Creating the digital presence for Secret Santa, a unique Christmas donation campaign

Action for Children's first Christmas led digital campaign





Action for Children

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Action for Children continue to drive forward new ways to make life better for vulnerable children as they have been for over 148 years. For the first time in their history the organisation wanted to build on the Christmas spirit and create a digitally-centric Christmas campaign.

Having already delivered a digital campaign for Action for Children’s largest fundraising event, Byte Night, we had a good understanding of their technical processes and a strong working relationship. We were therefore commissioned to create a digital platform that could deliver a unique Christmas experience for their ‘Secret Santa’ campaign.

Context and challenge

Action for Children wanted the focus shifted from the sometimes consumerist nature of Christmas and instead to communicate much larger issues around safety, love and care. The site also had to portray a sense of community that would build throughout the life of the campaign as the number of ‘Secret Santas’ grew, ensuring that the site achieved the primary aim of receiving as many donations as possible.We had to make sure that at every opportunity we could feed into the existing Action for Children databases of supporters information, allowing them to analyse user behaviour and build on the campaign in future years, all with a tight timeline of 12 weeks from concept to launch.

Project goals

As this project was a first for Action for Children the goals for the project were fairly broad, however the simple and primary aim was to achieve 25,000 Secret Santas.

Process and insight

Early wireframing and prototyping was vital to this project, with our vision and concepts shared early as possible this allowed us to clearly test and iterate through the user journey. The design approach was informed by Action for Children’s core brand and the campaign’s visual style resulting in a dark and frosty theme with twinkles of magic throughout.

Personalising the campaign and creating a sense of community

A sense of fun alongside the more serious message was key to the success of the campaign and so we included elements such as ‘your secret santa code name’ that reinforced the ‘secret’ element of the campaign as well as giving each user something personal to them. For future years this area can be expanded upon to include a wider number of activities. 

The brief also included finding a way to show the combined effect that individual donations were achieving to help people feel part of a larger effort. We created a solution for this by using a map that showed the location of the latest person to donate. We had to carefully consider the way that individuals were plotted on the map, ensuring that all could be seen even in the most built up of cities where the most donations would occur. Our solution was a festive glow that as more donations flow in, more lights are added to the map. This brought a sense of immediacy to the site, allowing users to see the live impact people were having. This map was also delivered as a shareable asset on a unique url so that people could use it across social, helping to gain earned media and grow the buzz throughout the life of the campaign. 

Data capture

In order to monitor movement and traffic through the site we implemented Google Tag Manager and Analytics. We chose to utilise the Action for Children homepage donation form to ensure that the new donator’s data fed directly into the charity’s existing database. ROI can be monitored alongside performance to help inform future projects.


There are many schools of thought around donation placement and locational choices that achieve the most conversions, however the data behind most recent tests by a wide variety of charities such as The Red Cross, Oxfam and Save the Children have proven that making it the first action that a user sees results in the most donations.After committing to donate we wanted to encourage users to give the most possible. We did this by rewarding the user for increasing their donation, providing an element of gamification. Each increasing level of donation provides a brighter illustrated scene designed to increase emotional investment by the user and encourage higher conversion. We tested all of our decisions throughout development, whether the mechanism should be a slider, a button etc, as well as to ensure that the differences between the illustrations were clear to offer the user enough of a reward for adjusting their donation.

The solution

The final design approach ensures that the focus is on children through the illustrations and case studies as well as using subtle mechanisms to constantly encourage users towards supporting the cause. The feeling of Christmas is captured throughout with the dark starlit theme and elements such as your Secret Santa name and unique Christmas messages left by users that have chosen to donate. The site displays the breadth of the campaign and gives a sense of community contribution that can be shared across wider marketing including social. So go ahead and donate and help a vulnerable child this Christmas.


  • Since launch, over £2m in revenue generated

  • 6,000 people donated to become a ‘Secret Santa’ in first season

  • The conversion rate was nearly 6% (with a target of 2%)

  • The average donation was £23 smashing the target of £10

  • Over 75% of the total campaign income was taken through this Studiomade-created website

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