Charity retail learning & development – what you told us


The Charity Consultancy recently ran an online poll to find out more about training, learning and development opportunities within charity shops.

We know from research carried out in 2019 by Charity Finance that 9% of charities (from their sample of 71) spend less than £20 per staff member per year on training. Although things are improving and spend increased by 10.7% in 2019, this is still a tiny amount of money and a sorry state of affairs.

Retail staff are such key members of any charity’s team. Often they will be the first point of contact for potential service users or supporters, so it’s vital that they are equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to represent their charity, as well as being successful retail fundraisers. Our experience is that lots of shop staff learn on the job – they might bring skills from previous roles, often from commercial retail – but frequently they are ‘feeling their way’ through a complex and important role, which involves people and management skills, stock control, merchandising, finance, problem solving, conflict resolution and so much more.

Investing in these people is therefore vital.

We asked charities a short series of questions to find out more, and this is what you said:

Have you trained your retail team in any of these key areas in the last 2 years?
89% said they had trained staff in Gift Aid and in volunteer recruitment and retention.
65% had provided customer service and merchandising training
Only 40% had provided people management training and even fewer had worked with their teams on areas such as social media, stock acquisition and succession planning

What are your team’s top training needs for 2020?
Despite it being one of the most popular topics already covered, charities told us they still need to focus on volunteer recruitment and retention. This is no surprise as the Charity Shops Survey 2019 listed shortage of volunteers as one of the top areas of concern for charity leaders.
Managing people was also a big focus for this year – which ties in with making sure you look after the people you already have, as well as finding new ones.

How much did you spend last year training each of your staff team?
In line with what we had already seen, over 50% of the charities who responded spent less than £25 per head on training their team last year. The positive story though, is that 20% spent over £150 per head, showing that some charities really do understand the value of a well-trained team.

In the past how have you accessed training for your retail team?
Over 75% of respondents have provided in-house training in the past – we think this reflects the high amount of mandatory and health and safety training carried out by many hospices and other charities. It’s fantastic when you have people in your team who can share their skills and experiences with others, but sometimes it’s good to look outside too, to make sure you’re getting a fresh perspective and tapping into new developments and ideas.

When we asked how people would like to offer training in the future, there was a fairly even split between bespoke courses, attending external courses and 1-1 mentoring.

Who do you want to offer training to?
Over 50% were focussed on training for shop floor staff – managers and assistants, followed by 20% for Area Managers. This reiterates our point at the start of this blog – that those on the shop floor are often charities’ best asset, so it’s vital that to value and invest in them.

So….what next?
It’s been fascinating to get a better picture of what’s happening and what people want in terms of learning and development. At the Charity Retail Consultancy, we listen to our clients’ feedback and always have an eye out to see what the latest trends, developments and needs are across the sector. The information we’ve gathered has given us a great foundation and we will be offering training over the next 12 months in a number of ways.

We will be running a series of training courses across the country this year. These will include:

Volunteer Recruitment – how to properly identify the gaps in your team and know the best ways to fill them. We’ll be focussing on making the most of the rise of the environmental activist – and how your shops can be their place of choice to help save the planet. This course is a new twist on a long standing topic and not to be missed!

Space Management & Merchandising – a brilliant way to help shop teams understand how to make the best use of their available space and where to focus their attention to get the best possible return.

Stock acquisition – as securing good quality stock becomes even more of a challenge, this session helps everyone be responsible for attracting the right goods to sell.

Customer Service – a long standing topic but in these challenging times for the high street, giving your customers the best possible experience in your shops is vital. Learn how to make your shop experience one that your customers love – and keep them coming back time after time.

Places are £100 per delegate for a full day.

Contact vicki@thecharityretailconsultancy.co.uk for more information, and look out for our newsletters & social media for details.

We will also continue to develop and run bespoke training courses for whole teams, delivered at your choice of location and for up to 20 people at a time. Contact either Jayne or Vicki if you’re interested in a great value way to build your team’s skills.

We already offer mentoring and 1-1 coaching for senior staff and there are great deals to be had if you book several sessions in advance.

