The Demise of the Charity Shop

With recent news that Save the Children will be closing their stores it’s timely to see what’s happening, what’s changed.

Save the Children, isn’t the first and it won’t be the last to close up shop.

At one time generous landlords gave organisations cheap rentals and even reduced other costs associated with renting shop space. This has changed with landlords now, in the main, charging market rents.

With market rents being charged organisations have had little choice but to no longer sell items for $1 or $2 dollars, but to increase some prices; sure there are still great bargains and, remember every purchase benefits the organisation no matter the price, even that five cent spoon purchase has a benefit.

There is, in my opinion, also been a growth in the number of organisation having a “retail” presence, this has created competition with people having more choice as to where they can shop for a bargain. Not unlike mainstream retail.

Sure, we will see fewer organisations with a retail presence, but they will continue to be there. Some will still sell items to raise funds, but this will likely be, as it is already, be online through the likes of TradeMe.

Others will start using other methods, social enterprise for one. With some organisations already looking at this as a means to raise funds with little, in some cases no overheads; yet still making use of donated items to create an income stream away from grants etc.

We just never know …

This story will leave you wondering … wondering if you ever ignored someone who you may have been able to help; or it will leave you with a more acute sense of others feelings and well-being.

A Boy Saw A Classmate Getting Horribly Bullied. It’s What Happened 10 Years Later That Made Me Cry. 

One day, when I was a freshman in high school, I saw a kid from my class was walking home from school. His name was Kyle. It looked like he was carrying all of his books. I thought to myself, “Why would anyone bring home all his books on a Friday? He must really be a nerd.”

I had quite a weekend planned (parties and a football game with my friends tomorrow afternoon), so I shrugged my shoulders and went on. As I was walking, I saw a bunch of kids running toward him. They ran at him, knocking all his books out of his arms and tripping him so he landed in the dirt. His glasses went flying, and I saw them land in the grass about ten feet from him.

He looked up and I saw this terrible sadness in his eyes. My heart went out to him. So, I jogged over to him and as he crawled around looking for his glasses, and I saw a tear in his eye. As I handed him his glasses, I said, “Those guys are jerks. They really should get lives.”

He looked at me and said, “Hey thanks!” There was a big smile on his face.

It was one of those smiles that showed real gratitude. I helped him pick up his books, and asked him where he lived. As it turned out, he lived near me, so I asked him why I had never seen him before. He said he had gone to private school before now. I would have never hung out with a private school kid before.

Read full story  here

Sleeping rough is NOT a mere party trick

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Last weekend Herald on Sunday columnist Paul Little wrote “Sleeping rough a mere party trick” – not only did he get the date of the Big Sleepout wrong, he also managed to ignore the fact that over the years the Lifewise Big Sleepout has helped many people.

One would expect anyone penning for the NZHerald to do their homework, to talk to people – or at the very least to use that wonderful tool known as the internet to research what is happening in, not only Auckland, but nationally and globally to help people who are homeless.

Something that’s important to understand is that we are all only three life changing events away from being homeless.

Homelessness is not typically a choice as some suggest, it is a consequence.

As a participant in this years Big Sleepout I was humbled to hear the stories of homeless people, to hear the stories of those who had lived a significant amount on the street who now have homes to call their own. One story that brought a lump to my throat was from one chap who said he had three choices – jail, mental hospital or death; it made me rethink a few things in my own life, and I’m sure it made other participants think about their own situations.

It was good to see Paul say “As an organisation, Lifewise does many great things to help homeless people directly and practically…” but to end this with  “This isn’t one of them.” Seemed hurtful to those who have been helped, those who will be helped and yes, those helping to make a difference by way of sleeping rough.

The Big Sleepout does make a difference, it helps people understand what homelessness is, it garners support for a worthwhile cause, and those who have participated – myself included, do it because we care and want to help make a difference.

To say “Unfortunately, charity these days is nothing unless it’s a media event, and all too often the focus on the event takes all the attention from the charity. It can end up making the problem less visible.” Is in my opinion wrong – charity events need media attention to show what’s happening, how people can help and raise the profile of the activity – charities can’t afford advertising campaigns – any money spent on those is money being used that is better used to help those needing help, whether it’s the homeless, or any other cause.

Media events, media attention are needed to get the message out, to garner support and to educate.

