Product Donations

It often happens a charity makes a request to a business for a donation and instead of cash, they are offered product; anything from books, kitchenware to vouchers for services can often be offered.

The dilemma some charities face is what to do with the items – some don’t have the resources to convert these items into cash. What can they do with them?

In general I’d suggest any charity being offered product instead of cash, should where possible accept it. It could be seen as being uncharitable to turn items down, if you say no today, will they offer anything else in the future. Are you willing to take the gamble? I’d suggest accept the items in– you will find a use for them, you’ll likely be able to convert them to cash – all it takes is some thought and planning.

How can goods be converted/traded into cash?

Raffles and sweepstakes

Smaller items can be ‘grouped’ together and a raffle/sweepstake held to convert items into cash.

Depending on where you are these can be held with little red tape depending on the value of the prizes offered.

Get supporters to help sell tickets. Use space on the tickets to help reinforce the message of the work you do in the community.

On Sell, Garage Sale, Online Auctions

As items come in it could be worth looking at the volume and if there is a large enough number of items perhaps you could hold a garage sale.

Supporters and the wider community could help with other items to help make it worthwhile – for visitors.

As well as an opportunity to sell items, a garage sale could be an opportunity to provide some entertainment making for a family event.

This would also give you the opportunity to help educate people about the work you do.

If there are too few items to warrant a garage sale – use an online auction site to sell the goods, relatively easily converting them to cash.

This is relatively simple to do, and would only require regular attention being paid to what bids are coming in, questions about the items being asked, and arranging delivery of sold items.

Charity Auction

A gala event with a charity auction ‘attached’ can reap good rewards.

Hold a gala charity dinner, hold both silent and open auctions – as well as giving supporters the opportunity to mix and mingle, staged right they can be very successful and fun for all concerned.

Both silent and open auctions can often be a bit of fun, with competing companies competing with each other to win the auction.

Entertainment and speeches (brief) help to build the theme for the night and also gives you the opportunity to publicly thank supporters.

You can list items on TradeMe – who generally offer registered charities special offerings, there’s also a relatively new site List Buy Give which may suit your needs.

Next time you’re offered a fridge, vacuum cleaner or other item – think again before saying no. You could convert this to cash!!

What are your experiences, policies on accepting donated goods?

Job Vacancies and Applicants

Having recently spoken with an organisation looking to recruit some staff and the standard of applications received, I thought lets see what others think about how people apply for jobs.

The organisation I spoke with were looking for general staff, the advertisement was specific in what they were looking for; experience in the sector, a high of communication (written and oral), ability to be flexible in hours.

The applications the received were, without being too blunt – poor. Not the people, but the way in which the applications were written, many used what you’d expect in a text message on your phone “Hi, I c u r looking 4 staff  …. ” and that was only the covering email/letter. Do people not read ads before applying for roles?

Then you get to the CV – they’re generally filled with “fluff” such as “I’m dependable, articulate and have a high standard of righting etc … ” (no that wasn’t a spelling mistake.)

Come on, if you can’t if you can’t even write proper like – how can you say you have a hight standard? 

And, why do people want to show what they look like, photos are a waste of time – people want to know what you can do, what your experience is, not what you look like. And hey, ladies if you must include a photo, please – no cleavage shots, unless of course you going for a role that requires you to be busty. And, on that note, why does it only seem to be women who include a photo?

Employers want to know your experience, skills and what drives you, they don’t want to know that you’re a size 8 … that you know how to apply eyeliner – they want to know that what you have to offer fits the role.

What’s your experience when it comes to employing new staff? 

Are you finding it a challenge to read applications? Getting distracted by photos and the endless waffle some seem to think might help them gain an interview?

I’m sure there are some organisations and recruiters out there who can shed some light on what applicants should and shouldn’t include when applying … would be great to hear your thoughts.

Can charities find a new way?

Too many requests for too many donations – it’s something that’s real and has a negative impact on charities. Not only do the constant calls and requests have a negative impact on amounts raised, but also on people’s attitude to charities.

In reality, from my experience, people have organisations that are close to their heart, organisations they can see are making a real purposeful difference in their own communities.

Charities do need to cast the net wide, they need a wide reach to raise the much needed funds they need to do their work; but in doing this they are catching people who are already feeling the financial pinch from increasing personal costs, housing costs, food etc. This can cause people to feel that they’re not doing their bit when an organisation contacts them for support, this can have a flow on effect with people rethinking their entire charity giving.

