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About us

Introduction

CharityBags was started in 2001.  We're a small group of volunteers, running CharityBags in our spare time.  So far we operate informally - with no formal structure, no officers and no constitution.  We're passionate about charities and want to see them flourish.

Are we a charity?  Are we charitable?

So far we're not a charity.  However, bear in mind that :

  • We're a not-for-profit (NFP) group, part of the so-called 'third sector', established for public benefit.
  • We have charitable aims (see below).
  • We're in frequent contact with charities.
  • We've had discussions with the Charity Commission about becoming a charity and we may apply for charity status in due course.
  • We're unpaid, running CharityBags as volunteers.
  • We cannot (and do not) claim any expenses.

What are our aims?

Please see Our aims page.

The focus of CharityBags is the website.

We think of the website as being an electronic/online equivalent of a report or book - a document which is evolving, continually being updated and expanded.  Like a book, it has a list of contents, acknowledgements, tables, figures, footnotes, references, bibliographies, guides to sources of information, a glossary and appendices.  In the early days, occasionally we printed out the entire website and bound it to form a report.

As well as running the website, we carry out research, provide information and advice, and campaign, acting as an independent pressure group.

Subjects dealt with on the website - the core issues, general, fringe and unrelated topics

The core issues - The focus of the website has always been charitable house-to-house clothing collections (whether genuine, misleading or bogus).  See our 'Aims' page.

  • On the drop-down menus, most of the pages on this are placed under the headings: "House-to-house collections" and "Examples of collections".

General issues - Right from the start we've included information on closely related but wider, more general issues - eg charities, charity shops, re-use and recycling, textile re-use/recycling, clothing, government, licensing, law, enforcement, scams generally, freedom of information.  These pages aim to provide useful background/context.

  • On the drop-down menus, most of the pages on this are placed under the headings: "General & background" and "Background: Charities".

Charity shops have always been prominent on the website.  They're an alternative way of donating your unwanted goods - without the risks inherent in house-to-house collections (bogus collectors, theft etc).  We've increased our coverage of charity shops - because our research shows that disproportionately more money is raised for charity (per donated item) by charity shops compared with typical (royalty-type) house-to-house collections.  See the homepage for more on this.

Fringe issues - We've added some pages to the site which are on the fringe of the main subjects dealt with, but still have some relevance - eg the page on Plain English.

Unrelated pages - In a few cases, pages on the website aren't related to the main topics of the site (eg the page on telephone charges and the page on useful software).  We've been careful to keep these pages separate from the main site.

For further details (and explanation), please see the 'Unrelated web pages' page.

Pages on CharityBags - In common with most websites, there are pages called 'About us', 'Our aims', 'Acknowledgements', 'Contact us', 'Copyright', 'Disclaimer', 'Help', 'Sitemap' etc.

  • On the drop-down menus, most of these are placed under the heading: "CharityBags".

With several pages on the site, the pages are more relevant than is first apparent.  Examples :

  • We added the page on Companies and company information because it's crucial for anyone investigating a potentially misleading "charitable" clothing collection - once you know the name of the company involved.
  • The Use (and misuse) of '.org.uk' web addresses page is needed because bogus collectors often rely on an "org.uk" web address to aid their scam - eg "The Drops of Help Ltd".
  • We wrote the EasyFundraising [Ltd] page because the website of the bogus "Air Ambulance Service" (AAS) clothing collection company gained spurious credibility as a result of their contract with 'EasyFundraising'.  EasyFundraising is a reputable click-through company who were conned by AAS.

Have we any hidden agenda, affiliation or bias (political, religious, commercial)?

No.

We aim to be impartial.  We try to emulate the unbiased approach used by respected independent organisations such as the BBC and Which?  We're also inspired by the approach of Wikipedia - with its rules on maintaining 'a neutral point of view' (NPOV).

Nationality - At present many dubious or bogus clothing collections have East European connections (eg Lithuania).  Where we refer to these collections, we do so simply because they appear to be unsatisfactory - there's no bias on our part.

Business - We're neither pro- nor anti-business.

Do we aim to treat all charities equally?

Yes.

