Have you ever wondered why your library collects donations of used stamps? Or maybe you’ve seen a charity’s name on a stamp attached to a mailed holiday card? This is very common across the world, which leaves many wondering how charities make money from stamps.
Charities make money from stamps by collecting donations of used stamps and selling them on to dealers. As well as this, many charities have historically released their own stamp designs, with profits of the sales going to their cause.
The amount of money to be made this way depends on many factors, and changes in the usage of traditional postage raise doubts over whether this is still a worthwhile fundraising option. Below, we discuss where the funds come from, and how stamps can be used to spread awareness for charities.
How Charities Raise Money From Stamp Donations
The collection of used postage stamps is a profitable and simple method of fundraising which many charities use each year, to raise all-important money to support their cause. From common, everyday definitives to rarer collectibles, both domestic and international, all stamps are usually donatable.
But, once the charities receive these generous donations from the public, how are they used to make money?
Post To Pennies
Once a charity accumulates a sizeable amount of donated postage stamps, they can sell them on to either dealers -who look to purchase these kinds of lots for various purposes which we will look at later – or directly to stamp collectors.
This is done by selling in bulk as a kiloware – a term for lot packages of stamps sold for a price based on weight, rather than by quantity.
How Much Money Can Be Made?
Across the world, millions of dollars have been made from the sales of stamps, by charities all across the world. As one of the biggest charities known for stamp collecting in the UK, the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB)raises between £10,000 and £20,000 per year by using this means of fundraising – an impressive amount by any means.
Not all charities are as forthcoming in publishing figures related to specific lines on fundraising income. However, it is safe to say that stamps do, in fact, have the potential to raise a modest sum for charities.
On average, a kiloware of stamps fetches between £5 and £15 in the UK, or around $7 to $20, depending on the assortment it contains, and the dealer.
Potential Drawbacks To Consider
However, it is difficult to quantify exactly how much money is to be made from this kind of fundraising, as there are many variables to consider.
For instance, different dealers will offer different prices and have varying regulations on what they accept and, of course, all stamps have different values to different collectors. Some may say that postmarks and stamp cancellations add value to a stamp, however this depends on what a collector is specifically looking for.
Another point to consider is that some dealers may value more modern stamps highly, since they would likely be in higher demand at the time. However, other collectors may prefer older, rarer stamps to add to their albums.
These differences in preference highlight why it is most efficient, cost-effective and easier for charities to opt to sell their donations as a kiloware,rather than sorting through the stamps and having each one valued individually.
Of course, the possibility of raising funds through stamp collecting is wholly dependent on having enough stamps donated to sell. In 1962, the BBC UK children’s television show Blue Peter hosted a stamp appeal to help the homeless, and more than 928 million stamps were sent in. This goal may be slightly less achievable today, but the figure offers encouragement that high targets can be reached!
Trash To Treasure?
One would be forgiven for assuming that a large assortment of duplicated, domestic definitive stamps may not attract a lot of interest among dealers. Yet, it is true that a bulk of these can actually fetch a worthwhile sum for charities.
Even if dealers are unable to sell common or lesser-quality stamps to philatelic collectors, a demand for them can still be found in other circles, such as manufacturing.
The arts and crafts business is also one which dealers may sell stamp donations on to, to be used for limitless creative possibilities. For instance, large canvas images can be created using lots of repurposed stamps arranged as pixels. Hundreds, if not thousands, of stamps would be needed to complete a project like this, and the final results are always impressive!
But Are Stamps The Best Way To Fundraise?
One significant drawback to this kind of fundraising is that the usage of stamps for postage has decreased over recent years, with many people opting for electronic means of correspondence over the traditional option of snail-mail. This, of course, is a factor which affects all areas of philatelic activity.
As a way to combat this and still ensure sufficient funds are raised, charities may supplement their stamp collection efforts by also requesting donations of other collectible items, such as foreign currency, postcards, or cigarette cards.These would be sold on to dealers in a similar way to stamps.
