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On this page there's (1) an informal miscellany of short items (news and snippets), and (2) some longer articles :
On this page (especially with the short entries), many of the external links don't have a red double-arrow next to the web address.
Beware - some of the items on this page are in draft form and haven't been fully proofread.
(See also the What's new page - this gives news of changes to the CharityBags website.)
Far too many clothing collections are misleading, bogus and/or unlicensed. And then there's the issue of theft of filled bags (by third parties). Several people (including two licensing officers) have suggested to us that one solution would be to ban all clothing collections. We've heard three ideas :
These are radical proposals - and there are many pros and cons. Either way, it's unlikely that any government would support such ideas at present.
There are parallels with other problems :
Note: See also the section above (on banning collections).
At present, only 'charitable' collections need licences (see the House to House Collections Act 1939). However, it's been suggested that some of the problems of collections would be solved if the law were changed (widened) so that ALL collections required licences - in other words, commercial ones as well as charitable ones.
Certainly this would help solve the problem of
It would add to the workload of licensing departments. However, it would only be a small increase - as most collections nowadays purport to be "charitable, benevolent or philanthropic" (and so they need a licence).
Many commentators (including us) strongly advise people donating clothes (etc) to take them to charity shops if possible - rather than giving them to house-to-house collectors.
xStatistics:By taking your goods to a charity shop, it eliminates the problems of (a) misleading/bogus/unlicensed collections, and (b) theft of filled bags.
Also it raises much more money for charities (typically over 30 times as much).
For more details see the Charity shops versus house-to-house collections page.
There's a good case for arguing that "royalty" house-to-house collections waste valuable donations and unfairly deprive charity shops of revenue.
However, if house-to-house collections were strongly discouraged (or even banned), this would create some problems :
There are polarised views. It's divided the charity movement. For example, some charities with charity shops (such as British Heart Foundation) have been critical of charities which rely on house-to-house collections (such as NSPCC and their partnership with Clothes Aid Ltd). This came to a head in August 2011 - when the issues were debated in newspapers and on BBC Radio 4 news programmes.
See Radio 4's "Today" programme at 7.33am on Wed 31 Aug 2011: interview by Evan Davis, with Michael Lomotey (of Clothes Aid Ltd) and Mike Lucas (Retail Director of British Heart Foundation). http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_9576000/9576964.stm
This BBC interview focused on percentages. All three speakers were well-meaning and intelligent people - but we found it confusing. Compare this with our pages (links below) which focus on a simple like-for-like comparison of the profits (net proceeds) of :
An international, virtual organisation, run by volunteers. It has forums in several languages.
Concentrates on online fraud - eg phishing, scammers. Aims to educate the public.
Hosted by the Association of Charitable Foundations (ACF)
(The ACF is a registered charity)
Extract from the home page :
"Philanthropy UK is the leading resource for free and impartial advice to aspiring philanthropists who want to give effectively.
We develop and share current information and best practice on giving; provide accessible links to specialists; and aim to inspire more people to become philanthropic and so enjoy the extraordinary rewards this brings."
3xStatistics:Extract from the 'Charity Facts' [.org] website (2010):
"On average, of every £1 generated by a UK charity, 80p is spent directly on achieving the objectives of the charity, and 20p is spent on operating and administration costs (and on future fundraising activity)."
Article dated 18 May 2010
On oral answers to questions in Parliament on 28 October 2009 about bogus clothing collections - eg Jeff Ennis and Angela Smith.
See our page on this: Charity clothing collections: Parliament and politicians.
News at 28 September 2008 :
The Company runs a chain of four shops in the Wandsworth area of SW London. A notice above at least one of the shops states "Raising funds for people affected by HIV / AIDS".
In August and early September 2008, articles appeared in two newspapers which raised 'concerns' about the Company and their shops - including the following issues :
We understand the matter was referred to the Borough's trading standards department (TSD) and the Charity Commission - for investigation.
On 25 September 2008, the Commission registered the Company as a charity (register number 1126061) - see the Commission's website.
The two newspaper articles seemed to present a strong case for suggesting inefficiency (or worse). Yet, weeks later, the Charity Commission allowed the organisation to register as a charity. We couldn't get to the bottom of it.
Note: Thankfully, it's very unusual for charity shops to be embroiled in controversy about whether they're genuine and/or well-run.
See Google for further information on this peculiar story.
'GuideStar UK' is a registered charity.
"Comprehensive information about every charity".
A sophisticated online database on every charity.
xStatistics:Includes figures on the finances of each charity
- eg annual £ income and £ expenditure.
