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Charity shops reopen

Charity shops finally get to reopen this week, providing many organisations with welcome revenue. This is an opportunity for charities to use their digital tools and skills to unlock the fundraising potential of e-commerce

For those of you tired of scrolling listlessly through Amazon, charity shops throughout the country open today. Retail enthusiasts missing the tangible experience and thrill of finding a bargain will welcome the news almost as much as the charities who have been missing out on vital revenue.

But the charity shops that open their doors to the public this week will be very different places to the ones which closed at the beginning of the lockdown. New safety measures for charity shops mean there will be stringent limits on the number of people who can browse a charity shop at any one time, to help ensure that social distancing is possible. That means that queues outside are likely. And despite an expected surge in donations, all new goods will have to be cleaned or stored for 72 hours before being put on the shelves, stretching storage space to the limits.

But e-commerce offers a solution. The charity sector has the opportunity to support their beloved charity shops with digital charity stores and shopfronts.

In fact, digital fundraising through online retailing is not particularly new: the first online charity shop was launched by Oxfam back in 2007. People are spending more time online, and with supporters’ new-found, lockdown-driven enthusiasm for online shopping, there’s a huge opportunity for charities to establish online charity shops as major digital fundraising sources.

Why choose online charity shops?

The key reason that charities should be considering establishing an online retail presence is to reach more customers. This includes the younger generation which is more used to mobile shopping – and mobile giving – and there’s the added benefit that an online shop can also reach new potential supporters overseas. The digital fundraising potential is enormous: Oxfam’s store reportedly raises over £2 million every year.

But there are other benefits too. The Charity Retail Association says that online stores help charities reach a higher selling price for unusual or high-value goods. In particular, unrecognised treasures are less likely to be unwittingly sold for a few pounds or pence. And customers who buy an item can also be redirected to your charity website, potentially increasing the reach of your charity and encouraging further donations from new donors and existing supporters.

Taking your charity shop online allows you to create an online forum in which to engage directly with your supporters. You can share interesting content about your organisation, your values and your activities.

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