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.

You need a Stable Board

Your board, like any other area in your organisation will need to replace or add new members; how you go about finding the right person, introducing them and helping them in their role will have an impact on how they do their ‘job’ and how long they’ll stay.

Like any other function in any organisation, a position description should be put together; outlining what the role is. From this you can’t write a person description, what type of person best suits the role – experience, contacts, abilities; what do they have to have?

Once you have done that, it’s time to start looking; your networks are the first place you should start. Ask around, someone knows someone.

And, like any other role you need to:

Introduce them to the organisation, whether this is possible face-to-face or through other means; ensure they are properly introduced.

Induct them into the organisation, explain the role and all expectations; meeting attendance, availability to attend events etc.

Bring them up-to-date, make sure make the time to tell them where things are at, mid-term goals etc; this will help them hit the ground running.

Some organisation team up a mentor, someone who has experience in the functions of the board and organisation; this is something worth considering especially in larger organisations.

Like all other roles in your organisation, you should be conducting reviews; these are an opportunity for two-way feedback on how the board member is doing, what their take on the role is, and what future plans, goals.

Keep all board members active, involved and encouraged to be part of the organisation; if you want to have a high turnover rate anywhere in the organisation, ignore their views, bore them with aimless tasks and ineffective meetings.

How do you manage new board members? Do you follow the above?

See also:

Does your board expect to be paid

Your board and trustees should be working

Are you supported by your board and staff?

Board Meetings – When do You hold them?

Nonprofits can learn from For-Profits

Someone I follow on Twitter is Michael Rosen who shares great insights into charity, philanthropy and non-profits in general.

His recent post “4 Valuable Lessons Nonprofits Can Learn from For-profits” – is one a real gem and I’m sure you’ll gain from reading it.

I believe that the nonprofit and for-profit sectors can learn a great deal from one another. Over the past several months, I’ve had some experiences that have confirmed this belief. I’d like to share two negative and two positive encounters I’ve had with the for-profit sector and reveal the lessons I learned that can help any nonprofit organization.

Under promise, and over deliver.
I ordered a roast-beef sandwich to go from Au Bon Pain. While I’m not a frequent Au Bon Pain customer, I’ve been one for many, many years. I was looking forward to my sandwich. When I got home, I unwrapped my lunch, and took a big bite. Something wasn’t right. I spit out the bite. There was a piece of paper. I opened my sandwich and found a sheet of deli paper!

Ok, if you make thousands of sandwiches, you’re bound to a make a mistake sooner or later. However, rather than just let the incident slide completely, I thought Au Bon Pain should know about the situation. I thought they might have a new sandwich guy who might benefit from some additional training. So, I called the “800” number on my receipt.

I was not looking for anything. I just wanted to inform the store about the incident so management could be aware and take any action they deemed appropriate.

Read in full here

Big Company Charity

People often talk about the big companies and their support of charitable causes, disaster relief and other humaitarian projects – this article in The Guardian talks about this very topic.

The charity disparity: can corporate benevolence be free of self-interest?

For all the talk of aid dependency, Haiti is more dependent on remittances – people sending money home from abroad – than donations. While aid averaged about 12% of its annual income between 2004 and 2009, remittances from workers abroad averaged more than 22%, officially reaching almost $1.5bn in 2010 (although experts claim it is at least double that). As one friend put it, the Haitian toiling in the cloakroom of some London nightclub is more important than the World Bank.


So there is hardly a more important company for Haiti, and many other countries dependent on remittances, than Western Union. It oversees 214m personal money transactions every year, totalling approximately $76bn.

Read full article 

What are your thoughts on big companies and their support of charity – is it self serving, a way to please their customers and to look good in the community, or are they doing it for all the ‘right reasons’?



Is social media impacting on your appeal


We may have seen reports that traditional/regular giving to charity hasn’t declined much with the recession and the wave of natural disasters, but have new donors “signed up” for the long haul? 

When people see pleas for assistance for crises, famine, natural disasters they want to help, they want to help right here – right now. 

But, how many of these will become regular donors, have they been sold on the work you do, or have they given to help with this one “event”? 

The upside of the wide uptake of social media is that it gives an immediate way to get your message out – you have the opportunity to reach many people in a very short space of time. This gives you the opportunity to push out pleas for immediate assistance. 

There can be a downside to too much use of social media to run appeals, people can turn off quickly, and even if they don’t and they give; it’s likely they’ll only give the once. 

It’s important to have balance, to run appeals – but to also show the positives of what has been happening. Even the worst disaster can have a positive story you can share. 

Read Three Ways Social Media Has Negatively Affected the Nonprofit Sector (and What We Can Do About It) from Nonprofit Tech 2.0 – it covers some of the above and more. 

Are you turning your supporters (current and potential) off by being too negative, or are you being balanced with your online activity?



Image: Courtesy of mattinbgn


Charities and Social Media


We’re almost constantly being approached to help one charity or another; sometimes it seems that these requests are coming daily – whether this is reality or not, it certainly seems like it.

Having worked for or been involved with charitable organisations for a number of years I’ve seen many “pitch styles” used, pulling at heart strings, guilt, or more sincere approaches simply asking people to give as much (or as little) as they can.