It's part of 'GuideStar International'.
Also they have branches in Israel and India.
See also the Charity Commission's online database >>
A magazine, 10 issues per year. Launched around 1990.
Aimed at charity sector professionals.
xStatistics:"Charity Finance" magazine carries out six annual surveys, including one on charity shops.
Headings in this article :
Leaflet purporting to be from
Azzara/Do Not Delay: cancer prevention
NB No criticism of this collector
or "good cause" is intended
Definition. When we say "fake leaflets" we mean "counterfeit" - in other words, the people producing and distributing the leaflets (and collecting the filled bags later) have no connection with the organisations mentioned on their leaflets. So, the collectors are falsely claiming (pretending) to represent these organisations.
Often, this problem only comes to light when people report misleading collections to a regulator (eg council licensing). In good faith, the regulator contacts the organisation(s) mentioned on the leaflet (say "Bloggs Textiles" or "Ambridge Hospice") - who then deny any connection with the collection.
In many cases, these denials are truthful. However, there have been many cases where it's thought that the organisation was responsible for the collection - but they denied involvement in the hope that they could avoid prosecution. Often this ploy is used after the collection has taken place - as it's impractical then to disprove their denial.
Semantics. This "fake" issue makes it complicated when you come across a misleading or unlicensed collection. Strictly speaking, you can't say for sure that the organisation mentioned on the leaflet (say "Bloggs Textiles") has been collecting without a licence. Instead, you can only say that collectors purporting to be from Bloggs Textiles were collecting without a licence.
Often, the only way of resolving this dilemma is to get the police to intercept the people delivering the leaflets (or collecting the filled bags) - and then check out their identity - and any links that they have with the organisation mentioned on the leaflet.
This is made more difficult by the widespread practice of using informal freelance/self-employed people and sub-contractors as leaflet deliverers and collectors - often without formal written contracts (see the black economy ). Interviewing can be difficult - because many of the personnel speak little or no English. Arranging for interpreters takes time and money.
In 2007, this "fake" problem affected Intersecond Ltd / Azzara / Do Not Delay. It was so widespread that the alleged "good cause" (named "Azzara / Do Not Delay" cancer prevention - based in Lithuania) suspended all official clothing collections in the UK for around a year or so. They announced that ANY collection made in their name would be bogus.
In mid-2010, the highly-respected "Breakthrough Breast Cancer" charity was affected by fake leaflets. Thousands of them were distributed by bogus collectors (mainly from Eastern Europe) with the names "Clothman Ltd" and "Breakthrough Breast Cancer" printed on them. However, (1) Clothman Ltd was a dissolved company (no longer trading) - and (2) the Breakthrough charity had no connection with the collectors (and never received any money from them). On at least one occasion, the collectors were intercepted by the police. However, (bizarrely) the police let them go - because the details printed on the leaflet appeared to match a genuine charity! The BBC filmed the collectors.
Fake leaflets are cheap to produce - the collector just needs to give a copy of someone else's leaflet to a back-street printer - and ask him to print (say) 100,000 copies of it.
'I have a cunning plan ...'
Hover over image to ENLARGE it
Fake leaflets help the collector to avoid being found out - they cause delay and confusion - and can result in the blame being placed on the organisation mentioned on the leaflet. To quote Baldrick "I have a cunning plan...".
Going the extra mile . . . In the past, if you were suspicious of a collection leaflet, we'd suggest :
However, now we feel you have to go one stage further - and consider also whether the leaflet is fake. If it is fake, then any amount of analysis of its wording is pointless. As well as contacting council licensing, one solution is to contact the
Parallels. There are parallels in other fields - where people are too trusting, taking things at face value. For instance, there are frequent reports of people being conned by bogus personal callers - such as meter readers.
Similarly, if you get a phone call and the caller says who they're from (eg British Gas), they may not be genuine. Unless you pay extra to have "caller display", you can't find out what number they're ringing from until after the call (by dialling 1471).
It's natural to be more trusting if the caller says they're from a supplier you have a contract with - eg BT or NatWest. But, even then it may be fraudulent. Fraudsters know that (say) 1 in 5 people bank with NatWest - so they keep ringing people until they find a NatWest customer. Phishing emails use similar tricks.
You get a collection leaflet or bag - maybe it's a fake. A couple of days later you put out your bag of clothes. While you're out, somebody takes the filled bags - maybe he's the collector (or maybe he's a thief). The system is fraught with risks - no wonder people recommend that you take your unwanted goods to a charity shop.
See the Statistics page for an estimate of the percentage of clothing collections which use fake leaflets or bags.
