NPO Charity Santa
NPO Charity Santa, one of the organizations selected by FIT For Charity in 2016, has two key areas of focus; “Santa activities” taking place during Christmas season, and “Charity activities” that are made possible with donations received during Christmas season. Since 2008, more than 10,000 volunteers have participated by dressing up as Santa to reach out to more than 20,000 children with a common goal of delivering presents and unique memories. NPO Charity Santa overcame various obstacles in its path to growth, and became a registered Non-Profit Organization in 2014. In 2016, 1,686 volunteer Santas visited 4,505 children on Christmas Day.
One year from FIT 2016, our volunteer staff asked Representative Director, Mr. Natsuki Kiyosuke, to share with us the stories of his struggles and drive that shaped NPO Charity Santa and what his goals are going forward.
NPO Charity Santa Representative Director, Mr. Natsuki Kiyosuke
FIT: Thank you for braving the heavy rain to meet with us today. Please briefly tell us about yourself and what led you to start the Charity Santa activities.
Kiyosuke: Thank you for inviting me today. My name is Natsuki Kiyosuke. I am 33 years old, was born in Fukuoka, and the oldest of 4 siblings. Growing up, I used to think about becoming an architect, but decided to set up my own IT business at the age of 23. During the time I worked on my own, I gave a lot of thought about what I wanted to do with my life. In fact, since I was much younger, I have always wanted to accomplish at least one thing every year that no one else has done before. First, I would think of a few ideas, look them up on the internet, and if I did not come across any results, I would set one as my next challenge. One of the challenges was charity work related to Santa Claus. While there were many charity activities during the Christmas season, I discovered that no one was doing charity work of becoming a Santa and visiting homes.
Kiyosuke: When I turned 25, I thought about what kind of person I want to be when I turned 30. I sought advice from an acquaintance about how to spend the latter half of my 20’s. I came to the conclusion that I would be happiest by focusing on the Charity Santa activities. However, I felt that I lacked the experience to make the project successful and decided to stay in the IT business for 3 more years to gain more insight and experience before taking on Charity Santa full-time.
FIT: Why did you feel strongly about helping others? Could you please tell us about what motivated you?
Kiyosuke: My mother’s personality had a strong influence on me. She was a rather “nosy” person, but always told my brothers and me how much help we received from those around us. Growing up, I subconsciously learned to look around me to spot those in need of help. When I was still a student, I took a hitch-hiking trip away from home. Strangers offered me rides in their cars and beds in their homes and from that experience, I realised that there are many kind people all around us. Even today, many of my relatives often speak about how much I have changed from a shy introverted boy.
FIT: Is there anything you learned from interacting with children through Charity Santa?
Kiyosuke: The first thing I noticed at Charity Santa was that about 90% of the applicants for our Santa delivery services were mothers. Many of their email addresses had the names of their own children. Seeing so many email addresses like that made me realize how much they love and care for their children.
Kiyosuke: When I first started Charity Santa, I focused on providing back-office support and coordination of volunteers, so I was not able to interact directly with the children. However, every volunteer that came back from their rounds showed great excitement and shared every bit of their stories about how happy the children were when they saw the Santas approaching. Their stories filled me up with a kind of happiness I had never felt before.
FIT: When you first decided to quit your work in IT and start your own charity organisation, did anyone close to you try to convince you otherwise, or worry about you?
Kiyosuke: No one tried to stop me, but many people were worried about me. Many asked, “Are you going to be okay? Are you sure you can live like that?” In the beginning nothing quite went according to plan. I stumbled across many blocks, and had to back-track, re-organize, and re-plan often. Looking back, I feel that Charity Santa is where it is now through the constant effort.
FIT: At what age do you think kids stop believing in Santa?
Kiyosuke: From the data we gathered through our activities, I would say the average age is around ten years old. That would be around fourth or fifth year of elementary school, when they most often hear the truth from their friends.
FIT: We understand you collect data regarding your activities, and do a lot of market research. Please tell us about the main reason why you collect data, and what you were able to learn from that.
Kiyosuke: In 2015 when I took a training course, I was told to learn more about and understand who my clients are before expanding our reach beyond ten thousand, fifty thousand, and hundred thousand kids. That was when we decided to research more about the children and the homes we were delivering presents to by asking our clients to fill out various surveys. To our surprise, what we found was that the average income level of the homes we visited was significantly higher than the national average income level of homes. Up until then, we only had a vague idea that many of the homes we visited were affluent families. What we did not know until we passed out the surveys was the exact percentage of high income families in our clientele.
Kiyosuke: Furthermore, we decided to survey the below average income families. Among them, some could not afford to buy a present for their children, or be able to spend time with them due to work. During a season that is meant to bring happiness, their financial situations had brought even more stress. Upon our discovery, we decided to set up a “Rudolph Fund” to help the families with below average income level. Without past records and data from our activities, we would be lost as to where to take the group next. By collecting and analysing data, I believe it enables us to set a path and move forward with confidence.
FIT: Please tell us about your recent worries.
Kiyosuke: I am struggling with matching the number of Santa volunteers needed with the number of Charity Santa serviced required. In addition, I am also wondering about how to lead the NPO to steady growth. Thanks to all the surveys done so far, I have a greater understanding of the people who call for Santa. Going forward, I will need to research more about our volunteers who apply to become Santas on Christmas in order to build better teamwork.
FIT: Thank you for sharing your story with us.
NPO Charity Santa is now accepting applications for Santa delivery and / or volunteers. Please visit their website for more information. (https://charity-santa.org/)