These days, you can give money to charity while drawing out cash or just by sending a text. But things were a bit different 100 years ago, when people were starting to dig deep – in some interesting ways.  

Red Cross Week starts on Sunday – so it’s the time of year when people wear silly red wigs and eat an awful lot of cake to raise us life-saving money.

It all goes to help people in crisis: whether that’s someone homeless in Nepal or a person in Penrith who desperately needs a wheelchair.

If you’re still wondering how to join in with Red Cross Week, you could look to the past for inspiration. Check out these inventive ways people raised money 100 years ago, during the First World War – and then see what you can get up to today.


Sing the anthem to the king

Dame Clara Butt was a legend in her lifetime: the superstar singer of the Victorian era, who packed out halls all over the world. But she was also a champion British Red Cross fundraiser. In a fundraising concert, 100 years ago this month, she sang the solo in the national anthem to the king and queen. The gig raised £8,000 (around £824,000 in today’s money). In fact, Clara was later made a dame for raising so much cash for the Red Cross during the First World War.


Warble Rihanna to your workmates

You don’t have to rock out to royalty. There are loads of ways to raise funds by singing your heart out: whether it’s a competition like Stars In Their Eyes or The Voice, or just karaoke in your living room. You could even set something up at your workplace. Will people pay money to hear the boss belt out a power ballad – or give anything they can to stop such horrors ever happening? It’s time to find out.

Kangaroo figurines - quick, before they all sell out © Pictureoftheday

Kangaroo figurines – quick, before they all sell out © Pictureoftheday

Anyone need a leather kangaroo?

We opened up our first charity shop in 1914, in London. Later, market stalls popped up all over the country to raise money for the Red Cross – and they sold all manner of curiosities, from pigs to silk flags. Many markets included peculiar items from other parts of the Empire: tinted maple leaves from Canada, leather kangaroos from Australia and kiwi badges from New Zealand.


Guilt-free shopping on eBay

Nowadays we have more than 300 charity shops around the country, selling (and accepting) a range of clothes and other goods. But during Red Cross Week (3-9 May), you won’t even need to leave your armchair. For one week only, you can donate money straight to the Red Cross at the eBay checkout – so you can feel even better about that spontaneous winning bid on a onesie.


Fun new game: how to stay upright in a hanging basket

Take a look at this old video from the Irish Red Cross. We have no idea what they’re doing – other than it being a fundraising fete. Judging by all the smiling faces, this game of balance was the most entertaining thing seen in quite some time. Hopefully, the final tumble is just some Oscar-worthy theatrics – but see what you think.


Drink Pimm’s on the terrace

How about doing something much more civilised, such as inviting your friends over for some alfresco fun? It doesn’t matter if you have a balcony or tiny backyard – we think everyone should be proud of their garden. You could ask for donations at the door, charge per cocktail, or even set up a plant sale. It doesn’t have to be next week, either – you can send in your dosh throughout the year. And let’s face it: the weather might be better by then.