Government urged to help charity shops adapt digital-first innovations

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Government urged to help charity shops adapt digital-first innovations
Despite the recent easing of lockdown restrictions on non-essential retail, some physical charity shops remain closed.
// Ebay, Barnado’s, Charity Retail Association among coalition urging govt to create fund to help charities develop digital-first approach
// Ebay has plans to upskill at least 500 UK charities to boost their online sales through its new Charity Connect training programme
// The online marketplace is also providing £1.7m in grants to the 250 charities most affected by coronavirus

A coalition is urging the government to create a fund that will help charity shops develop a digital-first approach as the high street continues to recover from lockdown.

The coalition, comprising eBay, Barnardo’s, the Charity Retail Association, British Heart Foundation and New Philanthropy Capital, is calling for a Government Digital Innovation Fund to help charities embrace online retail and to support new models of digital innovation and service delivery in the sector.

The call comes as eBay announced unrestricted grants of £1.7 million to 250 charities most affected by declines in online revenue on its platform, to help them make up for the shortfall in sales as a result of the Covid-19 crisis.


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Ebay also announced plans to launch Charity Connect, a training programme to support at least 500 UK charities to help them raise more money through more effective online sales.

Despite the recent easing of lockdown restrictions on non-essential retail, some physical charity shops remain closed.

With reduced footfall on the high street expected as a result of social distancing measures, and continued restrictions on traditional forms of fundraising, eBay said it wanted charities to embrace online retail as a way to help raise funds in the face of the challenges posed by Covid-19.

The online retail giant said a government fund would mean charities can develop these solutions without diverting vital cash from essential frontline services.

Meanwhile, a recent report from New Philanthropy Capital found that while 89 per cent of charities see digital technology as important for achieving their mission, their confidence in making the best use of digital plummeted from 70 per cent in 2017 to just 59 per cent this year.

“The coronavirus pandemic has hit charities hard, with Barnardo’s losing a third of our income overnight as we closed shops and cancelled fundraising events,” Barndado’s retail director David Longmore said.

“Like many others, we have had to innovate quickly and move services online, and we know that a digital-first approach must remain part of our offer, long after lockdown ends.

“Even as we begin to re-open our shops, online income streams such as eBay will be more important than ever.

“That’s why we’re calling for a Digital Innovation Fund, alongside ebay and others, to help charities embrace online retail and develop the range of services that vulnerable children and families need now and in the future.”

Charity Retail Association chief executive Robin Osterley said: “We were delighted to see the return of bricks and mortar shopping on 15 June.

“However, for a number of reasons, not all of our shops will be able to open immediately and so there is a real need for a continued focus on e-commerce as a valuable income stream.

“With this in mind, we expect the Charity Connect funding and training programmes will be welcomed by our members and we’re delighted to see eBay’s broader commitment to supporting digital innovation within the sector.”

British Heart Foundation director Mike Taylor said: “Launching British Heart Foundation’s eBay store in 2006 was a vital decision for us, and one that has resulted in millions of pounds being raised to support our life-saving research.

“Our eBay shop has helped us reach new audiences and get the very best price for items donated to us, whether that’s a limited edition record or a collectable antique. We’ve grown to become the largest online charity reseller in Europe – something we could only have dreamed of when we initially started listing a handful of items.

“As shops start to reopen, we’d encourage charities to take that digital leap to expand their retail offering, whether that’s through Charity Connect training or a visit to our eBay warehouse.

“Supporting one another through this period and innovating will be vital to the charity sector and the work we all do to support the millions of people who need us now, more than ever.”

Ebay UK vice president Rob Hattrell said: “Charities up and down the country can embrace online retail as a way to raise vital funds to keep operating during and after the pandemic.

“This is particularly important now, when so many traditional forms of fundraising remain unavailable.

“In addition to a cash injection of £1.7 million to help existing charity sellers on eBay, our Charity Connect programme will upskill both new and existing charities on the platform to help them increase sales online.

“Covid-19 has accelerated the need for services and fundraising to have a strong digital presence and the sector is in danger of critical shortfalls without it.

“That is why we hope the Chancellor will take the opportunity in his forthcoming July Financial Statement to invest more in providing the digital step change the SME and charity sector needs.”

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