Harvey Norman, Noel Leeming and Briscoes can afford to spend huge sums on advertising to raise awareness of their sales – Lifewise doesn’t have this luxury – they need the help of people such as those who did the Big Sleepout, the ‘celebs’ to use the power, the connections that they have to help bring attention to events such as this.

Paul should:

1) get a new computer that will allow him to access the web to check his facts

2) roll out his sleeping bag next year

3) understand that all those who do their part to help others in the community are doing it because they believe in the cause.

Sleep out brings back memories


Pokies – feeding a habit to help those affected by it

And still the discussion around pokies continues, should the Government allow Sky City Casino increase the number of pokie machines in ‘exchange’ for a convention centre – in short – NO.

Why – we know community groups, charities gain income from pokie machine operators, but what about the people using these machines – low income earners, the marginalized etc. In some cases the organizations gaining income from pokie revenue are the self same organizations saying we need help to improve the lives of the impoverished, the marginalized, so can’t go without the prospect of income derived from these machines.

Having met pub owners who have pokie machines and heard the income the earn, and how they feel about the machines being “beneficial” and “needed” – no this wasn’t in references to propping up their business, but to the needs in the community, the people benefit through the monies dsitrubuted, I, like Sir Bob am gob-smacked and repeat his words “What outrageous hogwash”.

If you’re an organization helping people who have alcohol, drug, gambling or other issues that can impact on the family’s wellbeing should you be calling on funds from pokies? 

Sure funds are needed, there’s no denying that – but there are other ways to go about gaining the funding needed to fulfill the purposes of an organization than putting the hand out to an organization(s) that encourage people to use hard earned, and in many situations, much needed money.

Organizations can work with their supporters to build income streams that will soon negate the need to source funds from sources that are not seen as ‘beneficial’ – who are pokies beneficial to, the pub owner, booze suppliers, are the really that beneficial to the wider community?

Sure, there will be argument that pokies generate jobs, that they generate income for the wider community, but these ‘benefits’ need to be weighed against the negative impact they also have. And, organizations dealing with community ‘issues’ need to think where the money the get for fulfilling their ‘function’ comes from. Is ‘dirty’ money what they really want to be associated with?

Bob Jones in the NZHerald Pokies nothing to do with charity 

Empty shops – a blot on the streetscape, why not give them to charity?

There’s empty shops all around, it doesn’t matter if you’re in Auckland, Wellington, Sydney, Melbourne, London, LA – they’re everywhere, not only is this an indication of the effects of an economic downturn, but it can have another effect, it can says to shoppers “this street is past it use by date” thus affecting other retailers in the area.

Years ago I worked in Wellington, with a sizeable number of empty shops approached real estate agents, and suggested they offer empty shop frontages (windows) to nearby retailers for display purposes. It worked for a few months, not everyone liked the idea, but it worked, retailers had another display area, others could see the potential of the space and shoppers no longer felt they were on  deserted street – a win win.

But now I’m thinking wouldn’t it be great if landlords gave space to community organisations – along the lines of pop-up shops.

It would possibly give renewed energy to a street, it would likely attract potential tenants through talk about the landlord and the community spirit they had, it would also give pedestrians something to look at besides “for lease” signs – and yes, it would give community organisations a shop frontage to show the work they are doing in the local community.

If this were to happen, some ground rules would be needed – how these would come about would require input from local business, community and community organisations – the last thing anything like this would want to do is harm any current business – that would defeat the purpose.

I’ve mulled this idea for sometime, and have been rethinking it since reading “Reimagining the high street: how empty shops can become community hubs

Can this be done in your area? Can community organizations make use of vacant space – hell yea, all it will take is some imagination, some forward thinking on the part of landlords (and generosity), but it can be done.

How do you go about it in your area – contact local business associations, real estate agents, council – lobby them, put a case together. Remember they will all want to know “what’s in if for me” – so have this clear before making any approach.

Is this happening in your area, who’s doing it, who’s doing it well – what can others learn from what’s happening – please share your thought and comments. 

Spare coins for food and a bed

The other night walking along Auckland’s Karangahape Road, I was asked by a chap sitting on the footpath with a container for coins if I could spare something as he had no money for food or accommodation, a fairly common sight around the streets of many cities the world over. 

