1st official street collections for charity
Today we are used to collection tins being waved at us by charity fundraisers, but in 1891 the idea was revolutionary. Charity was something done quietly, perhaps a penny or two dropped in the church poor box by those of limited means, or bequests and larger donations made directly by the wealthy. Manchester businessman and occasional Lytham resident Sir Charles Macara was the genius behind the street event – held to raise money for the widows and orphans of the 27 RNLI men killed in December 1886 when both the Southport and St Annes lifeboats were lost during a rescue mission.
Macara did things in style. Two lifeboats were dragged on their trailers through the city’s streets by muscular men, the sight intended to draw the maximum crowds on that Saturday. Carriages of the rich and famous preceded them, emphasising the bona fides of the collectors who accompanied the parade. These collectors carried buckets to receive cash donations, mainly made in coppers; there were even buckets on long poles to reach the windows of offices and the upper decks of trams and omnibuses.
About £500 was raised by that first Lifeboat Day, with roughly 10 times that sum added by citizens pledging larger amounts. It was a huge success; a success noted by the RNLI and other charitable organisations who went on to develop the twin ideas of street collections and what became ‘flag days’. Until Macara’s brainwave approximately two thirds of the RNLI funding was said to have come from 100 wealthy individuals. After it tens of thousands contributed, and today millions.
Links: http://www.rnli.org.uk/ RNLI site
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