I have a friend from High School (pictured in action on the left) who, although he’s only 39, makes an exceptional Santa. So much so that each Christmas he is paid to be a Santa for various stores and parties. This year he decided to go big time and make a road trip from Ct to Tupelo, MS to take a Santa Thanksgiving-to-Christmas gig at a giant mall.
Unfortunately, the trip has not been good. He’s gone through contract drama, he’s had items stolen from his car, and he’s endured crime scene-esque living quarters. He’s been posting his frustrations on Facebook for the past few weeks, since the trip began right before Thanksgiving.
Now this is a good guy, a really good guy. He’s a firefighter, a Mason, he’s involved in several charities, and even has plans to start a non-profit of his own. He still lives in the town where we grew up and is practically the unofficial mayor. Suffice it to say, friends of this guy were not too happy to hear about the treatment he’d been receiving.
So being the internet-y social media chick that I am, I decided to do a little something about this, albeit remotely. I started a Facebook community called Save This Santa and added a donation component on Wepay.com. I began imploring our former classmates and friends on Facebook to turn this into his “Best Christmas Ever” to help replace some of the items that were stolen, and generally restore his faith in humanity and his Christmas spirit.
Was he embarrassed? Yes. He felt extremely undeserving of this attention and outpouring of donations. I suggested he could always donate the overflow to charity, or put it towards some crazy Santa-related caper like showing up at a hospital with a bag full of new toys.
This process allowed me to really dig into creating and promoting a Facebook community as well as the chance to thoroughly explore Wepay.com, which is establishing itself as a competitor to Paypal. It allows you to accept donations, request payments and sell tickets. The fees are passed directly to the buyer, as opposed to the payee covering the fees as with Paypal, which is ideal for a donation.
Another cool element to Wepay.com is that it is a group based payment system, you can create groups and hit up those people directly for one-time or recurring payments. I can see a lot of personal scenarios where this could come in handy: splitting a vacation rental, collecting funds for a group gift, a school fundraiser, club dues or fees. It also ties seamlessly into Facebook and Twitter to make sharing painless.
So far, the Santa Experiment has been a big success. We’ve raised quite a bit of money, and definitely changed our Santa’s outlook this season. This may also help our Santa launch the non-profit that he has in the works. Gotta feel pretty good about that.
I have a writer friend in Chicago who became aware of Save This Santa via my Facebook updates. She decided to write up the story and pitch it to some newspapers and magazines. She also published it here.
Check out the facebook group here: Save This Santa