Checking my pockets I realised I had no cash on me, instead of shrugging him off I stopped and asked if he’d been to see if he could get into the night shelter, he had but the doors were closed, it was full.

I double checked to make sure he wasn’t trying it on and wanted money for something else – alcohol or drugs. As I was going to the shop I asked if I could him something to eat, his eyes lit up, he asked if I could get him a pie – easy.

I had been wondering what to cook for dinner and decided on having takeaways – so added a chicken fried rice to my order. Walking back along the street I handed the rice dish to the chap, his eyes lit up, a broad smile appeared – he stood to shake my hand and a genuine thank you ensued.

Stopping for a chat, I found out he’d been in and out of institutions for a number of years; some of this caused by his previous drug addictions others for his brushes with the law. So it wasn’t all society’s fault he was on the street, but society had appeared to let him down by not having enough support mechanisms in place to help him once he’d come out of institutions. 

It took a while before he gave me his name – perhaps this was a trust thing, it turned out his name is Michael. There’s another barrier down when someone give you their name.

Michael had been receiving a benefit, but hadn’t completed the necessary forms for the continuation of the benefits and without any income to support himself, to house or feed himself he had taken to living on the street and had done so now for what he thought was three years.
 

After mentioning that I work with community organizations and that my understanding that even though they’re all pushed to deliver their services to everyone in need I was sure there was some way he could get help. 

Offering to meet him the next day and go along to WINZ and calling Lifewise to see what could be done to help – he was keen, we agreed to meet the next morning; sadly he never turned up at the place we were to meet. Maybe something had happened to him, maybe he felt he was imposing on the support being offered, I kept my eye out for him over the next few days – but didn’t see him.

Then walking down Queen St who should be sitting outside McDonalds hand out looking for change for something to eat – none other than Michael. I stopped and asked how he was doing and why he hadn’t met me as we’d arranged, I was right – he said he felt as though he were imposing on my generosity. Sad really as he wasn’t imposing I was doing this because I wanted to. I had some coin in my pocket and offered it to him, he refused saying that I’d fed him sufficiently and he didn’t want to abuse my generosity – wrong again, I wanted to help this guy as he seemed genuine and in need.

I know that there is help out there, Lifewise for one I’m sure could have helped him in some way,  but I sincerely believe Michael was genuine in his belief that his asking for help was not only hard for him, that he felt as though he’d been let down before – but more so that he felt he would be imposing not only on me but also on the support Lifewise may have been able to give him.

What am I going to do about this? I’m keeping my eyes open for him, and when I see him I stop and chat – I want to know he’s ok, that he’s not starving and that he’s finding somewhere to put his head down at night.

Still prompting him to make contact with people who can help, nagging him to pick his bits up and get along to see someone – he always smiles and says he’s doing something to change his situation, I hope he is.

We can all do something to help people like Michael and the work that organizations like Lifewise do in the community, sure we may feel that people need to do something to help themselves first, but the reality is that when you hear stories like Michael’s where he felt he’d been let down, and now feels as though he’d be an imposition you have to wonder if there’s more that we can do to help.

What can we do – well, I’m going to do more to help – I’m going to grab my sleeping bag and am going to sleep rough for a night to help Lifewise fight the battle to end homelessness in Auckland.

One June 28 I will be doing the Big Sleepout and joining a group of others sleeping rough on nothing more than a sheet of cardboard, it won’t be easy, I’m sure it will be damn cold – but it’s a small sacrifice to give up my warm bed, to experience what it’s like to sleep rough – and in doing so I’m aiming to help raise funds to help Lifewise.

What’s the Big Sleepout ?

The Lifewise Big Sleepout is an annual event aimed at raising serious funds and channelling significant attention in the direction of solving homelessness in the city of Auckland. It is a night where influential New Zealanders forgo their creature comforts for a night of ‘rough sleeping’ as a way of making a public stand against homelessness. Put simply, it’s a no-holds-barred approach to exposing what is often an invisible issue.

The ultimate aim of the Lifewise Big Sleepout is bring an end to homelessness – for good. The continued success of this event goes a long way to meeting this highly achievable goal. As a result, we remain equipped to address the issue of homelessness at every level of influence – meeting the immediate and the long-term needs of the homeless while at the same time working strategically with non-government and government bodies to find solutions. Check out  The Issue for more info  on the work of Lifewise in this area.

