Charity bag household donations sold abroad, says BHF

Charity shops The BHF said householders had a right to know what happened to their donations

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Only a third of items donated to door-to-door charity bag collectors end up in high street charity shops, with most being sold abroad, it has been claimed.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF), which carried out the research, urged transparency from commercial firms used by charities for collections.

The BHF said the companies kept donated goods and resold them for profit.

But the firms said they were completely open and provided a vital service to small charities.

They also argued there was an important difference between legitimate operators, which donate an agreed sum of cash to the charity, and "bogus collectors" who keep the money they make.

The BHF said many charities do deals with commercial companies which collect door to door for them with bags carrying the charity's logo, with donated goods often sold on abroad for profit.

The BHF's research said, in some cases, charities got £50 to £100 per tonne of goods collected - but the items could sell overseas for anything up to £1,800.

As little as 5% of the cash could end up being paid to good causes, the BHF added.

Start Quote

There are about 200,000 charities in the UK and less than 1% of them have the resources to set up shops”

End Quote Michael Lomotey Clothes Aid

A poll of 2,000 people by the BHF suggested 70% of the charity bags received by an average householder were actually from commercial companies, which were working with charities.

The increase in such home collections has led to an estimated loss of donations made directly to BHF shops worth £4.6m in the last two years, the charity said.

BHF retail director Mike Lucas said : "It is vital commercial companies act responsibly and be transparent on their charity bags - particularly around how much profit the named charity will actually make from a collection.

"Although this is a legal way to raise money, companies working for commercial gain are a huge problem for charities with high street shops.

"BHF shops do not work with these companies and because of this 100% of the profits made from charity bag donations stay with the charity - helping us continue our lifesaving work."

One company, Clothes Aid, said it asked UK householders to donate clothing using its official collection bags and was totally transparent about its operation.


Michael Lomotey, from Clothes Aid, said charities which worked with the company got about 94% of the profits it raised, after costs.

"There are about 200,000 charities in the UK and less than 1% of them have the resources to set up shops - so being able to out source these type of collections is a good way of fundraising," he said.

Mr Lomotey added: "Not everyone has money to spend, like the British Heart Foundation does, on a bank of shops."

Clare Glascott, from another collection company, care2collect, said it collects household items for an agreed sum of £50 per tonne to the charities.

But she pointed out the company ran the entire service, including distributing and collecting sacks and processing donations, adding: "For the size of the charities we work with, it's a no-brainer for them."

Ms Glascott said care2collect, which works with the National Blind Children's Society and Action for Children, clearly labelled its collection bags and provided background information on its website.

Responding to the BHF's concerns, she added: "If there was a conflict with the companies like ourselves, it would be the charities that lose out."

Both Clothes Aid and care2collect said the issue of unscrupulous, bogus operators had become more prominent in the last few years.

The BHF released the findings in support of their Big Donation campaign for September, appealing for items with which to stock their 670 shops nationwide.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    Charities. Do we really need them? Why not put up taxation to pay for them instead. Surely there must be a massive waste of resources with each charity doing the same thing but with their own officials. Personally, most things I buy are used until they are beyond economic repair. My clothes have to be in rags before I replace them. Buy new for best wear finally ending up as gardening wear.

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    If a bag was put through my door I would assume that NONE of it was going towards private profit.

    If a company wants to donate to charity, they can say that, but they should not be using the charities branding and should be saying that this is primarily a for-profit venture.

    Otherwise it is pure misrepresentation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    This is why I never use those bags. I don't blame the charities, because they are getting ripped off just as much as the donators are & it is nothing short of stealing on behalf of those companies. A disgrace & it should be made ilegal because people think that the goods they donate will either go directly to people who need them or that all the profits go to the chairty. Use the bags as binliners

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    The charities moan that they miss out but they're the ones that don't provide suitable containers by their shops where donations can be left out of hours. The large metal containers in parking lots are impossible to use and they're always full and have litter around them because charities do not maintain them. I'd be happy to donate my unwanted things to charities if they'd accept goods after 5pm!

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Charities really do need to come clean about where our donations are going. I have been tempted to donate via direct debit for years but feel any effort I make will only go on promotion and advertising, not to mention the inevitable wastage on expenses for senior staff. If I could be sure the benefactors of the charity were to receive 90% of my donation I would not hesitate for a moment.


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