Although the rise of text messaging and email may mean that stamp collections take longer to build up, these efforts remain worthwhile for charities, and we hope to see this unique method of fundraising last.
How To Donate Your Used Stamps To Charity
It couldn’t be easier to send used stamps to charity, and make a worthwhile donation that will cost you virtually nothing!
First of all, pick out the charity you would like to support. There are lots to choose from, supporting great causes such as child welfare, medical research, hospice care, wildlife preservation, and more.
The next step is to prepare your stamps for donating. It is always worth checking with your chosen charity for any specific requirements they may have before you begin. For instance, some charities may require the stamps to already have been sorted by type, whilst others may not be able to accept certain stamps in their donations.
Preparing Stamp Donations
Most charities require any donated stamps to be trimmed,usually between 5mm to 10mm (but again, this is worth checking).A larger margin may add weight to a bulk collection of donations,so charities could run the risk of their lot being refused for sale by the dealer.
Because stamps are valued in bulk, some dealers may even be particularly attentive in looking for instances where both sides of an envelope may be left attached to the stamp, effectively doubling its weight. You may even find it can be surprisingly therapeutic to trim stamps from their envelopes, and it will save charity volunteers lots of precious time!
Sometimes, collectors may soak used stamps off their envelopes. Although this may make the stamps look more aesthetically pleasing in albums, it is absolutely not necessary to do this when making charity donations, as it may run the risk of damaging the stamp.
Once your stamps are trimmed and ready to go, package them up and send them off! Most charities will have a specific address to post stamp donations to, usually at a cost to the sender. However, some charities will send out prepaid envelopes for larger donations.
Many charities can offer downloadable posters or even stamp donation boxes to help display supporters’ collection efforts. If you work in a busy office or a public space such as a school or library, have a look online or reach out to charities directly for supplies available to you.
To help with collecting, why not host a stamp drive? A good idea would be to host this during the period from December to January, when people will likely have a good collection of stamps from their Christmas cards. Alternatively, try reaching out to local businesses who are likely to receive a lot of international mail, to increase variation amongst your collection.
Another suggestion for a stamp drive would be to host it during the summer vacation season, when supporters can collect stamps when visiting friends and family abroad, or even by sending postcards back home from their travels.
Donations Of Collections Or Albums
Occasionally, charities may receive very generous donations of completed stamp albums or collections from philatelists, or from their families as alegacy donation. Rather than disassembling the albums and packaging the stamps up as a kiloware, it is more likely for charities to opt to sell this kind of collection as a whole.
As well as having physical charity shops, a lot of charities may also have online stores to resell retail donations. Many charities also utilize online marketplace sites such as eBay, which would help bring in the best profits for valuable collectables such as stamp albums, as they would be searchable by collectors directly.
How Charities Make Money From Charity Stamps And Labels
It isn’t just the reselling of used stamps which helps raise vital funds for charities. Often, bespoke stamps are created either by charities or with causes in mind,with a portion of all sales going straight to the cause. You may have seen charity stamps or charity labels adorning mail around holiday seasons, but are they also an effective and profitable means of fundraising for charities?
A charity stamp is similar to a traditional postage stamp, yet sold to raise money for a particular cause. Usually issued by a country’s government as a ‘regular’ stamp would be and fully valid for postal purposes, these stamps are sold at a premium over their usual value, with the extra profits going directly to the featured charity.
Sometimes referred to as semi-postal stamps, charity stamps are often identified by showing the postal value alongside the premium denomination, usually with the latter separated by a plus sign.
A charity label, similar to a charity stamp, is another philatelic method of fundraising. These are cleverly designed by charities themselves to resemble government-issued postage stamps, and then sold with all profits going straight to their cause.
It is important to note that – unlike charity stamps – these kinds of ‘stamps’ are not actually valid for postal purposes, making them a type of Cinderella Stamp. Whether this makes them less attractive to customers over charity stamps, which do hold postal validity, is arguable.