Check out the Big Sleepout video the brilliantly talented Eric Young, Prime News TV presenter donated his time and talent to this project 

Once you’ve done that pop over and sponsor me or someone else to help Lifewise with their ultimate aim ” … bring an end to homelessness – for good.” 


How the ‘other half’ live

After talking to some people about my ‘observation’, that those on lower incomes were more generous with a recent charity appeal; then being told by some in wealthier households that they were only giving ‘Government’ money away – I thought I’d see what would happen if these two groups met and talked about the differences in each others life and lifestyle. 

Who attended the ‘gathering’ (not their real names)

Mike – business owner, father of 3, own home and holiday home

Stewart – retired business executive, father of 2, owns multiple properties

Rachael – business owner, mother of 2, own home and holiday home

Stephen – business consultant – father of 2, own home

Stephanie – solo mother of 3, beneficiary, subsidised housing

Robert – father of 2, unemployed, beneficiary, subsidised housing

Jemma – widow, mother of 2, beneficiary, subsidised housing

Angela – mother of 3, employed part-time, subsidised housing

What took place, after a casual cuppa (you can’t beat a cup of tea to get people to relax and start talking), we sat down and talked about why people give, how they give and what it is like to struggle and still find ways to help others in the community. 

For those who have a good income, own their own homes and have reasonable disposable cash giving isn’t normally an issue, but for those who struggle to cope week to week, pay cheque to pay cheque it’s a whole different story. 

What came out of the discussion opened everyone’s eyes, mine included. 

A little more background, the income range of the group was vast with the highest earner taking home (after tax) in excess of $350,000 (bonuses, car included) and the lowest taking home no more than $320 per week – now that’s a gap. 

For those on the lowest income giving was more important to them than for those earning the higher amounts. 

Another staggering thing was those who earned the most tended to give to global causes, whereas those earning the least were more concerned about their local community and causes closer to home. 

It was interesting to see people’s faces when Stephanie, Robert, Jemma and Angela all talked about their household budget and how they would buy butter perhaps once a month, when it was gone that was it until next month. Milk was also pretty much a luxury, with Jemma and Angela both saying they buy a 2 litre milk each week and it has to last until the following week. 

Bacon, what’s that? 

Perhaps we live insular lives and don’t realise how the other half live, this discussion seemed to prove that. Even though all participants watch the news, read what’s happening it wasn’t affecting them so they hadn’t seen “the full picture”. 

Mike, Stewart, Rachael and Stephen were amazed at how open and honest Stephanie, Robert, Jemma and Angela were about their situations and mentioned that they felt uncomfortable talking about themselves, but after hearing the others stories realised that they needed to listen and share more. 

By the end of the get together Mike said he would be rethinking his charity giving, so did Stewart and, Rachael offered to see what she could do to help Jemma and Angela out with perhaps a job or in some other way. 

Was it a success – hell yea, eyes were opened, ideas shared and perhaps some friendships formed. 

After we wound up everyone went out for lunch, wish I could have joined them to witness the interaction that would have taken place; I’m hoping to get updates on the lunch and what was discussed, maybe more offers of help were given – I hope so. 

I know though that changes will be made.

 

Are you relevant to your audience?

Thumbs_up

Ask yourself this one question… “Are you relevant to your audience?”

We all want to know that we are being listened to, that what we are sharing is being seen as interesting, beneficial etc – but are we taking our “scoring” too far? 

Are we going back to having “in crowds” –if you’re not in the “in crowd” you don’t count. We can’t look at social media, or any other measure as a way to see how well we’re doing. 

Our measurement should be on the engagement and continued engagement we are having, that our message is being seen – and acted on, that what we’re offering our audience is valued. That we’re not just cluttering our online streams with meaningless information. 

If we want to know how well we’re going shouldn’t it be measured by the number of new subscribers we have to our blog, our newsletter; or the number of people offering assistance, offering skills and expertise and of course financial support. 

This post from Pam Moore The “Marketing Nut” makes for an interesting  read and looks at what perhaps we should be measuring – our Zoom Factor. 

Pam asks: 

Ask yourself this one question… “Are you relevant to your audience?” 