Something I’m finding difficult to understand is why more charities, community groups and the like aren’t using social media to tap into and connect, communicate with the potential huge supporter base it could offer.

Sure some don’t have the resources to do this; some have such tight budgets that even getting someone in to help them navigate the social media stream can be prohibitive.

In the work I do for community groups I’ve seen organisations using social media really well, others are making an attempt, while the third group have said “we just can’t see how it will benefit us”.

Recently I spoke at a charity’s conference on using social media; it was apparent from the instant I started talking that they could see how effective this could be. Sure there can be challenges (who speaks, what’s said, how often), but any challenge can be overcome with the right planning and strategy being implemented from the outset.

If more charities were to start using social media I’m sure they would soon discover that they not only connect with potential supporters, but they would soon start building relationships with other groups in the community. If they are able to build these relationships I’m confident that like in business, knowledge will be shared, tips will be passed on, and they may even discover more cost effective ways to raise the funds they need.

Those in business who are using social media know and understand the opportunities it enables to reach the masses, which makes for some interesting and perhaps unique ways of marketing for business, so why not for charity as well?

The potential social media offers business can also mean great things for charities and community groups.

When once we were only able to talk with our current supporters and those identified as being potential supporters, social media now opens more doors to enable messages to get out there. The opportunities social media gives mean that messages are able to be spread wider than ever possible before.

Using social media gives anyone a better way to find people, and when it comes to charities it means you can find people who care about a causes; once you’ve ‘found’ then there’s the chance to connect with them, build a relationship and get them to help.

It won’t happen overnight, but building an online relationship with ‘your’ supporters means you have a quick, easy and virtually free way to gain more help and support.

Charities who adopt social media as part of their communication strategy will soon find that their ‘first level’ supporters will pass on messages to their friends and other connections on social media sites – meaning messages will be transmitted exponentially. You can’t get this from a phone call, from a mailer or by having people on the street asking for support.

For charities or others working in the community wanting to venture into the world of social media check out #10Ways to Support Charity Through Social Media,

The tips given are:

Ø  Writing a blog post

Ø  Sharing stories with friends

Ø  Following charities on social networks

Ø  Supporting causes on awareness hubs

Ø  Finding volunteer opportunities

Ø  Embedding widgets on your site,

Ø  Organizing tweetups

Ø  Expressing yourself with video

Ø  Signing or starting a petition

Ø  Organizing an online event

Whatever a charity, or anyone using social media should understand is that a simple, quick message on one social media site can and will soon spread. The important thing is to connect, join in the conversation and engage; it’s not the place to be pleading for help, subtlety works best.

You’ll find support will come your way simply by spreading your message, letting people know what you are doing, and showing examples of the work being done.

Don’t miss the boat, get on board and start sailing in the waters of Social Media, you have nothing to lose.

(This post originally appeared on AdageBusiness)


Nonprofits and Social Media – A Series


A week or so ago I posted “Questions about Social Media” and said I’d be posting a series – sorry for the delay in getting this started. Watch for the series kicking off next week.

I’ll be talking about:

  • Why you should be using social media
  • What social media can do for your organisation – including case studies
  • Planning – Laying the foundations, know what you’re doing and why
  • Tools – some of the tools available, getting started
  • How to – Connect, Engage, Collaborate and more
  • ROI – What could you gain, it’s not all about money

These are only some of the areas the Nonprofits and Social Media series will cover, if you have something you’d like to see covered leave a comment below; I’ll cover it if I’m able.

Listen to “Putting it Together” and see how some of the lyrics tie into our daily life 

A vision’s just a vision if it’s only in your head!

It has to come to life!


Bit by bit, putting it together
Piece by piece, only way to make a work of art
Every moment makes a contribution
Every little detail plays a parts
Having just a vision’s no solution
Everything depends on execution
Putting it together, that’s what counts!
Ounce by ounce, putting in together
Small amounts, adding up to make a work of art
First of all you need a good foundation
Otherwise it’s risky from the start
Takes a little cocktail conversation
But without the proper preparation
Having just a vision’s no solution
Everything depends on execution

Until next week – enjoy 


Payroll Giving


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. 



Questions About Social Media

After reading “The 8 Wrong Questions PR Firms Are Asking About Social Media” I got to thinking that these questions are the same that any non-profit could/should be asking.

It’s not too hard to get started using social media, it’s the ongoing use of it that organisations seem to have a challenge with, maybe by looking at these questions you’ll start having a clearer picture of its use in your organisation.

Keep an eye out over the next week for my new post “Non-profits and Social Media” – which will be the start of a series looking at what can be gained, tools at your disposal and who’s doing what; hopefully we’ll be sharing some great case studies too – so stay tuned.


Donating with a tweet


Some may know I’m a guest contributor for 101Fundraising, a global resource for topic within the charity, non-profit area. 

My recent post “Donating with a Tweet” came about after some discussion on Twitter about what it organisations were hoping to gain from a donated tweet. A valid question, and one I thought needed addressing – and hopefully I’ve managed to answer some questions people have about it as a way charities and non-profits can use to spread their message and, gain support. 

Hopefully “Donating with a tweet” will help answer some questions and, give some suggestion as to how organisations could better help people understand.