One of the most successful ways of obtaining money during World War 2 was through the Penny-a-Week fund. The fund was set up through a joint venture between the British Red Cross and St Johns to raise vital funds.
The scheme worked by a voluntary contribution by wage earners of one penny per week, to be deducted from their pay. During the Second World War the average weekly wage was about £10. The funds was then supplemented by collecting cards and house-to-house collections.
Within six months of the scheme being introduced in November 1943, the fund was receiving £6,000 a week, contributed by about 1,400,00 employees in 15,000 firms. By July 1940 this had grown to £14,000 a week, and continued to rise throughout the war.
The following article from the Bromley & District Times, published 7 months after the scheme started, gives details of how the fund was being used to send parcels of food and comfort to prisoners of war in Germany and Italy.
What Penny-a-Week Does
By the end of June the Red Cross and St. John will have packed and dispatched nearly 2.5 million parcels of food and comforts to prison camps in Germany and Italy since the beginning of the year.
The magnitude of this effot for our men in enemy hands is indicated by the fact that the contents of the parcels weighed over 11,000 tons and took approximately 200,000 man-hours to pack. Packing is done voluntary labour.
Exclusive of packing and transport, the cost of the 2.5 million parcels, to which 12,000,000 members of the Red Cross Penny-a-Week Fund contributes each week, is in the region of £1,250,000.
This vast and complex service, which has been in existence for more than three years and without which prison camp life would be grim indeed, is made possible largely as the result of the income provided by regular contributors to the Rad Cross Penny-a-Week Fund throughout the country. This income is at present £80,000 a week.