Shopping for ideas

October 20 2008 - Mark Phillips

I don’t often go to the Bexhill-on-Sea Observer for information on fundraising, but when I worked at the YMCA, I spent a great deal of time in my appeals administration department. Debbie Bland, who ran it, had a very keen nose for assessing how well an appeal was doing just by looking at the first few bags of post through the door. She knew in a day or two, what our database would be telling us in a month.

That was why, in the light of everyone’s worries about the economy, I was concerned to read a report on a downturn in donations to charity shops. Save the Children’s, Anne Pitchforth, has seen a big drop in goods coming in…

People are holding on to their clothes and not buying new ones. I think people are saving their pennies as they are not sure what’s happening from week to week; no one knows what’s going to happen, or who is going to be out of work.

The story is repeated by staff from the local CRUK and Scope shops. It’s only Oxfam who is bucking the trend. And why’s that? Oxfam are running a promotion with Marks and Spencers where for every bag of clothes that contains at least one M&S item, the donor gets a £5 voucher to redeem in their local M&S on any purchase over £35. As the Oxfam manager says herself…

The recession isn’t helping, but for the past six months we have had the M&S promotion which has generated a lot of interest, and because it’s gone so well it has recently been extended.

The recession is coming. And it will hit us in the voluntary sector. But it’s thinking like this that shows that we are not helpless. By understanding the donor’s needs and responding to them, we need not face the economic downturn with fear. We can do something. We can adapt our approaches to the environment we are working in and we can continue to succeed.