Training is always on our agenda and we are happy to discuss your requirements with you, so your team gets exactly what they need to be the very best they can be. Do get in touch if you have any questions or want to know more – and keep your eye out on our social media platforms and website for new sessions and information.

Twitter – @charityretailco
Facebook – @thecharityretailconsultancy
LinkedIn – @thecharityretailconsultancy
Web – www.thecharityretailconsultancy.co.uk
email – hello@thecharityretailconsultancy.co.uk
Tel – 07985 574904 / 07598 243210

Top Tips to help you share the Zero Waste message


Charity shops are a retailing force for good. They create new income for charities, they’re all about affordability and unique purchases, they create great volunteering opportunities, bring a buzz to the High Street and are great for the planet. Really great.
Without charity shops, so many clothes, furniture, bric a brac and books would end up in landfill. According to the Charity Retail Association, 339,000 tonnes of textiles were sent on for reuse and recycling by charity shops in 2018/2019. And according to a recent Government report, we buy more clothes per person in the UK than any other country in Europe. [1] Incredibly, we now buy five times what we bought in the 1980s, according to some estimates. It is shocking that UK citizens discard around a million tonnes of textiles per year. Our fast fashion habits need to change, and your charity shops have an important role in saving the planet.
So what can you do?
Act now! Fashion and supermarket retailers are successfully shouting their green messages, and we must do the same. Pre-loved purchases are a guilt-free and affordable choice. So here are three ways to share the green love:

1. Make some noise!
Plan some eye catching enviro windows, use your social media presence to engage with more customers, and print some posters that communicate facts like those above and these two:
– New clothes bought in the UK produce more carbon emissions per minute than driving a car around the circumference of the Earth six times. [2]
– Buying one new white 100 per cent cotton shirt weighing approximately 220g produces the same amount of carbon emissions as driving a car for 35 miles.  So conversely, buying one preloved white shirt is the equivalent to saving the carbon emissions from a 35 mile car journey

2. Refresh your objectives and strategy!
Take a look at your existing plans and find opportunities to incorporate sustainability concepts that complement your strategies. At the same time, ask yourselves if there are new environmental and social strategies you can create that will be unique to your charity and that will add value to your messaging and to your retail business.

3. Get involved with like-minded organisations!
Get involved with groups who can help share your messages with theirs to help build your presence in the wider community. You could contact Greenpeace, WRAP or Fashion Revolution, a not-for-profit movement with teams in over 100 countries who campaign for a reform of the fashion industry, focusing on the need for greater transparency in the supply chain. They call themselves “pro-fashion protesters” because they love fashion and want to see it become a force for good. This Fashion Revolution Week, from the 20th to the 26th of April 2020, they’re joining forces with Global Fashion Exchange (GFX) to make the largest fashion swap in history.

 

[1] European Clothing Action Plan, Used Textile Collection in European Cities (March 2018)

[2] WRAP’s 2016 report “Valuing Our Clothes: The Cost of UK Fashion”

Making the most of Christmas trading


Christmas is a vital time of year for charities – it’s the time when many people are feeling generous and want to give, so having a variety of opportunities for your supporters is vital.

Christmas cards is one area where charities can really have an impact. The charity Christmas card market is huge – even in these digital times – and having a great selection of cards with a good profit margin is a brilliant way to raise money and get your name out to all your supporters’ friends and families.

In order to help charities make the very most of their Christmas card offer, we are delighted to be holding a free event providing advice and support on all aspects of Christmas trading.

Whether you have an already established Christmas card operation or have never tried them before, our event will have something for you. We will run a workshop on all elements of a successful Christmas card campaign – including choosing a range, setting prices, selling via shops, catalogues and online – and much more besides.

There will be a free lunch provided by an amazing local caterer, CatchaCarrot and in the afternoon you can browse the new card range from the main supplier to the charity sector, Elle Media and speak to their representative who will be attending the whole day. Elle are also kindly sponsoring the event, ensuring it is free to everyone who wishes to attend.

The Consultancy will also be offering free 1-1 sessions with Vicki to talk about any aspect of your retail or trading activities. There will also of course, be lots of opportunity to network with your fellow charity workers.