She says, “If you answer anything other than yes to this question then you need to read the rest of this post.” 

What are your thoughts?

 

Image: THUMBS UP!
© Yanik Chauvin | Dreamstime.com

 

Payroll Giving

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We all try to do what we can for charitable organisations in our communities; and often people struggle to work out who to give to, how much to give and; when to give. 

Payroll Giving which came into being about 18 months ago makes it easier for people to give, sure there’s still the questions of who to give to and how much; but by having donations automatically paid from wages one of questions is answered, and makes it easier for people to give. 

In essence Payroll Giving simply allows for donations to go directly from someones wages to a chosen donee organisation. The employers has to introduce the payroll giving programme to the firm for individuals to participate though.

 

What makes it simpler is that it’s run through the PAYE tax system, so people whose employers introduce the scheme get tax benefits of their donations each payday, negating the need to collect and hold donation receipts or wait to claim at the end of the tax year.

 

With some research showing that that over 794,000 people in employment are committed givers (ie: making regular contributions of time or money to causes that are important to them).  It possible for some of these to likely get money back that they otherwise might have missed out on by not bothering to claim in their annual tax return; which some have said makes “donations more affordable”, this could have the flow-on effect of encouraging more people to give and for more to look at increasing their level of giving.

 

What’s surprising is that according to the latest update from Revenue Minister Peter Dunne is donations for the month of March 2011, reached $540,000 – a monthly record since payroll giving was introduced.

 

It would seem that charities need to do some work to educate their supporters, and the community that payroll giving is an option that can be used for giving. In discussions I’ve had some charities are finding it hard to get the opportunity to talk about it, and some are being met with resistance from employers not keen on letting their staff know about the option to give immediately from wages.

 

It’s staggering to think that of the many thousands of people who give only 5,100 gave directly from their wages in March 2011. Are employers letting their staff know? I’d guess they’re not – as I mentioned above some see it as something for the too hard basket.

 

Charities need to be proactive in letting people know that they’re able to give directly, what the benefits are and what drives people to use payroll giving as a way to give – this will give them the potential opportunity to gain more through its use. Using some of the points from Payroll giving for individuals will help to give supporters some insight into why, employers can check Payroll giving and your employees.

 

Charities can’t let the opportunity to slip through their fingers and must make the effort to let people know it’s another way they can help, using newsletters, adding a footnote to email notifications and any other opportunity to get word out.

For more on payroll giving check the Office for the Community and Voluntary Sector websites Easy guides to payroll giving. 

 

 

Lost Opportunities

Dummies_lost_in_forest_-_kaj_gardemeister

Some organisations appear to only make approaches for support from what could be sees as the main segment of the community, those they’re most ‘comfortable’ approaching. What they seem to be ignoring, or putting in the too hard basket are those they’re not sure about approaching, that they’re not familiar with. 

Some organisations have indicated that they struggle to understand how they can connect and engage with ethnic communities. Some haven’t thought about how important it can be to connect with other community leaders to seek their support in connecting. 

Organisations have also said they’ve tried employing people from other communities in an attempt to connect, but that this hasn’t shown the success ‘expected’. 

Perhaps this has been for a number of reasons, but one common reason has been that these staff haven’t been able to vary the ‘language’ used in their approach for support – they’ve not been able to use the ‘language’ that would be understood. 

These staff have had to continue to ask for support in a way that is not understood in their own communities. 

Perhaps a solution to this problem – a communication breakdown,  could be for organisations to approach local community organisations; such as local Chinese, Indian, Korean etc, to ask for the opportunity to talk of the work they do, and how they could perhaps help each other. 

There’s also a number of business trade groups such as New Zealand – German Business Assoc, the Japanese-New Zealand Council etc that could be approached for assistance. These organisation can be valuable as they not only offer the opportunity to connect at a business level, but also have the ability to open doors at a more grassroots – community level. 

It’s important for organisations to “talk the language” that is understood by those they’re approaching, it’s not a one size fits all. 

Can you afford to not connect with, to ‘ignore’ a segment of your community?  Make the connections – don’t alienate a sector of your community through not understanding that they too may want to connect with you, someone has to make the first move and do it in a way that is understood by both. 

 

Image: DUMMIES LOST IN FOREST

© Kaj Gardemeister | Dreamstime.com