Type of good cause - Most people have their own preferred good causes - such as the elderly, children, animals, third world or environment.  However, on this site we've tried to be neutral - by treating all genuine charities with equal respect.

Size of charity - With many dubious or illegal collections there's no genuine charity involved.  However, when a genuine charity is involved, we've found that the charity is usually very small.  We've no bias against small charities per se.

Charity shops - We praise charity shops on the website.  However, there's no bias.  Our views are based on detailed, objective research - which shows that (in general) taking your unwanted goods to charity shops raises a lot more money for good causes than giving them to house-to-house collectors (and it's far less risky).

Union Jack flag (Britain)

What geographical area to do we cover?

We live in England, and our research and activities are focused mainly on England and Wales.  However, much of the information on the site also applies to the rest of the UK (and Ireland).  For more information on this, see the Variations across the UK page.

Do we have office premises?

No.  We operate from home.

Our income

CharityBags has no income as such, and in general we've not attempted formal fundraising.

We've received modest help from some businesses in the form of discounted (or occasionally free) products and services needed to produce the website.  We're most grateful to them for their help.  In certain cases we've acknowledged them on the site - see the Acknowledgements page for examples.  We don't allow the site's content to be influenced by these organisations.  Conversely they can't be held responsible for the content of our website.

There are some services we're lacking and we would appreciate help on this - see the Requests for help page.

Although in general we operate informally, we do keep records of the financial help (discounts) we receive.

Our expenditure

This is modest - comprising IT equipment, running the website, browsing the Net, emails, stationery, postage, telephone costs and the like.  To minimise costs we haven't produced any printed publications so far - we rely on publishing information via the website.

Are we paid?

No.  We run CharityBags as volunteers in our spare time.
We get no salary and don't claim any expenses.  On the contrary - we fund CharityBags with our own private resources.

Do we collect, buy or sell clothes?

No.

What are our backgrounds?

  • We've all worked in the public sector (government).
  • Some of us have worked in the regulation/licensing field (although not concerning charities) and have experience of legal issues, enforcement, prosecutions, court cases, inquiries and the like.  However, none of us are lawyers.
  • Most of us have employment experience in charities.
  • We've done voluntary work for good causes, including helping to organise voluntary organisations.
  • Some of us have set up (or helped set up) voluntary organisations, two of which became registered charities.
  • We're frequent visitors to charity shops (donating and purchasing).
  • One of us works in the information field.

How reliable is the information on the website?

?

Almost anyone can set up a website - and it's difficult sometimes to know whether the information on a site can be trusted, unless it's a well-known and respected organisation.  We feel the information on our site is reliable, unbiased and ethical.

We aim to carry out our research objectively and systematically, and we keep appropriate records.

Occasionally we make mistakes (see the Disclaimer page).  If you notice any inaccuracies or inappropriate information on the website, contact us and we'll do our best to put things right.

Respecting privacy, anonymity and confidentiality Padlock

The website doesn't use cookies and doesn't collect data on users.  There are no popup ads.

Names of individuals - In general we haven't mentioned the names of individuals.  We just refer to organisations.

Telephone numbers - Usually we give the numbers of switchboards or departments rather than direct lines.

Criticisms of organisations - Where we criticise any local council or police force, normally we don't mention its name.

Press releases, newspaper articles etc - In some cases we've anonymised certain details - such as names of individuals or organisations, telephone numbers, dates or locations.  This has been done by using normal journalistic conventions - omitting them and adding '...' or square brackets'[ ]' or by putting 'xxxx'.  This protects privacy while still conveying the gist of the story.

Laptop computer

The emails you send us

  • In general, we treat your emails as confidential.  We're especially concerned to keep your personal/contact details private - such as your name, telephone number (if supplied), location and email address.
  • We've added a web page on emails describing the sorts of emails we've received over the years - divided into categories.  To make it interesting, useful and meaty, it made sense at least to give the gist of some emails (summarising key points), and (in some cases) to use extracts.
     
    However, we don't reveal any information which would allow people to identify the sender.  And we don't give exact dates of when an email was sent.
     