All in all, we think it’s going to be a great event and we’d love to see you there.

Date:               11th February 2020

Time:               11am – 3pm

Location:         The Rockfield Centre, Oban

To register for free, email vicki@thecharityretailconsultancy.co.uk

The 2019 Charity Shops Survey – what does it tell us?


Once again, our open and collaborative sector has come together to help produce a really useful benchmarking tool. The 28th Charity Shops Survey is a vital piece of kit for any charity retailer, mapping the highs and lows of the year just gone and gathering thoughts and concerns for the future. 71 charities representing almost 6,500 shops completed the 2019 survey, published by Charity Finance.

At the Charity Retail Consultancy we use the survey a great deal, so thought we’d share our thoughts on what the latest edition can teach us:

Profits are up

Firstly – good news! Once again our sector sees profits up on last year. With an increase of 5.9% on 2018, growth has accelerated and is certainly a huge turnaround from 2016 when we saw an almost 12% fall in profits. We think that those poor figures a few years ago really made people sit up and think – and make radical changes to turn things around. The move to specialist shops, larger stores, selling online, cutting costs and driving income generators such as Gift Aid have all helped, despite some of the ever present challenges around stock and volunteer numbers.

Where charities are taking a more innovative approach there have been some fantastic results. For example, Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland have a Community Hub, Boutique & Clearance model making sure their shops really reflect the needs of their local communities. They are one of the few charities growing their chain, increasing by 5 stores last year and were rewarded by a 31.4% growth in profit.

Lots of the highest profit growth was seen in hospice chains. We work with many hospices and see how they can increase engagement and support by telling their powerful and moving local stories through their shops. Always popular with donors and customers, making that extra effort to really show how the hospice helps the local community can bring supporters even closer to the cause and generate extra income via increased donations and volunteer numbers.

Pic: Martin House Children’s Hospice shop, Yeadon – showing messages and images from the hospice to tell their story on the high street

Shop numbers are down

For the second year in a row, shop numbers have fallen. We don’t see this as a negative thing – more the sector getting its house in order, really looking at how much each store contributes and closing those which don’t cut the mustard. Have you got shops in your chain which don’t make a profit or are marginal in their contribution? Sometimes it can be hard to walk away, but it’s important to ensure the charity is investing its money wisely. Our retail reviews help to identify the true profitability of each shop in the chain and if there is potential to do better – sometimes repositioning a store’s offer, improving processes or upskilling the team can make all the difference. However, if you’ve tried all that and the shop still can’t turn a profit, it could be time to make some tough decisions and invest the money elsewhere.

The other influencing factors on shops numbers declining are the rise of the superstore – opening fewer, large format stores – and a cautious approach to expansion whilst charities ensure their base offer is working as well as it can be.

Despite the 2 year decline, however, retailers are still optimistic about the future and 87% of charities operating between 26 and 100 shops said they planned to open new shops next year.

Recruiting volunteers is still hard work

Volunteers are the backbone of our sector – their gift of time, skills, enthusiasm and hard work keeps the wheels of over 11,000 charity shops turning each year. However, the number of volunteer hours per shop per week has fallen again after a brief peak last year.

Almost everyone is in the same boat – everyone wants and needs more volunteers and many of you are effectively competing for the same people’s time. So what to do? The most successful charity retailers know that in order to attract volunteers the whole organisation must genuinely embrace and celebrate everything they bring. We’ve blogged about volunteers and how best to recruit and retain them – and as volunteers ourselves, we have first-hand knowledge of what a ‘good’ volunteering experience looks like. The Consultancy can help you with volunteer recruitment, training, retention and reward – get in touch if you want to find out more.

Superstores are really profitable

For the first time this year, the survey looked specifically at results from those charities running large format superstores. Sue Ryder is the biggest player in this field at the moment, with 50 of these stores, primarily based on retail parks and trading from warehouse style units. The survey showed that profits from this type of store are nearly three times more than a ‘traditional’ shop at £1,604 per shop per week, despite higher staffing and running costs.

We have been working with several charities recently who are all looking at developing an out of town or superstore offer – there are some great examples out there to learn from, not least the brand new Oxfam superstore which has attracted national media coverage and was listed as one of the best new retail concept stores in the world by Insider trends.

