The British Heart Foundation has said that charities should improve how they report the wider benefits they provide to society besides their main cause.
Speaking at Civil Society Media's Trustee Exchange conference in London last week, Mike Taylor, commercial director at BHF, said charities were “not great at telling that story”.
Taylor said charity retailers in particular had a story to tell about the “virtuous cycle” their operations provide to society.
He said charity retailers provide a benefit to society through:
- Providing a place for individuals and companies to offer their unwanted goods for reuse by someone else
- Selling items such as furniture cheaper than they would be on the high street for consumers of limited means
- Driving footfall on the high street by producing viable shops in a tough commercial environment
- Regenerating the properties their shops are in
- Creating jobs and volunteering opportunities within the stores
- Putting money into the community through use of local delivery companies and service firms
He said many charity retailers also use their shops as a “community hub”, with the BHF providing cause-related services such as blood pressure testing and CPR training in-store.
Taylor concluded his presentation by saying: “All charity retailing is about more than just raising money, vital though it is. In our view, it is the story that needs much better telling.”
In response to a question about what charities can do to improve their effect on wider society, Taylor said that “in the vast majority of cases these things happen anyway”.
He said: “They are an incidental, beneficial by-product of what we do. As a sector, I think we are collectively not necessarily great at telling that story.
“There is something about the sector being able to look back and recognise the benefits that it brings just by existing.”
In his speech, Taylor also said BHF has recently taken steps to reduce its carbon footprint by changing the lighting in all its 740 stores to low-energy or LED bulbs.
This change, he said, had “significantly reduced” the charity’s energy usage and would save it “millions of pounds” over the next five years.