Is there a way charities can make better use of targeting for donations? Probably, but in reality there is likely to be added costs in doing this – costs, that many, probably all charities can’t justify.

So what’s the solution?

There probably isn’t a one size fits all solution, but as others have been talking targeted, stand alone websites are probably a way to go.

If people can see exactly where funds are going, that there’s no middle man taking a slice of the pie they’re more likely to want to give, and may well agree to a regular giving programme if it were done in a way that they weren’t burdened with more requests, constant newsletters and then the annual receipts needed to claim tax rebates.

If there was a way you could give differently, or your organisation could solicit differently to reduce costs what would it be – would you develop a standalone giving platform or engage with an non commission (fee charged) service?

One thing I know charities will say is that they need the contact details of donors to stay in touch – sure, this can be a real need, and can help reduced donor acquisition costs.

What other things could be looked at for donor engagement and increased support?

Your thoughts, ideas and comments would be great to hear.

See also

Is it donor fatigue or is it your ‘ask’

Appeal Fatigue

Charity Fatigue

Go Invisible to be Visible

Also, take a look at this from TVNZ Breakfast show – The New Charities  

Number Withheld

It’s dinner time, you’re sitting at the dining table enjoying a tasty morsel, catching up on what your family has bee doing during the day – the suddenly you’re interrupted by the shrill sou d of your phone ringing.

Racing to get it, you trip over the cat, almost collide with the door frame – on reaching the phone you see that the number is withheld, not knowing who it is causes a mild panic. Is it a call from the hospital to say your ailing mother needs you?

Picking it up, the caller says “Good evening this is Marsha from XYZ, how are you today?” – What – I’ve just stubbed my toe, stepped on the cat and panicked thinking this was a call about my mother, and you ask how I am, what do you want.

The caller proceeds to explain the needs of the organizations she’s calling about, you’re mind is elsewhere – do you really care? In all probability not, sure you care about others, but right now your mind is elsewhere.

You ask if she can call back or if you can call her, only to be told she’s busy and will try you another time – when, at dinner tomorrow night most likely.

Ok, we’ve probably all had the calls, we may have even made them to raise awareness of our organization – but, here’s the question asked by many – why do charity calls all tend to have a withheld number? Don’t they want people to be able to make a note of the number and call them back, or is it to hide so as not to get irate homeowners calling to voice their disapproval a being disturbed

How many people do organizations miss out in talking to simply because no number is displayed? I’d suggest quite a high number as many people I’ve spoken with don’t answer their phone if there’s no number displayed.

Imagine if an organization got to take to 100 more people simply because their number was displayed, if only twenty percent of these said ‘yes’ the organization in need of support would have the potential to grow and further assist those it is set up to assist.

If your organization runs telephone campaigns does your phone system allow your number to be displayed

Does your organization hide its phone number/s – if so why?

As a homeowner do you answer calls where numbers are withheld – why?

What’s your general view on dinner time charity calls, are they intrusive, poorly timed?

Would you like the ability to have a call at a time convenient to yourself?

I’d appreciate your comments on charity calls – not just around the issue of withheld numbers, bad timing, frequency, etc. Please leave a comment below.


Can Ambassadors spread themselves too thin?

How many organizations can, should, an ambassador represent, is a question I’ve been asked lately. It’s a hard one to answer; is there a maximum or even a minimum?

When you hear of some who is the ambassador for several organizations, the immediate thought could be “impressive, this person really cares” – other thoughts could be “what, a charity whore”.

I guess it all depends on what physical work the ambassador is doing as to how effective they can be when they represent numerous organizations, there’s also the issue of confusion by supporters.

Imagine this an example– Mrs Brown, a well known identity in the community, is the ambassador of five organizations. She appears in the media speaking of the work being done, she’s seen at fundraising events and is well know for tapping into her networks for assistance for the causes she ‘represents’.

Sounds good? Yes and no. The general public are already challenged with who they should support, there’s so many organizations in need of help. When they see Mrs Brown in the news talking about XYZ charity one day, then a few weeks later talking about another organization – do they, remember who she represents, or do people only recognise Mrs Brown?

Some have suggested that the “brand” they see is Mrs Brown, not the organization/s.

Maybe that’s true, maybe Mrs Brown is all people can recall, hopefully not – but, with the many organizations angling for attention, it is quite likely the name of the organization will be lost by those seeing stories.

