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Frequently asked questions about the RSA Poppy Appeal

What is the RSA Poppy Appeal?

The RSA Poppy Appeal has been a New Zealand institution since 1922, it is New Zealand’s longest-running charity street appeal. This year the appeal is being held on Friday 16 April, the week before Anzac Day.

The Poppy Appeal is the RSA’s major fund-raising drive. The RSA uses funds raised through the Poppy Appeal to support current and former servicemen and women of all ages and all service backgrounds. RSA support is available to people who have served operationally in places like Vietnam, Bosnia, East Timor and Afghanistan – as well as the personnel who haven’t deployed overseas.

The RSAs bottom line is that if you have served your country in the military, you are eligible for support. Those we support don’t need to be members of the RSA.

The support can take many forms, whether it is assistance with payment for items like hearing aids, essential home repairs or anything in between, in many cases, The RSA is the only organisation that can, and will provide the assistance required.

In 2020 the street appeal was cancelled due to the nationwide Covid lockdown and The RSA was given two million dollars by the government to address the veteran need. Requests for support from veterans across New Zealand were collated and assessed before funds were allocated.

Traditionally funds were raised locally and used locally. All donations are distributed by RSA’s to people in their local areas, but in 2020, the emergency grants were allocated to veterans across New Zealand from RSA National Office in Wellington.


Is there a theme for the 2021 appeal?

In 2021, our appeal is themed “Service and Sacrifice” acknowledging women and the military, both women who serve and who provide support for those serving. New Zealand troops have departed our shores for overseas service since the Boer war in 1900. Mothers, wives, daughters, girlfriends and others left behind have endured a hellish wait for the safe return of their loved ones. From the first World War on, women have also served in an increasingly diverse array of roles.

The theme in 2021 acknowledges both international deployments and domestic service by women both in and out of uniform. The poster images promoting the appeal show New Zealand Army Nurses deploying in World War One, Members of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force working on aeroplane maintenance in World War Two and Royal New Zealand Navy Lieutenant Commander Pip Gibbons in Timor Leste on peace support operations with the United Nations in 2009.


How is the Poppy Appeal money managed?

Every cent collected during the Poppy Appeal goes into the Poppy Funds of Local RSAs where the money is raised, or into central welfare funds if donations are made online. These funds are restricted for use in helping New Zealand’s current and former service personnel, and their immediate dependents. 

Funds raised in the community stay in the community, and are used to support those in the local area. Poppy money is only used for the support of service personnel and their families (not operating costs), so you can be assured whatever money you give really is making a difference.


How can people buy a Poppy?

The best way to purchase a poppy is from a collector for the RSA. Collectors will be on the streets on Poppy Day, April 16. A Poppy can also be purchased from anywhere that has an official donation box where you leave coins or notes and take a poppy.

Donations can also be made through the RSA Poppy Appeal page on the Givealiitle website or by using the appeal QR code. Our appeal posters and our collectors all have a QR code. All donations received through the Givealittle website are directed into a National Poppy Fund and anyone donating using the QR code is given the option of allocating the money to a specific region or to the National Poppy Fund


What about people who don’t have cash?

You can donate through the RSA Poppy Appeal page on the Givealiitle website or by using the appeal QR code. Our appeal posters and our collectors all have a QR code. All donations received through the Givealittle website are directed into a National Poppy Fund and anyone donating using the QR code is given the option of allocating the money to a specific region or to the National Poppy Fund.


Where are the poppies made?

The poppies used in the RSA Poppy Appeal are made in New Zealand by volunteers organised by the Christchurch RSA.

How should the Poppy be worn?

The poppy is a symbol of remembrance and recognition of sacrifice. Wear the poppy with pride, and respect. You can pin your poppy in your hair, on your scarf, in your shirt pocket or on your blazer. You can wear it only on Anzac Day, or for as long as you see fit. As long as you wear the poppy and understand why it’s important, that’s all that matters.


Why the Poppy? 

Poppies were the first flowers to grow in Flanders’ Field in France after The First World War, appearing from amongst the graves of fallen soldiers. The vibrant red flowers have since become internationally recognised symbols of remembrance, sacrifice, hope and new beginnings. 
Frenchwoman Madame Anna Guerin, also known as “the Poppy Lady” brought this idea to life. She supported war widows and their children by employing them to manufacture silk poppies, providing an income to those who needed it, while also raising funds for injured soldiers as they returned home.  
The initiative spread to New Zealand, and the first order placed by The RSA was for over 360,000 poppies. Poppy Day was originally supposed to be take place on Armistice Day, November 11th 1921 – but the ship delivering our poppies was delayed so the event was held prior to Anzac Day. Nearly a century later, New Zealanders still commemorate and remember service and sacrifice with Poppies in the month of April, around Anzac Day.  


What is a “veteran”?

A veteran is defined by the Government as any member of the Royal New Zealand Navy, New Zealand Army or Royal New Zealand Air Force who has served on a recognised operational deployment. Operational deployments may have been undertaken to participate directly in armed conflict or to provide security and support in conflict zones which may involve being exposed to armed conflict while not directly being party to that conflict. 


How many veterans are there in New Zealand?

There are currently in excess of 40,000 New Zealand veterans. Of these, 30,000 have served overseas since the end of the Vietnam War in 1973 – fully three-quarters of our total returned population.

Tens of thousands more have served in the armed forces without participating in a recognised operational deployment. These people do not qualify as ‘veterans’ in the eyes of the policymakers but the RSA supports anyone who has served in the military who needs help, whether they have deployed or not.


About the RSA

The RSA was founded in 1916 by veterans returning home from the horrors of the First World War. They recognised the need to care for their wounded fellow returning soldiers and the families of those killed during service, and to honour the memory of those who would never return.

The movement has in excess of 95,000 members and there are more than 150 RSAs across the country.

Membership of the RSA is open to all New Zealanders. People can join a local club or the RSA Online Association. Each local RSA is an incorporated society, operating in accordance with policies set by the National Council.