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Charity shops versus
house-to-house collections :
more details

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  • Introduction
  • General issues - choices
    50 times more money is raised by charity shops
    1. Quote it per tonne of clothes
    2. Quote it per item (or per kilogram) of clothing
    3. Present it as a table
    4. Present it as a graphic
  • "Per tonne" is confusing
  • Factors which REDUCE the "50 times" figure
  • Factors which INCREASE the "50 times" figure
  • House-to-house collections where the goods go to charity shops
  • What about charities which get income from house-to-house collectors but don't have charity shops?
    • Solutions
  • Statistics
  • Charity shops - % percentage profit (net proceeds)
  • Related pages
  • Notes

See also the Statistics page.
This gives more information on the facts and figures given below.


Coins [w226]

On the HOMEPAGE of the website we've explained that, if you take your unwanted clothes etc to a charity shop, this raises around 50 times as much for charity as giving them to a typical charitable house-to-house collector.  This is based on a like-for-like comparison of profit (=net proceeds) for the charity - in other words, once you've subtracted costs from the gross revenue.

A "typical" collector here means a commercial/for-profit company, paying a royalty of (say) £50 per tonne of clothes to the partner-charity.  Most of these collectors sell the clothes abroad (eg Eastern Europe).

We've kept this section on the homepage short.  However, we felt we should give some more details - so we created the page you're now looking at.  Please first see the homepage for the key points.

General issues

Choices:  Of course, if it's a stark choice between :
(a) binning your unwanted clothes etc (for landfill or incineration), and
(b) giving them to a house-to-house collector,
then we'd urge you to give them to the collector - even if it's only a £50-a-tonne 'royalty' collection.

But with most people that's not the only choice they have.  They can easily take their items to a charity shop next time they're in town.  A key reason why many people don't do this is because of lack of information - they don't realise how much more money is raised by taking the goods to a charity shop.

We've come up with several ways of getting this message across - such as :

1. Quote it per tonne of clothes

Why you should take your donations direct to a charity shop . . .

  • Typical house-to-house collections raise only around £50 per tonne for the charity.  The clothes are sold abroad - for private profit.
  • But if you take your clothes direct to a charity shop, this raises around £2,500 per tonne for the charity (=profit, ie net proceeds).
    This £2,500 per tonne is 50 times more than £50 per tonne.

2. Quote it per item (or per kilogram) of clothing

Why you should take your donations direct to a charity shop . . .

  • Collectors:  An average jacket or winter dress weighs just under 1 kilogram.
    So it will raise only 5 pence for charity if you give it to most house-to-house collectors.
    This is because they pay the charity only about £50 per tonne of clothes - and there are 1,000 kilogram in a tonne.  So it's £50 divided by 1,000 giving 5 pence.
    (By the way, a kilogram is just over 2 pounds in weight, =35 ounces.)
    Most collectors are private companies; they sell the clothes abroad for profit.
  • Charity shops:  The same jacket or winter dress will raise around £2.50 net proceeds (=profit) for charity if you take it to a charity shop.
    This £2.50 is 50 times more than 5 pence.

3. Present it as a table

Make the most of your donations - donate direct - choose charity shops . . .

50 times more money is raised* for charity if you take your clothes etc to a charity shop - compared with donating them to a typical charitable house-to-house collector :

  Give clothes to a house-to-house collection Take your clothes to a
charity shop
Per tonne of clothes (=1,000 kilogram) £50 £2,500
Per jacket or winter dress (approx 1 kilogram) 5 pence (=£0.05) £2.50
Ratio 1 50
Percentage 2% 100%
Pictogram Only
5 pence raised  
=one 5p coin :

    5p coin [88w]
Hover to enlarge image above
£2.50 raised
=fifty 5p coins :

5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w] 5p coin [88w]

* Note: "Money raised" here means the net proceeds (=profit) for the charity.
For details, see:

4. Present it as a graphic

Use a pie chart, histogram, pictogram or (say) two piles of coins: £2.50 versus 5 pence.
Optionally add (say) an image of weighing scales and pictures of clothes, collection leaflets/bags, filled bags, a collection van, a charity shop.  See the Introduction to statistics page.

"Per tonne" is confusing

A crucial problem with royalty collections has been the habit of quoting the amount given to charity as "per tonne" (eg "£50 per tonne") - eg on collection leaflets and bags.  This is meaningless to most people.  OK, the "£50" quoted is tangible (and it sounds great) - but people have little idea of what a tonne of clothes looks like.  In reality :

However, by converting the figure to "per typical item of clothing" (or "per kilogram", say), the statistic becomes meaningful to most people - they can relate to it.  After all, the issue is about what people are contemplating putting in a collection bag - which is usually just half-a-dozen items or so.