With that being said, they are popular to use on posted mail, accompanied by a legitimate paid postage mark, to raise awareness and make the sender’s support of the charity known. Both charity labels and charity stamps have been used since the early 1900s, to raise funds for worthwhile causes including disaster relief, child welfare, and more.
Stamp Out Tuberculosis
In the early 1900s, a Danish postal clerk created what could be seen as the first-ever charity label, aiming to raise funds to fight tuberculosis. Following approval from Christian IX, the then king of Denmark, other countries in Europe quickly followed suit of this clever idea, following on with the US and other countries throughout the Americas.
Thus, the popularity of the charity label was cemented, and varieties can still be seen today. From funds raised from the sales of simple charity labels added to postage, the fight against tuberculosis strengthened. Many medical researchers and doctors even associate the increased awareness of the disease back to this ongoing stamp appeal.
Over the years, charity labels have raised money and awareness for many different charitable causes, not all limited to tuberculosis. Known for being ‘the season of goodwill’, the Christmas period is a common time for such stamps to make an appearance, used to adorn holiday greetings card envelopes all across the world.
Simple Yet Effective Fundraising And Awareness
Through both the sales of charity stamps and labels, and from resales of donated stamp collections, charities of all different kinds are able to raise worthwhile funds for their causes. And it’s easy to see why so many are turning to philately for fundraising, as the appeal is so high.
For members of the public, collecting and posting used stamps for donations couldn’t be easier.Plus, other than perhaps the small price of posting their donations, it is a way ofhelping a charity they’re passionate about at no cost to them, meaning everyone can get involved.
Despite the design and sales of both charity stamps and labels falling in recent years, there is an undeniable demand which guarantees an interest in this kind of fundraising too. Not only do charity releases appeal to stamp collectors, but supporters of the charities are more likely to be drawn to the stamps as a fun, collectable means of donating.
Stamps and labels can also hold significant historical value which can help document and raise awareness of charities’ histories. For instance, releases by the Red Cross charity in many different countries throughout the 1900s recognizes the longstanding international movement still relevant today. Similarly, charity stamps for war relief may be displayed in museums for educational purposes.
Other Ways To Raise Awareness With Stamps
It is not just through financial support that stamps can help charities. Other organizations have been known to channel the popularity and accessibility of philately to help raise all-important awareness for their cause. Let’s take a look at three examples below.
American Philatelic Society
The American Philatelic Society, first established in 1886, is another association whose volunteers sort through and process donations of stamp collections to use for worthwhile causes.
The APS accepts kindly donated albums or loose stamps of good condition, and whichever may not be used within the society will be passed on to children’s groups such as scout clubs to help them kick-start a hobby in collecting.
By preserving their historical record of stamps, alongside encouraging community interest through workshops and presentations, the APS is able to ensure a passion for philately is preserved and passed down through generations.
Postal History Foundation
Similar to the APS, the Postal History Foundation also uses philatelic donations for history and reference purposes. Founded in 1960 and based in Arizona, the foundation holds an expansive library of philatelic and postal reference materials.
Any stamps donated to the organization may be used for historical preservation, sold to raise all-important funds for operating costs, or even used in their Stamp Discovery education program, which aims to promote the hobby of philately among new generations.
Royal Mail Children’s Stamp Design Competition
In 2021, Royal Mail launched a UK-wide competition for 4–14-year-olds to raise awareness of and honor the keyworkers and frontline heroes of the Coronavirus pandemic. The competition asked the entrants to design a stampin tribute to their heroes throughout the pandemic, such as medical staff, teachers, essential retail workers and more.
The winning designs from this competition will be released in a special set in 2022, recognizing and applauding the hard work of the nation throughout the pandemic.
It’s clear that philatelic fundraising can offer charities a valuable and worthwhile stream of income. Whether it be through accepting donations of stamps from all over the world and reselling them on, or profiting from the sales of specialty charity stamps themselves, there are plenty of ways money can be made.