Who’s to say how many organizations a person can effectively represent, but surely there has to be a saturation point – it’s anyone’s guess as to what that is though.

Do you know how many organizations your ambassador/s represent?

Would your organization select an ambassador who represented multiple organizations?

I dont’ want beggars – bullshit

Ok, maybe the header got you – fingers crossed it has, because this is a subject I’m furious about.

Recently Wellington City Council said it didn’t want beggars on its doorstep and instead would be installing donation boxes, Palmerston North council have also been discussing it, now the Auckland Council are looking at going down the same path.

One word that sums this up is bullshit.

Bullshit – why? Simple, there’s three professions that have been around since creation – design, prostitution and begging – yes, begging is a profession look at any charity putting their hand out – they’re doing nothing more than begging, they’re asking for help. No different really to the people we see on the street asking for a handout.

Sure, some will say church donation etc are different to begging, but are they really? I guess the only difference is that they’re not on the street asking – oops, but they are.

Next, no on should be in the position to ask for help, there’s Government help – um, lets go back to the heading Bullshit, or for those overly sensitive – bovine excrement.

Not everyone can get the help they need through Government help (read WINZ), not everyone who needs help has the required identification, address etc needed – so what are these people meant to do. Shop lift to live?

Sure, do away with begging, but will the Auckland and other councils foot the insurance bills of retailers who are left out of pocket? My guess is that, no, they want.

Instead of banning begging, all councils should be talking with all agencies in the area to see what can be done to help alleviate the need to beg. Is it more assistance to agencies helping those in need, is it more lobbying of central Government or is it working with local business to see if the local busisness community can help?

Oh, and why didn’t I hear about this stupid idea of the Auckland Council until today – mmm learn to communicate. There’s been nothing in your local news info, nor have I seen/heard anything on local TV/Radio – reach the people where they are.

Charity Boxes to Oust Beggars

After reading “City council acts on rise in ‘opportunist’ begging” I got to thinking that yes, the charity boxes will help some; but it will not help all in need.

Having spent time in both Auckland and Wellington talking to people who “beg” I’ve learned that it’s not just a lazy way to get some money – it’s sometimes the only way some of these people can get something to eat, perhaps even a warm pair of socks.
Not everyone who is out on the street asking for a handout are doing it to fuel a drug or alcohol addiction, and nor are they all layabouts with nothing to do with their day, or more to the point not willing to do something. 
The problem is deeper, and unless we look at the real issues, the reasons why people are on the street asking for spare coin we will never really understand it.
Agencies can do their part, they can talk with officialdom to look for solutions, but unless they talk with the people who are asking for coin we’ll never truly understand the “why”.
People I’ve spoken to have said they’re not eligible for welfare payments, perhaps this will worsen with more people being declined or having payments cut when drug / alcohol testing comes starts to hit.
Sure, welfare payments are for food, housing etc, not for recreational purposes; but that’s another issue.
I’m not suggesting that agencies aren’t doing their job, what I’m suggesting, or more to the point wonder is what agencies have been out and spent time talking to people about solutions. Are the charity boxes a real solution?
Will all the money in the boxes get to where it’s needed, or will a clip be taken for administering the ‘funds’?
One homeless man I’ve recently met has told me he receives a benefit, but sits on the street to collect any other money he can. His reason; the benefit he gets isn’t enough to feed, clothe or house him. 
He collects an average of $60 per week – half he uses to help him from week to week, the other he’s setting aside to help him move into affordable accommodation. He’s actually saving money for his future and to help him improve his lifestyle.
Maybe this guy is a rarity, but he has a story, one which I’m wondering have agencies asked him to share.
It will be interesting to see if the move to install Charity Boxes will work, I’m doubtful. I’m wondering if instead it will result in more aggressive begging, something the proponents of the boxes are hoping the boxes will end. 
I guess only time will tell if this move by the Wellington City Council will have the desired effect.


Let’s help Homeless write to put life in context

After reading Homeless write to put life in context I got to thinking about an old homeless guy I knew when I was in Wellington – I’ll call him Big Al.

He had lived on the streets for about 15 years when I first met him, and I only lost contact with him because I moved to Auckland would have been good to have followed his ‘story’ through the years.

One day when Big Al came into where I was working to collect old newspapers, we got to talking; I was amazed, inspired and horrified as to how his life had unfolded and how he ended up on the street.