Pic: Oxfam Superstore, Oxford

If you are considering expanding into this new type of retail offer and want some help and support with the process, the Charity Retail Consultancy can help you.

And finally….

Overall, the sector is in good shape. We have once again bucked the mainstream retail trend of declining sales from bricks and mortar and continue to bring a vibrant, profitable, cause related offer to high streets all over the country. The survey results tell a great story and look forward with confidence to next year.

If your charity has contributed to the survey this year – thank you. And if not, make sure you do next year. Deadline for completion is usually around July so make sure you’re on the list to receive the form – every charity that takes part receives a free copy of the results and the more that take part, the more comprehensive and valuable the data becomes.

 

For reviews, staff & volunteer training, feasibility studies and much more, contact us to see how The Charity Retail Consultancy can help improve your retail operation:

Email:              hello@thecharityretailconsultancy.co.uk

FB:                  The Charity Retail Consultancy

Twitter:            @charityretailco

Web:                www.thecharityretailconsultancy.co.uk

 

 

2020 Vision – our 5 tips for successful budgeting


We know that this is such a busy time of year – Christmas is just around the corner, and many of you are facing key decisions in planning and budgeting for the next financial year. But you’re not alone – the Charity Retail Consultancy is your budgeting friend and we’ve developed 5 top tips to help with this crucial task.

Tip 1: Understand what a budget really is
It’s not about managing all costs to the last penny; a budget is a thoughtful plan that helps you stick to your strategy and spot and deal with areas for improvement by making better spending decisions.
Go into budgeting with a positive mindset; it never works well if you see it as a hurdle, so start the process with knowledge, hope, confidence and see your budget plans for what they are – a helpful business tool.

Tip 2: Be realistic
If you set budgets which others in your team and the wider charity see as unattainable, then that’s the likely outcome. So unless there are any major changes planned, develop your budget based on past results and future projections.
Start by recognising which costs are fixed and inevitable. Then look at lines that have fluctuated over the years (we suggest looking back over 5 years) and identify what caused this fluctuation. Was it one-offs, could costs have been better controlled or can high income lines be repeated?
Use your charity’s past information to develop a more concrete basis for establishing budget numbers. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be ambitious – the unrestricted income from a charity retail operation is vital to every charity, so aspire to be the best you can be, but ensure those predictions are based on strong foundations.

Tip 3: Be thorough

The more detailed your planning is, the more effective your budget will be. So plan when you will do your budgeting, give yourself plenty of time and ideally, lock yourself away and tell people not to disturb you apart from emergencies.
And remember you’re not alone – talk to colleagues in your team and in the wider charity. The Finance and IT teams for example might have knowledge and tips to help you, and your own team have more detailed knowledge than you in some areas – for example, you might not know that a shop manager is planning on retiring, but with that knowledge you can plan its impact on costs (such as recruitment and training) and income.

Tip 4: Share it
The retail budget shouldn’t be a secret. At The Charity Retail Consultancy we are big advocates of transparency and accountability, and we know there is a real difference in the success of those charities that share budgets and other important information with their teams and those that don’t. It’s not always easy or comfortable but a shared budget ultimately leads to greater trust, engagement, increased feedback and beneficial communication. The more you can empower and engage your employees, the better off your retail operation will be.

Tip 5: Talk to us!
The Charity Retail Consultancy helps charities deliver better budgets that are ambitious and achievable. We start with a conversation about where you want to go and what you want to achieve with the resources you have available, and then we offer guidance on the best ways forward.  For example, your strategy might include having 3 volunteers per shift in every shop, so we can work with you to look at what that means in terms of numbers, develop a series of recruitment events, and run a bespoke training course for all staff. Many charities spend less than £20 per year on training each of their retail staff, leading to a loss of motivation and of skills to get the most from their shop and local team.
At The Charity Retail Consultancy we are an award winning, hugely experienced and passionate team who take pride in delivering bespoke and highly rated retail training, development and mentoring to charities across the UK.