    Example:  We use this sort of wording:
    "We received an email in early 2008 from a charity shop manger in NW England saying a customer had donated a . . . " (and so on)
    This is :
    - specific enough to be interesting (in terms of who, when, where, what etc), whilst 
    - anonymous enough to retain confidentiality.  `
  • If you email us about a suspicious collection and we contact the government regulators about it, we may forward a copy of your email to them (in strict confidence) - unless you indicate otherwise.

Information from organisations (eg councils, police)

By default, we treat your information as confidential.  Our rule of thumb is to deal with it the same way as when we were working in government (central and local).  For example, in general, it's considered OK to pass on information to other trusted government organisations (eg regulators).  So, if we receive an email from a local council, it's reasonable to assume that the sender won't mind us passing on a copy to another council if it would help matters.  It depends on the circumstances - it's a question of good judgement and accountability.

Why is it called 'CharityBags'?

  • it gives a good idea of its scope
  • it's concise
  • it's easy to remember.

However, one snag with this name is that some people guess (incorrectly) that we collect or sell clothes.  So we get many emails from people :

  • wanting to buy clothes etc from us.  Most of these people are based in Eastern Europe or Africa.
  • wanting to sell us plastic collection bags

Also we get emails from well-meaning people in the UK, asking us to collect their clothes.

For anonymised examples of these emails, see the emails to CharityBags page.

By the way:

  • We don't use a space between the words 'Charity' and 'Bags' - it's 'CharityBags'
  • Our website ends in ".org.uk" - so it's charitybags.org.uk ( not charitybags.org )

How did CharityBags start?

In the late 1990s each of us noticed that many of the "charitable" clothing collection leaflets/bags which we were receiving at home were misleading or bogus.  They appeared to be charitable but when you looked at them more closely they seemed to be commercial collections, carried out for private gain.  Genuine charities were losing out because of these rogue (potentially fraudulent) collections.  However, few people seemed to be aware of the problem and no-one seemed to be taking any action to deal with it.

One of us started to investigate how these collections could be checked out, and tried to find out who was responsible for stopping them.  He contacted various government organisations which appeared to have relevant regulatory powers.  However he found it difficult to get satisfactory answers from them, and discovered some were reluctant to take action.

Eventually he'd accumulated a lot of information about the issue (and associated matters) and felt he'd at last found the answers (especially use of the 'House to House Collections Act 1939').  It seemed a waste for all this information to be unused.  It seemed unsatisfactory that anyone else who tried to find answers to the same simple questions would have to repeat the same time-consuming research from scratch.  He set up a website to publish the information at minimal cost.

Results so far

The information provided on our website (together with our campaigning) has led to many questionable and/or bogus collections being stopped.

Charity shop (our thanks to Oxfam)
Charity shop (courtesy of Oxfam)

This has resulted in more donations of clothing etc going to charity shops than would otherwise have been the case.  The sales revenue of the charity shops has increased and hence the proceeds going to genuine good causes have increased.  See:

We've received lots of emails over the years, and it's clear that the website is proving useful.  For example, see:

Crowned portcullis (Crown Copyright)

In the House of Commons, an MP (Tracey Crouch) referred to CharityBags.org.uk (see Hansard) - and a report compiled by the House of Commons Library (for MPs) cited CharityBags.

Note - fundraising: Most charitable organisations aim to help good causes by fundraising.  Most of them do this by collecting the funds themselves.  This means they can keep part of the donations to cover their own costs (typically 15% or so).  They use the rest to fund good causes.

Money - £5 and £10 notes

However, our campaigning is unusual - our activities aim to increase the funds raised by other organisations - particularly charities with charity shops (like the Children's Society, British Heart Foundation, Sense, Age UK, Oxfam and RSPCA).

This puts CharityBags at a disadvantage - in that we get no financial benefit from the increased revenue raised by charities as a result of our activities.

Do we welcome the involvement of other people in CharityBags?

Yes :

  • We welcome feedback, suggestions, information and advice.
  • If you would like to join us in CharityBags and help out in some way, we'd welcome your involvement.

Email and globe

Contact us

You can contact us by email - see Contact us.

 
our email address (image) :

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