So it seems that chugging got some time off this week as the
most publicly-derided form of fundraising.
Research by the British Heart Foundation about
where exactly the clothes people donate in charity bags end up – mostly sold
aboard as rag, apparently – got nationwide coverage and ignited some serious
There are a lot of very serious, threatening problems that
doorstep collections are facing right now. Organised criminal gangs posting fraudulent
bags through doors or stealing full charity bags from doorsteps are among the
worst of these.
The sector is up against far more than just the problems it has created for itself, so I feel it’s time for more collaboration in
this area rather than further in-fighting or territorial behaviour.
I realise every charity needs to raise funds to continue its valuable work, but every charity also holds part of a collective
responsibility to maintain the sector’s reputation amongst the public.
If the public stops trusting charities – and, to a
frightening extent, once people start to distrust some charities, they
very quickly seem to tarnish others with exactly the same brush –
then the sector is likely to lose a lot of time, money and other forms of
One obvious problem the
sector could start trying to solve is the fact that there must be many
wearable items of clothing that are shipped off as rag overseas, while
charity shops must be given plenty of clothes that no one is ever going to buy
from them and has to be sold as rag.
Marking bags clearly to tell the public where the items will
be going, and therefore what type of items it would be best to donate, is one
option the sector could look into.
Another may be some sort of collaborative system so
charity shops can give rag to charities without shops, in return for items that
are far too good to be rag.
There are obvious practicalities to consider carefully, but solutions do need to found. This is the first of
many issues that could be tackled by charities together. Another would be thinking about the
number of bags the public receive – a startling 60m a year, according to one
So instead of any more arguments about who has the right to
all these clothes, maybe it’s time to start thinking about collaborating and
creating a more successful form of fundraising for everyone – before the public
get any more confused about and distrustful of donation bags.