He had been a community adviser for a Government Dept, married with his own home. One day he came home and discovered his wife in bed with the his best friend, who’d been the best man at his wedding. Instantly Big Al’s life was changed.

He told me he hadn’t lost his temper, he simply picked up his satchel and went back out. On returning the next day he and his wife sat down and talked through what had happened, and what had led to the situation they were now in. On hearing his wife’s ‘explanation’ Big Al could see that he was perhaps one of the main causes and didn’t want his wife to ‘suffer’ in a marriage that wasn’t working for her. He packed and moved out – that night.

With nowhere to go, Big Al spent his first night on the street; and, in his words – loved the experience, except for the cold, wet and windy nights – oh, and the drunken louts.

Big Al lost his job within weeks of moving to the streets, his employer couldn’t, or wouldn’t help him; he had no way of raising money to pay for new lodgings and had promised his wife he’d continue with the mortgage payments. Lucky he did receive a substantial payment from his employer, all of which he gave to his wife to pay toward the house – she then bought him out.

With no income, and not being eligible for welfare Big Al had no option but to stay on the streets; when he did become eligible for welfare he had settled into living on the street, and didn’t want to move into a box.

Why am I sharing this? I wonder what people would have thought if they’d had the chance to read Big Al’s story, in his words; not some brief summary like this.

He was a big man, and his story was big – how can we start to get some of our local homeless writing; can we set something up in our communities to help? Should business, local or central government help or should we as a community help to set up and run something that can help homeless learn something, or simply offer some a chance they may not have otherwise had.

Are you onboard? Do you have the time and skills to help? 

While you’re here – check this out Invisible People 

Originally posted on AdageBusiness

Appeal Fatigue

Last week Auckland City Harbour News, and Central Leader, ran an item “Has appeal week fatigue set in?” talking about the number of appeal weeks, and the way people react to street collectors. (20 Jan 2012 – by, Rhiannon Horrell)

If you’re walking down Queen St and see a group of charity collectors, what do you do? 

Put your head down and look the other way? Rummage through your wallet in an effort to show you’ve tried but have no change?

Or pull out the money you were going to use for lunch and hand it over? 

This year Aucklanders will be faced with up to 66 awareness and appeal weeks. 

To be fair, some are awareness weeks only and do not seek financial donations. But what effect does the overload of dedicated weeks have on Aucklanders? 

New Zealand Federation of Family Budgeting Services chief executive Raewyn Fox says the clients that her organisation deals with are sometimes more likely to give to a local church than to an appeal week.

“Lots of our clients are family oriented – so they’ll pick a cause like sick kids or something like that.” 

She says because of the sheer number of causes, it’s a juggling act for people to decide what to do with their money. 

“It may depend on whether they have a couple of bucks in their pocket to spare. If they do, then those charities are the lucky ones. But a lot of the time, people don’t.” 

She says people may then feel guilty or inadequate about not being able to help. 

“The cost of living is greater in Auckland. We are very busy and a lot of families are under pressure.” 

Auckland University department of psychology associate professor Ian Lambie says it’s not that charities have lost their meaning but “people do have some level of threshhold and may find it a challenge to politely say no. We’re being asked to do more and more.” 

He says some people may have two to three favoured causes. 

“That is about it for many people. We are a generous nation and a generous society. But it does become too much when you get asked time and time again. You have to draw a line in the sand.”

Mr Lambie says most people will donate out of the generosity of their heart. 

He says for those that can only give $5 to $10 a year, that is okay.

“You can also dedicate time, distribute leaflets or bake a cake. Those things are just as good.” 

The Heart Foundation’s Appeal Week is one of the first for 2012, kicking off on February 13. 

Marketing development manager Alistair Kirk says it’s an extremely important aspect of the organisation’s work. 

“It’s a national event and it’s partly about the money but it’s also about community engagement. Last year we had 2000 volunteers working with us. It’s an opportunity for people to give back.” 

Mr Kirk says the week is a way to connect with people. 

According to the Charities Commission, 1359 new charities were registered in Auckland in the past three years. 

Commission communications manager Sandra Bennett says a further 5434 were registered in that time in other parts of New Zealand. 

In Auckland in 2009, 632 new charities were set up, with 495 in 2010 and 232 in 2011. 

