

Sigh.... This is a tough one... Good luck with your decision making!

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(Pre Script: Sorry Paul R. I count you as a friend, but must disagree with you on this one.)

Here is my humble opinion (I wrote about this very topic last year).

http://cr.planetchristmas.com/showthread.php?t=24749

A good read (from both sides of the camp IMO) for any who may have missed it...

I fall in the camp of those who "feel obligated" if I see a box. Be it the Salvation Army bucket at Walmart, or the new "tip" jar they put out at Subway... I don't always get a feel-good by making a contribution, but I surely always feel like a heel if I don't.

So, my opinion is - I don't see ANY difference between collecting for charity and collecting "self" donations - but I couldn't bring myself to do either. I invited these people here by putting up my display for them to enjoy, I'm not going to hold out my hand to them (no matter what the cause) once they are here.

All that said, Scot - I would find it a bit more palatable selling Hot Chocolate with it known the proceeds are to benefit the display (or whatever cause you are collecting for). The psychology behind "buying" something would make someone like me feel better if I did or didn't want to contribute.

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Guest showtime

Scot have you thought about a sponsor? Maybe somebody you know? Maybe put a nice sign up thanking them. If it was me and i owned my own company it would be great advertisement and i would be supporting a good cause. It would read " so and so would like to thank so and so for all their great work and help for the 2009 Christmas display THANK YOU AGAIN!!!!, but make it big and lots of lights!!!!:) There is a way theres always a way!!!!

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Scot, I have been giving this plenty of thought. First of all, I myself would not ask for donations for my display, but......

One point is, if certain veiwers don't like it, they don't have to donate.

You are not telling people to pay for it.

One example in my town is the Webfooters ski team. They perform 2 nights a week during the summer with a really great ski show. They ask for donations, they sell food and beverages, and have a fundraiser every year to raise money. It ALL goes to them to pay for the boats, the gas for the boats, equipment and all other expenses. It is a free ski show and nobody is required to give money. They are not giving to charity. I feel this is kind of related to you. I can think of several reasons that the ski team should downsize the show due to high maintenence costs. Does anyone suggest it, no!

My point here is, if someone has a problem with it, don't donate and move on.

As far as getting in trouble with the whole music thing, I would not worry too much. For one, you won't be making a profit and you would most likely too small for anyone to say anything.

Another example, in Oshkosh, WI, the parks department puts up a drive through display every year. The only way to see it is pay $8 per car load. Some money goes to charity but some goes to pay for it. I have never heard one negative comment about paying for it either.

I guess it boils down to YOU feeling comfartable with asking for money. I say try it for one year and see how it goes. If there is too much negativity or you fell guilty, then don't do it again. And like I said before, if someone doesn't like it, they should mind their own business and they don't have to give you any money.

Shaun

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Guest Lightzilla

Well you can always do the T-Shirt thing.

Like others I would not ask for donations for your display, but like some others I would except donations if they gave it to me of their own free will.

Canada is a giving nation and people would be hurt if you refuse their donation, I know I have been there, people offered me help in other areas and when I refused they got upset and were robbed of a blessing.....they love to help.

God uses people to help out other people.

People are welling to pay $15.00 per car load of people to see 200 displays within a park with 2,000,000 lights here in Edmonton.

Your not going to make a profit if you only except donations from those who offer you a donation......and even if you do have money left over once your power bill is paid for then give the rest to your favorite charity......and keep a record of it.

You already paid for your music for your display and I cannot see why musicians would get upset, but if they do then you could show them documentation that you gave the rest of the donations to charity once the power bill was paid.......people gave you that gift from their heart.....just as you gave your display to the folks from the heart.

Now having said that, there is something else you need to do and that is to be content with what you have in your display now and do not worry about what you want to have but cannot have do to a lack of $$$$$$'s.

Be yourself and do only what you can with the resources you have on hand.......otherwise you will be more stressed out at Christmas time than the shoppers who wait until the last few days. Christmas ought to be a joyful time and not this commercial stress time the world pushes on us.

That is one of the main reasons I do my display to help those who may be stressed from shopping or some other forum of frustration.

Pray and ask your Heavily Father what He thinks.

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Have received cards in the past. Last season 2 people put money in the cards for me with the expressed intent for me to apply it to my electric bill.

I do this as a way to share my Christmas spirit with the neighborhood. They saw fit to put mney in the card for me to use to help with the electric bill. I did not take any offense to their "donation" but I did use the money for other things.

A few months ago I went to the addresses listed on the envelope of the cards and introduced myself to them. They were both glad to meet me and expressed their thanks for my putting on the display. I also thanked them for their donations but explained that I used that money a different way.

I explained that I had my kids go shopping for some toys and then we donated the toys to Toys For Tots (a United States Marine Corps sponsored annual program). This way I was instilling the "giving" and "sharing" that the season is all about to my kids.

They were pleased that I used the money in such a fashion. But to answer your question, If people "donate" unsolicited money to you for your display, you can feel free to use the funds any way you wish.

You share your spirit with the community by putting on the display. If some do reciprocate with funds, that is their way of saying Thank You.

Doug

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I have to say that there have been some very intelligent opinions on both sides of this issue. I personally do collect for a charity. I don't and would not accept personal donations, I ask them to donate it to our or another charity. Last year was the first time I had an animated display. I was pleased that hundreds and hundreds of people came and enjoyed the lights. I was pleased that we raised a lot of money for our charity which provides gift certificates for holiday meals for the needy. I was pleased about the whole thing. But to tell the truth, I do this because I enjoy it. I think it would be wrong of me to accept money for my display.

And as far as people feeling obligated to donate to charities if you have a collection box out , yes some people might, some people don't even a tiny bit, and some people are happy to do it.

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