#IHeartCharityShops Campaign


 

We launched our #IHeartCharityShops campaign at the recent Charity Retail Association conference. Everyone we spoke to loved the idea and it was fantastic to see our badges popping up on delegates, speakers, suppliers and the CRA team over the 2 days.

Lots of people also told us why they love charity shops in our competition and we were overwhelmed by the responses. We’ve shared some of our favourites on Twitter so take a look at our feed   and see if yours is there.

It was interesting to see several themes emerging from the replies – and we thought sharing these would give charity retailers some great things to talk about with teams and supporters.

  1. Environment

#IHeartCharityShops because ….we are saving the world one T shirt at a time!

–       Lauren Gardner, Royal Trinity Hospice

Although charity shops have been doing great things for the environment for the last 100 years, we’ve not really shouted about it too much until now. The more urgent messages around climate change and the ‘Blue Planet effect’ have brought care for our environment to the fore recently and we are in a fantastic position to remind people of how brilliant charity shops are for the planet. The Charity Retail Association has produced a great quick reference guide to help us all tell the story: https://www.charityretail.org.uk/charity-shops-the-environment/ – why not download it and share it with all of your shops so your teams are briefed and ready to talk to their customers and donors about the difference they are making.

2. Volunteers

#IHeartCharityShops because ….they are the ultimate gift shops, full of kind gifts of time, talent and stuff!

– Lily Caswell, Florence Nightingale Hospice Charity

The charity retail sector now has 230,000 volunteers working in its shops – an absolute wealth of talent, skills, experience and diversity. Recognising the value and skills of our volunteers is vital – as is acknowledging their contribution and saying thank you. We love to promote and champion volunteers and volunteering at the Consultancy and have written several blogs on the subject. You can read them here: http://www.thecharityretailconsultancy.co.uk/blog/

3. Value for Money

#IHeartCharityShops because ….I would only be walking around in my underwear!!!

–       Linda Ewen, Highland Hospice

We loved this comment from Linda – and it really does tell the story of how you can get great bargains charity shops. We all know the buzz of how it feels to bag a bargain – and our customers love it as much as we do. With financial pressures and uncertainty around Brexit, the UK public are thinking hard about how and where they spend their money – so letting them know what great deals they can get from your shops is a no brainer.

4. Shop Quirky

#IHeartCharityShops because….I can be an individual and not see myself walking down the street!

–       Louise Broadstock, ValleyCIDS

We’ve all seen the change over recent years in how charity shops present themselves – we now embrace our differences, show how quirky and different we are – and our customers love it! We think that the sector started to realise we could do things differently after Jayne (then Head of Retail for Save the Children) worked with Mary Portas to develop the Mary’s Living & Giving brand. Since then, so much has changed and we’ve seen from the WOW! Awards how inventive and creative our sector really is. Combine this with a generation of people who all want to express their individuality and we can see a match made in heaven. Using social media platforms – especially Instagram – to show off your best pieces and help people see how charity shop shopping really does help to create a unique look – is a great idea. There is also an excellent Facebook group called Charity Retail Visual Merchandising and Display where shop teams share pictures of their windows and interiors, providing a wealth of ideas and inspiration. At the Consultancy we offer training and support around how to use social media to your advantage within your chains, so do get in touch if you want to know more.

5. Community

#IHeartCharityShops because….communities need craziness, creativity, mixed cultures and caring people to spread the love!

– Samuel Cousins, Shelter

Samuel cleverly captures the importance of charity shops within their communities with his phrase. Being at the heart of our communities is vital for the sector – the relationship is a mutually beneficial one, giving and receiving on both sides. We provide opportunities for volunteering, employment, social interaction, great value goods, a buoyant high street – and as we heard in the conference sessions from Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland – increasingly we are offering our charity’s services directly from our shops. In return, we receive goods, time, skills, energy, custom, publicity and a whole heap of love from those around us. Making your shops truly part of the community is great for everyone.

 

All in all, there were loads of brilliant reasons for people to say #IHeartCharityShops. Why not ask your customers, donors, staff and volunteers why they Heart them too and share their stories in your shop windows and on social media? Let’s keep it trending and let everyone know just how wonderful charity shops are.

