Fundraising innovation for charity shops during pandemic

BRITAIN’S charity shops are facing revenue losses of up to £28m for each month of lockdown, according to the Charity Retail Association.

Vintage Cash Cow provides a hassle-free retail solution — with no overhead costs — to help shift unsold donations and direct money to the end cause.

The company operates a free-to-use postal service for a pandemic-friendly way to recycle, upcycle and rehome donations. Classified as non-essential, charity shops currently find themselves in a battle for survival, unable to use their facilities.

Central warehouses can take advantage of the imposed downtime to sort and send stock to Vintage Cash Cow. This secures the win-win of extra income and extra floor space for fresh donations.

The Cash Cow team learned that charity shops typically sell copper, pewter, silver plate and other items for as little as 5p a kilo. Many even give them away to free-up space. The team has launched a metal price promise, a guaranteed minimum of £1 per kilo for all non-precious scrap metals. It includes jewellery, precious metals, silver and silver-plated pieces, watches, medals, militaria, toys, cameras and old currency. Items are accepted in any condition, even broken or damaged.

Regular customers, including Sue Ryder Care, enjoy an average of £45 per box of items — and the most valuable sent so far was sold for over £850. Since launching its service, Vintage Cash Cow has bought unsold and non-saleable items worth more than £200,000.

Garry Wilkinson, head of charity partnerships at Vintage Cash Cow, said income and storage space were limited for charity shops. “We can help them to increase both. After the first lockdown, shops received far more donations than usual and were struggling to sort the stock and clear the shop floor.

“Many charities were forced to dispose of lower-value items to clear space for surplus donations. We invite them to give us a call while their shops are closed to get them ready to use our service once they reopen.”

Vintage Cash Cow co-founder David Weaver said the service was free-of-charge. “We want to make sure that charities are able to maximise every donation. We’re here to support the third sector, acting as an add-on, a specialist sales operation.”

The organisation can help charities without shops to advertise to their supporters, encouraging donations that will not be sold below their market value.

The scheme has environmental benefits, too: nothing that can be reused or recycled ends up in landfill. “That supports many of the aims of the Government’s new Environment Bill,” says Wilkinson.

Wilkinson has worked for several charities over the past 18 years, including three years as the chairman of the National Association of Hospice Fundraisers. He joined the company in 2019, when Vintage Cash Cow realised that it had several hundred charity shops, registered as normal customers but requiring a separate approach. The team managed to sign up an additional 1,500 shops by March 2020 and had a constant stream of about 350 monthly charity boxes before the start of the pandemic.

Over 1,800 charity shops from 270 charitable organisations across the UK use the service. They include AGE UK, YMCA, Cats Protection, Sue Ryder, Mind, RSPCA and other independent charities and hospices. Cancer Research UK, OXFAM and British Red Cross have expressed an interest in launching a trial of the service when Lockdown 3 is over.

A further 3,000 shops are waiting to start using Vintage Cash Cow. The company expects to grow the number of charity shop customers by 140 percent over the next six months. The aim is to have more than half of the UK’s charity shops using the service.

Those wanting to find out more can fill out a contact form on the website. Vintage Cash Cow’s customer service team will organise free collection of items. Each box can weigh up to 30kg. The service works regardless of a charity’s size, whether it has one shop or 700.

“As a small charity, we need to maximise every opportunity to raise funds,” said a spokesperson for Mission Care. “Vintage Cash Cow seems to be the perfect place to send unsold bric-a-brac.” Vintage Cash Cow provides ongoing communication from its customer service team to support charities throughout the process.

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