Charity shops turning to 'creative' solutions as donations increase

14 Jul 2020 News

Some charity shops are using external storage companies to handle a spike in donations as lockdown lifts, according to the Charity Retail Association.

The CRA says this is one of several “creative” solutions that charity shop managers have adopted, as they deal with a rising numbers of donations from people who have cleared out their possessions during the coronavirus crisis.

Donations ‘considerably up’

Robin Osterley, chief executive of the CRA, told Civil Society News: “Our experience is that donations are considerably up on this time last year.

“It isn’t anything different from what we were expecting: people first clearing out their wardrobes, and then their cupboards, and then their lofts, and all of this stuff is ending up in charity shops.”

The CRA predicted the increase in donations in its guidance for charity shops during the Covid-19 pandemic, which it published in May. 

Borrowing premises, hiring storage

Osterley emphasised that the increase in donations is good news: “This is great. Our members are delighted by it.” He added: “Our members are coping. It is a challenge but, by and large, they are coping.”

He explained that the biggest challenge is storing the goods being donated, saying: “Our members are using vehicles like vans to store things in. People have borrowed premises from elsewhere in the town.

“People have kept some shops ‘dark’, in terms of opening specifically so they can receive donations. Some have been using external storage companies like Big Yellow.

“So there is lots of creativity, as usual, in our sector, about how people have met this challenge.”

He confirmed that some charities are currently limiting the days or hours when shops are open to take donations, and recommended phoning ahead to book deliveries.

Optimism

Osterley is also positive around the future. He said: “As more shops open, there will be more space to absorb the demand. We are confident that the current spike in donations will be just that, a spike, rather than a consistently high thing.

“Most of our members are expecting this to settle down during August and September, which is why they are so very keen to ensure they keep these donations rather than have to offload them as rag.”

Volunteer shortage

Osterley said that the reopening of shops “is going well, but one of the reasons our members can’t necessarily open as many shops as they would like to is a shortage of volunteering”.

Many volunteers are among those who have been hit hardest by the pandemic, he explained, because they are older, may be shielding at home or caring for someone shielding, and may not have access to their usual public transport.

The CRA is managing a new portal for charity shop volunteers, through which people can express their interest in helping and find a shop near them to offer support.

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