The Charity Retail Consultancy voted Supplier of the Year 2019


At the recent Charity Retail Awards we were absolutely delighted to be named Supplier of the Year 2019 in the Small Business category.

As charity retailers ourselves with many years’ experience, we totally understand the thrills and challenges of running a charity shop chain, so to be recognised as a great resource for the sector ticks all our boxes. Our goal is to help everyone see how brilliant charity shops are – for the environment, for their charities, for the people who work in, donate to and shop in them, for their communities and for the high street.

That our small business can scoop such a prestigious award from the sector that we are so passionate about means the world to us and winning it will help us to have an even bigger voice to help spread the word.

Thank you to everyone who voted for us – Jayne & Vicki

 

Our Top 10 Tips for getting the most out of this year’s Conference


We’ve been around a bit…..we’ve seen our fair share of Conferences. So, we thought we’d help you to get the very most from your trip to Nottingham this year by sharing our Top 10 Conference Tips:

  1. Get there early and stay ‘til the end.

There’s so much to see and do that it’s foolish to leave early. If you can, make sure you get there as soon as you can and don’t leave before the last session – you never know what you might miss if you do!

 

  1. Network

Some of the best things to come out of the conference might not be from a formal session or workshop. We are a sector which loves to share – meeting and chatting with fellow charity retailers will give you some great new contacts and ideas to take back to your shops.

  1. Go to all the sessions you can

If you’re lucky and there’s more than one of you from your organisation going to conference, make sure you all go to different sessions so you can cover as much information as possible – then make sure you build in time when you get home to share everything you’ve learned with each other. If you’re there on your own, go to a wide range of subjects to give yourself the broadest view.

 

  1. Visit the Exhibition

We know we’re a bit biased, but honestly – some of the suppliers to our sector are the bee’s knees. They are there to help you do the best you can with your chain, so make time to visit all the stands and see what they can do for you. And whilst we’re on the subject…..

 

  1. Enjoy the freebies!

Most of the suppliers will have great little giveaways on their stands – from chocolates to bags, highlighter pens to mini dustbins, they have it all!  We’re doing our bit and bringing our I Y Charity Shops badges with us, so make sure you visit us at Stand 50 to get yours.

  1. Vote in the WOW! Awards

There really is some first rate talent in our sector and the WOW! Awards are a chance to see the best of it in action.  It’s great to be recognised for your good work, so voting supports your sector colleagues – and it gives you lots of great ideas to take back and try in your own shops too.

 

  1. Stay hydrated and eat your lunch

It’s a full on experience at Conference, and often really hot too – so keeping refreshed will keep you at peak condition to make sure you make the most of it – especially on Day 2 after a late night partying at the Awards dinner.

 

  1. Bring your business cards – then don’t forget you’ve got them

To save time, make sure you have your business cards with you and then share them with the new people you meet, whether that be sector colleagues or suppliers. Make sure you get theirs too – then take some time when you’re back in the office to add them to your contacts.

  1. . Remember the notes are available afterwards

Don’t feel you have to scribble everything down during all the sessions – more often than not, the lovely team at the CRA will make them available on their website after the event. This means you can concentrate on what’s going on, instead of worrying about what you might have missed

 

  1. Have fun!
    It’s a brilliant event and the one time in our year we can all get together and have a really good catch up. Enjoy the sessions, the networking, the Exhibition – and of course the Awards dinner. We’ll see you on the dance floor…… 

Less is more: Charity retail reaction to the Oxfam Charity Commission investigation


It’s all over the news today. Oxfam is reeling from the results of the long awaited Charity Commission’s investigation. The report demands a continued global expectation of improved safeguarding and that any allegations of child sexual abuse are more thoroughly investigated. Oxfam says it is changing and working better to improve the people it serves. Here at the Charity Retail Consultancy we are saddened by what has happened in Oxfam’s name, and we stand by those who are bringing about the changes in behaviours and expectations of all stakeholders.

In the UK we expect our charities to be exemplary at all times, and when they’re not, we are quick to criticise and even to withdraw support. We’re feeling solidarity with all charity workers today, and especially (because we know this particular sector well) to the shop workers.