In one case we encountered :
Don't confuse fake leaflets with the following related scams and irregularities :
There are hundreds of high-quality images on Alan's photostream on Flickr. There are around 35 galleries.
Our interest focuses on his set of photos called:
This is an excellent gallery of clothing collection leaflets and bags (over 20 images). There's detailed explanatory text accompanying them - including research on the collectors done by Alan. Also there are comments (postings) by third parties.
Alan is a local councillor in the London Borough of Haringey.
Below: Screen grab of thumbnails of leaflet images on Alan's site at August 2011 (our thanks to Alan) :
"Everything you need to run a nonprofit". Extracts from their "About us" page (Nov 2010) :
"Welcome to KnowHow NonProfit - the place for nonprofit people to learn and share what they have learnt with others.
Whether you work in a large charity, are setting up your own social enterprise or are helping out your local community group, this site is for you. Whatever your organisation or role within it, if you want information, to update your skills or to talk to others in similar situations, you've come to the right place. . . .
What is nonprofit?
Nonprofit includes registered charities, community groups, social enterprises, co-ops, mutual societies, faith groups, churches, political parties and campaigning organisations - basically any organisation or activity which does not exist to raise a profit!
You can sign up for a free newsletter (sent by email).
You can become a full member by registering (for free) on the website.
The benefits include use of its forums.
KHNP were independent, but they became part of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) in 2011.
Their website has campaigning advice and resources.
Address: 27 Oadby Drive, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, S41 0YF
Reg charity number: 1122929
This is a small charity, registered on 22 February 2008. It is also a company, limited by guarantee.
1xStatistics:See their "Unaudited financial statements 8 July 2009" - this is a 14-page Adobe PDF document. This link is on the "Cancer Relief UK" page of the Charity Commission's website. This document includes details of the % percentage of revenue which has been donated to deserving causes so far.
Name: Despite the similar name, "Cancer Relief UK" have no connection with the following well-known national cancer charities, namely :
People have commented that the name "Cancer Relief UK" is too similar to the name "Cancer Research UK". Inevitably some people will be confused by this.
A good example of this is the BBC News web page on the Harris Polak story (1 July 2013). It refers to Cancer Research UK - whereas the charity concerned was Cancer Relief UK (according to all the other sources we've seen which describe the same story). So we assume it's a mistake. Harris Polak defrauded Cancer Relief UK and two other charities by the way.
As at August 2010, clothing collections are being carried out on their behalf by Textiles Solution Ltd (TS for short) - a commercial company.
TS are based in Newcastle Under Lyme, Staffordshire. Website: www.textilessolution.co.uk
2xStatistics:The company's website states that:
The collections by TS (that we know of) have been conducted without a licence under the 1939 Act. They comprised an A5 purple leaflet wrapped around a plain white bag.
Below: Leaflet from the collector purporting to be in aid of Cancer Relief UK (2010)
To enlarge the image, hover your mouse over it :
The charity terminated their fundraising partnership with Textiles Solution Ltd (see above) because of problems with the collections.
As at mid 2012, clothing collections for Cancer Relief UK are being operated by "GT Recycling Initiatives" - another commercial company.
For more information on GT Recycling, see the A-Z List of collectors page.
Below are images of the front and back of a clothing collection bag delivered to homes in Autumn 2012 by GT Recycling, purporting to be on behalf of Cancer Relief UK. The local council has confirmed that the collection was unlicensed.
Collectors are required to state on their bags what proceeds (if any) will be given to the charity (eg £ per tonne of clothes). However, this information was not present on the bags.
The inner bag includes the following message (in a large typeface) :
"The bag and the contents are property of GT Recycling Initiatives
If you see any unauthorised persons taking these bags please inform the police"
By the way, the list of items requested is unusual - it includes household batteries and books (but excludes curtains and bedding). The plastic outer bag is the first one we've encountered that has an attention-grabbing metallic sheen to it.
Our concerns mainly relate to the commercial clothing collection companies who have collected (illegally) on behalf of the charity. No one wants to harm the charity itself. However, the charity's trustees have a legal obligation to ensure that any collectors acting in their name are complying with the law and are not bringing the charity into disrepute. The charity has a legally-binding written partnership agreement with the collector. If it has been worded properly, it will have clauses relating to any improper conduct by the collector. This will include sanctions against the collector and it will allow the charity to terminate the agreement unilaterally.
See a disturbing article (dated 29 May 2012) on the Daily Telegraph website
by Judith Potts, headed "The cancer hustle: hideous conmen steal from charities" :