By analogy, imagine the confusion if supermarkets changed their pricing to "per tonne" - eg: "Buy your bags of sugar here - it's only £820 per tonne."

A cynical person could be forgiven for thinking that some collectors deliberately use "per tonne" on their leaflets in order to hide the truth about how small is their payment to charity, per item of clothing.

Minus icon Factors which REDUCE the "50 times" figure

The rate paid per tonne - Some royalty clothing collectors pay the charity more than £50 a tonne.  The most we've come across is £125 a tonne (=2½ times as much) - but (alas) this is very unusual.  See the A-Z selection of collectors page for the money-per-tonne specified on various collection leaflets and bags.

Plus icon Factors which INCREASE the "50 times" figure

Rutex Ltd - bogus clothing collection leaflet [w500]
Bogus leaflet - Rutex Ltd
(the company has been dissolved)

Theft - Around 10% of filled bags are stolen by third parties before the official collector arrives.  So this increases the advantage of charity shops to around 55 times.  See the Thefts of filled bags page.

Fraud (tonnage reported) - There's evidence that some clothing collectors don't declare the full tonnage to the charity.  There's no independent scrutiny of collectors on a day-to-day basis - it's done on trust. This arrangement invites fraud.  It's difficult to put an estimate on this, but we guess it reduces the average donation figure nationally by (say) 10%.
See for example:
"Children's charity may be victim of fraud"  

Bogus collectors - Many clothing collections are misleading or bogus (eg Rutex Ltd, W & W Ltd).  See the Statistics page for estimates of this.  So, items donated to these collections contribute little or nothing to genuine charities.  This reduces the average value of collections to charity.
See also the A-Z List of clothing collectors page.

Weighing scales [w214]

High-value goods - On the homepage, we explained that, with high-value goods such as CDs, DVDs and jewellery, the money raised for charity (if you take your goods to a charity shop) is even greater than the "50 times" figure for clothes.

For example, it's a staggering 1,000 times more raised with jewellery - compared with giving your goods to a 'royalty' house-to-house collection.  This is because commercial collectors donate money to their charity partner based on weight alone - if it's a royalty-per-tonne arrangement.

Taking account of all these factors listed above which increase the "50 times" figure, we estimate that these equal or outweigh the reduction in the figure with collections which raise somewhat more than £50 per tonne (eg £85 per tonne).

House-to-house collections where the goods go to charity shops

This is the "best" type of collection.  Many people think that all goods which are collected house-to-house go to charity shops.  However, this is incorrect.  Unfortunately, only a small percentage of collections are of this type.  See the Statistics page for estimates of the percentage that go to charity shops.  With the British Heart Foundation charity, all their house-to-house collections go to their charity shops.

With these collections, the profits/proceeds for the charity are much larger than with "royalty" collections.  So the extra proceeds raised if you take your goods direct to a charity shop are less dramatic.

Unfortunately, with many of these collections, it's not made clear on the leaflets/bags that the goods go to charity shops and/or that the collection is much better value than "royalty" (=£x per tonne) collections.

What about charities which get income from house-to-house collectors but don't have charity shops?

We understand their concerns.  They do lose out if clothes go to charity shops (rather than to their own house-to-house collections).  It's a real dilemma which we've thought long and hard about.

However, (in our view) every item of clothing that goes to a 'royalty' house-to-house collector is a real waste of precious donations - it's squandering them - raising pence for charity not pounds.

Maximising income:  It's clear that the charity sector as a whole will raise more money (and do more good works) if clothes etc go to charity shops - rather than to house-to-house collectors.  So :

Plus sign Minus sign 

Charity niches:  Typically, there are numerous charities in each branch (niche) of the charity sector - such as health, poverty, overseas aid, animals and environment.  So, if one charity loses some income because it has no charity shops, there's usually another "overlapping" charity in the same niche which does have charity shops and will gain income.  For example, we estimate there are over 1,000 UK charities dealing with cancer.

Oxfam charity shop [w614]

Open a charity shop:  If a charity is unhappy with this, it can solve the problem by starting its own charity shops. One of us was involved in setting up a successful chain of charity shops for a small health charity.  It isn't rocket science and it requires only modest initial investment.

Income from other sources:  Usually, the income from clothing collections is only a modest proportion of the total income of a charity.  See the page on Charities.