But Ms Bennett says before concluding that there are far fewer charities being established, it is important to note that the charities register first opened in February 2007 and the commission received thousands of applications for registration in mid-2008 when tax laws changed. 

After late applications have been processed, close to 2000 new charities would have been registered across the country in 2011.

In response to this item I wrote in with my ‘view’ here’s my take, as published in Harbour News (Wed 25 Jan 2012)

The question you pose is a good one, and one that many people have been asking for quite sometime – charities also ask the same question. 

As someone who works with charities, I’ve been watching the number of organisations with appeal weeks, or random street days. Often you can walk along Queen St and see a number of organisations soliciting support, either by way of donation or simply for awareness. Who people stop and talk to will depend on the way people (you and me) feel about charity and what we can do to help make a difference, but with the number of organisations is making it harder for people to select who to support. 

One thing about appeal weeks that is confusing is the number of ‘like’ organisations – there’s a raft of organisations working in similar fields and unless the people on the street are distinctive people may be confused as to who they are giving to. 

People will naturally look busy, do the coin shuffle when they see collectors – it’s not too dissimilar to ‘avoidance syndrome’ when people look the other way when they see something happening but don’t want to get involved. 

The CBD is a large area, yet we always see the collectors in the same places – QEII Sq, Vulcan Lane, Event Cinemas, Mid-City, because people know that this is where they will be people avoid walking that route. For charities to make better use of their time on the streets they need to vary where they are located; sure they need to be in high pedestrian traffic areas – but there’s over 1km of Queen St that they could be using. 

The public should also take the opportunity to stop and talk to charities they see on the street and to ask them two important questions 1) how much of the money I give you will be specifically used for the ‘project’ 2) are you working for xyz or an agency? This is a good test to see that the people collecting and the charities are being upfront, that the right information is being given to potential supporters/donors. 

Back to ‘fatigue’ – yes people are tiring, if specific organisations were asked what their ‘take’ is – I’m sure you would find that they are collecting less than they were a few years ago – and not all of this can be put down to the economy, it’s because people are turning off. 

Charities and those representing them could be doing far better through targeted communication with their supporters, and non-supporters;  they also need to look at being ‘less visible’ – people turn off if they see the same charity all the time, if they are off the streets for a while and come back people will ‘notice’ them. 

We will never not see charity collectors or appeal weeks, they’re a fact of life – but we do need to see a change in their frequency and the locations used, will be better for all concerned. 

What’s your take on Appeal Weeks, are there too many, can their timing be better managed, what can we do differently to avoid Appeal Week Fatigue?


Don’t make donors do all the work

I’ve often said to organisations that they need to give people a reason to give, that they need to have a clear message about why support is needed – and given. And, after reading “The Active Giver” about the process someone has been through in order to ‘select’ a cause to support – I thought it timely to revisit this.

All too often we see an organisation plead for support – often without giving any real reason, simply stating that they do this, that or the next thing, without showing any real reason why potential supporters should give, and should give now – there’s no immediacy, no call to action.

What the author of The Active Giver has had to go through in order to find that elusive organisation to support is quite common, people want to help others in the community, but unless there’s clear reason why they should give, how they can give – then the job is in the hands of the giver to to seek out causes, whereas it should be the causes that should be seeking out supporters.

Not only was their research involved – searching two datasets – Charities Commission and IRD, but they took the time to look through websites, looked to see what work the organisations do – how many others go to this effort to find a cause? If organisations want support they have to lift their game, they need to give a reason why people should support them.

But, there’s more to it than that – there is clearly a need for a process of validation of causes, how some organisations get Charitable tatus is puzzling, there’s organisations registered as charitable trusts that are self serving, have extremely small reach and causes that would appear to be of little benefit to society in general. 

People are often amazed when I say how many nonprofit organisations in there are in New Zealand; we have one of the highest numbers of registered charitiess and donee organisations in the world – and we’re a generous lot, we do give, but in order to give we have to do hunt out the most appropriate.

When you look at the numbers of organisations the author went through to find a cause, it’s clear that we have too many organsations that appear to be ‘self interest’ groups. We also have too many duplicate organisations – there’s something like 63 organisations registered with the Charities Commission with “Cancer” in their names, surely some of these could merge to form a larger, more active and powerful organisation. 

Have a read of The Active Giver  – would you go to this effort to find a cause, as a charity do you think it fair potential supporters have to do all the work to find you?