United Appeal Fundraising Tag

Date / Period
Toronto, Ontario
Object Type
Badges, Pins, Medals and Stamps
Canadian Red Cross
Fundraising and Communications

In the early 20th century, charitable organizations often sold paper tags to support their work. Donors typically pinned the tag to their clothing or hung it from a button, publicly signalling their contribution to the cause.  The tags shown here were used during a 1950 “united appeal” -- a form of coordinated multi-organization charitable fundraising that evolved into today’s United Way. 

The sale of tags was generally organized on a particular day, with the public informed in advance of the fundraising drive and its purpose. “Tag days” were especially common during the First World War and its aftermath, and the Canadian Red Cross organized many of these days in communities across the country. From the donor’s perspective, receiving and wearing a tag helped avoid the awkwardness of repeatedly being asked for donations.

By the 1920s, an-ever increasing number of charitable groups regularly appealed for donations, leaving many Canadians feeling beleaguered and/or confused. This led major cities to experiment with what became known as “federated fundraising” -- one concentrated mega-fundraising campaign to raise money for the support of many organizations all at once. The idea spread, and some local Red Cross branches participated in united appeals quite early on. 

"The call of those in need comes this winter to the people of the city and Province with scarcely less insistence than it did during the war."

A Toronto Globe editorial from 1920 reminded readers that although the First World War (1914-18) was over, “[t]he call of those in need comes this winter to the people of the city and Province with scarcely less insistence than it did during the war.” The editorial praised the Federation for Community Service, a new Toronto-area charitable organization that streamlined the fundraising work of its 48 member organizations -- one of which was the Toronto branch of the Canadian Red Cross.

As a nation-wide policy the Canadian Red Cross embraced federated fundraising in 1955-56, by which point the idea (which became the United Way) had proved its reliability and value to local communities. Since then, local branches of the Red Cross and the United Way have developed strong relationships across the country. 

Tag Days and the United Way are only two examples of how the Red Cross has modernized its approach to mobilizing Canadians’ humanitarian spirit over time. Fundraising strategies have evolved to reflect changing times, while new technologies have created new possibilities. One important recent innovation is donating via text message, which the Canadian Red Cross has offered concerned Canadians for roughly a decade.

United Appeal Fundraising Tag

Tag Day
Children participating in Canadian Red Cross tag day in Vancouver's Chinatown, 1949. Photo: Vancouver Public Library
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