Belfast's Black Santa Sit-Out appeal goes online with PwC NI's help

  • Belfast’s Black Santa Sit-Out charity appeal is going online for the first time in its 44-year history, to encourage people to safely donate to the initiative virtually.

    Each December, thousands of visitors come to the steps of Belfast’s St Anne’s Cathedral and donate money to the Sit-Out fund, which almost 200 charities across Northern Ireland benefit from.

    This year due to Covid-19 restrictions, the campaign will instead be promoted across social media and the Sit-Out’s brand new website.

    The iconic vigil of the Black Santa on the steps will still go ahead though, with Dean Stephen Forde saying this is his favourite time of the year.

    “If people are in town, we will be holding our Sit-Out but if they prefer to stay home - they can still get involved by visiting our new website," he said.

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    “After everything we’ve been through, we’re all feeling the need to come together in whatever way we can. The Sit-Out has always been a wonderful way of doing this, and I’m delighted that this year we’re modernising it so that not only can we still be part of this together, but we can also ensure that those who depend on the donations from the fund will still be able to make a difference in the lives of so many others.”

    The digital campaign has been developed by PwC NI as part of its work in the community. A team of 40 volunteers built the website and supported the development of the communications and merchandise.

    The professional services firm brought in award-winning Belfast artist James Ashe and social enterprise charity the Orchardville Society to create limited edition merchandise.

    Woollen beanie hats can be ordered on the website, and there’ll also be giveaway competitions on the Cathedral’s social media platforms over the month of December. All profits from the sales go to the Sit-Out fund.

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    PwC NI’s Place & Purpose lead Lynne Rainey is one of the volunteers, working in the comms team to create content for the website.

    She said: “I grew up outside the city, but even as a child, I knew about Belfast’s Black Santa. You can’t help but be touched by the generosity of people - the desire, year after year, to give to people who are less fortunate. Sometimes it’s been astonishing like the year when the Sit-Out was extended to support the Asian Tsunami Appeal - when people here raised £1.6million in just a few weeks.

    “After the year we’ve had, people really need help and the charities, which do an incredible job, are relying on the fund more than ever before. It would be incredible if we can encourage people to get involved this year.

    “For the first time, Black Santa will have a website where people can go to donate safely or buy the beanie, as well as learn about some of the charities that their money helps. The stories really highlight how much the Sit-Out fund is transforming people’s lives and it has been a real privilege to be a part of this campaign.”

    Some of the charities which receive funding are listed on the website, along with information about ways they have benefitted from the Black Santa Sit-Out.

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    If you would like to be part of this year’s event, buy a limited-edition beanie or donate securely online please visit here.

    About the author

    Niamh is a Sync NI writer with a previous background of working in FinTech and financial crime. She has a special interest in sports and emerging technologies. To connect with Niamh, feel free to send her an email or connect on Twitter.

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