Blimey, it’s tough in retail. When all around you the high street is struggling and the pressure to generate more income is ever increasing, the last thing you need is even more regulations. But the Charity Commission’s Oxfam report will undoubtedly place greater expectations on UK charity shop staff to improve safeguarding and controls. Whether it’s more DBS checks, enhanced safeguarding training, changes to induction training or to the types of volunteers a charity shop can welcome, the outcome is that there will be a greater emphasis on controls and procedures.

We totally agree that all of this is essential to protect the charities’ people. Bring it on. But spare a thought for the hard working and relatively lowly paid shop manager who has to introduce and manage all of this, on top of everything else they have to do to run a charity shop. So how do we ensure it happens and is done well and in the positive spirit it is intended? It’s about providing real support for the teambut maybe it’s worth taking another look at income targets. To retain and to continue to motivate our best people, charity retailers might need to expect less in the tills. Reducing the income budget, by say 5%, to reflect the additional workload that any enhanced checks and new styles of local leadership will generate might be a sensible way forwards. If a charity’s people are supported and protected, it can deliver a realistic budget in the face of increasing challenges, and it will continue to inspire, give hope and build trust.

Charities have the potential to build communities and improve everyone’s way of life like no other sector. Let’s remember that and do this properly.

The Charity Retail Consultancy can support your charity through change and to secure improvements.  Visit our website for more information or get in touch via email:

jayne@thecharityretailconsultancy.co.uk

vicki@thecharityretailconsultancy.co.uk

Volunteering – The heart of charity retail


My journey in the world of charity retail began with volunteering for St Luke’s Hospice, Sheffield in their very first shop. It was 1983, I was 16 and I spent my Saturday mornings sorting clothes and learning about retail. Fast forward a few years and having got my Retail Marketing degree I decided commercial retail was not for me and volunteered at my local Oxfam shop. I learned so much there about people management, merchandising, customer service, how to be part of a team. That role set me off into a now 30 year career in the sector – and in that cyclical way life has sometimes, I’m now volunteering for Oxfam again – in rural Scotland this time, where I’ve just relocated.

I am loving it. I’ve met new friends and neighbours; learned where my bus goes from and to in order to get there (‘local’ in these parts equates to 20 miles away); been taught the till by another brilliant volunteer; been trusted to remerchandise the accessories department on my second week; been thanked by the Oxfam GB team via Twitter as well as by the lovely shop manager. I left my shift there this week with a big grin on my face, feeling good about myself and much more integrated into my new community.

All this has reminded me once again, how vital volunteers are for our sector – and how by giving them a great volunteering experience, they can be the best ambassadors for our charities AND feel fabulous about themselves too. It is easy as charity retail leaders for us to feel frustrated by not having enough volunteers, or worried about safeguarding, or caught up in the nitty gritty of our daily work – but by genuinely holding volunteers and the wonderful array of skills, stories and experience they bring to our organisations at the very centre of everything we do, we can harness amazing benefits.

Every volunteer journey begins before the potential volunteer identifies themselves to us. Everything we do needs to demonstrate how we value and support those who help us. Once the initial contact is made – either because we have proactively gone out and recruited, or the volunteer has taken the initiative unprompted by us – we need to ensure we give them the best experience possible, by listening, supporting, being clear with our expectations and abundant with our gratitude and praise. Every person who volunteers brings with them a lifetime of experiences – however long or short at that stage – and it is up to us as leaders to make the most of that amazing gift.

I believe my life is richer for having spent so much of it around volunteers – and about to be even richer for being one again. What a privilege it is for us to be part of this sector – let’s all remember how much the volunteers we know and those we are yet to meet make it that way, and make sure we give them the volunteering experience they desire and deserve.

The Charity Retail Consultancy can support you in ensuring your volunteers have the best journey possible. We offer training and support to charity retailers in volunteer recruitment, induction, development & reward. A recent charity retail volunteer recruitment and retention training day scored 93% from delegates’ feedback. Visit our website for more information or to get in touch email:

vicki@thecharityretailconsultancy.co.uk

jayne@thecharityretailconsultancy.co.uk

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