Donating - getting the best of both worlds:  If you're tempted to give your unwanted clothes to a 'royalty' house-to-house collector because your favourite charity benefits from the collection, we'd advise you to do both of the following :

If you follow the advice above :

The only "loser" here, is the 'royalty' house-to-house collector (a commercial company).
For a summary of all of this, see the table below :

  Give your clothes (4 kg) to a 'royalty' house-to-house collector Give your clothes (4 kg) to a charity shop
(and give 21p cash to your favourite charity)
Money raised by your favourite charity : 20p
(=4x 5p at £50 per tonne)
21p (your cash donation)
Money raised by a local charity shop run by another charity : nil £10 net (profit)
£2.50 Gift Aid (=25%)
Total raised by the two charities : 20p £12.71
Cost to you : clothes clothes plus 21 pence
Donating - alternatives

We accept that you may be unable to take items to a charity shop (for instance if you're elderly, sick or disabled, or don't have a car).  However, there are ways round this :


Rejects and rags

When you take your clothes to a charity shop, some can't be sold in the shop (because they're too worn, dirty or damaged).  However, charity shops can sell these to rag merchants.  As at mid-2012, this raises around £600 per tonne.  This alone is around 10 times more than what's raised by good quality, saleable clothes given to a 'royalty' house-to-house collector (£50 to £100 per tonne).

Charity shops - percentage profit (net proceeds)

Unlike many house-to-house collections, with charity shops 100% of the profits (=net proceeds) go to the charity.  However, this begs the question of what percentage of shop revenue (turnover) is profit.  In other words, for every £1 put in the cash till, what figure goes to the 'good cause' (after you subtract costs)?  Costs are things like rent of the shop premises, building maintenance, shopfitting, heating, lighting, cleaning, insurance.

Some charity shop chains are very efficient - eg 50% profit.  However, others are as low as 10%.  This means that if you donate an unwanted item to a charity shop that will sell it for (say) £1, one shop may make 50 pence profit - whereas another shop only a few doors away may only make 10 pence profit from the same item.  Alas, most shops don't tell you what their figures are.  We'd like to see charity shop chains being more open about this.  This would encourage greater efficiency amongst charities - and allow the public to vote with their feet.

The Charity Commission, the Institute of Fundraising (IoF) and the Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB) all strongly recommend openness (transparency).

There are parallels with energy efficiency, where manufacturers of household appliances (eg fridge-freezers) specify energy consumption (in this case because it's a legal requirement).

In the 1990s, a national newspaper did an article on a charity shop chain where the percentage profit had fallen to only 10%. The charity was well-meaning - but they were spending too much on paid staff, shopfitting etc.  Fortunately this was an unusual case.  Furthermore, the charity in question has since radically improved its record on this.

Surely, people have a right to know this sort of information.  Charity shops rely totally on the public.  The public :

See the page on Charity cards for similar issues regarding percentage net proceeds.

By the way, don't confuse the following :

  1. percentage net proceeds regarding charity shops (typically around 25%)
  2. percentage net proceeds regarding the charity in general (typically around 85%)

With item 1 above (=charity shops), the donations are in the form of second-hand goods - which have to be converted into money by 'processing' them and selling them (which is a costly process).

With item 2 above (=the charity in general), the donations are mostly in the form of money (cash put in collection tins, direct debits, bequests etc).  This is cheap to administer.

Note:  With royalty house-to-house collections (all operated by commercial companies), the "percentage net proceeds" figure is around 5-10%.  Example: 1 tonne of clothes sells for around £1,000 (exported), of which £50-£100 is given to the charity partner.  Bear in mind that the costs of running collections are high - eg the bags, delivery of the bags, collecting the filled bags.

Related pages

See the pages listed above.  See also these pages :

British Heart Foundation charity shop (our thanks)
A British Heart Foundation (BHF) charity shop
All their house-to-house collections go to their charity shops



Yellow warning triangle

This is a new and evolving page - there may be some errors - our apologies.
If you notice any errors (including statistics or flaws in our logic) please contact us  We expect to revise the page in due course.

Parts of this page are controversial.  However, we've tried hard to be objective and fair.  We have no vested interest in supporting charity shops per se.  See the About us page for more on this.

On this page we've mainly referred to unwanted clothing.  However, most of what we've said applies also to other goods wanted by charity shops - such as textiles (excluding clothing), footwear, books, CDs, DVDs and electrical goods.

The issue on this page concerns the pros and cons of taking your clothes to a charity shop versus donating them to a house-to-house collector.  This is a separate issue to the main concern of CharityBags - namely encouraging genuine collectors and discouraging illegal/misleading collectors.  See our Aims page.  We continue to seek to co-operate closely with genuine collectors in the fight against illegal collections.