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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.
So far we're not a charity. However, bear in mind that :
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.
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.
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.
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.
With several pages on the site, the pages are more relevant than is first apparent. Examples :
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.
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).
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.
No. We operate from home.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The emails you send us
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.
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 :
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:
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.
The information provided on our website (together with our campaigning) has led to many questionable and/or bogus collections being stopped.
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:
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.
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.
You can contact us by email - see Contact us.
our email address (image) :