Posted on November 25, 2014
From educating and encouraging staff to reviewing your current system, Alastair Petrie explains how charities can maximise the potential of Gift Aid. (See article in full in the guardian)
According to figures from HM Revenue & Customs at the end of last year, the number of charities that made Gift Aid claims fell from 66,370 in 2011/12 to 63,740 last year. Here’s how charities can make the most of Gift Aid.
There is much untapped potential within charity shops. With a greater focus on the right staff training many charities would be able to make significant improvements to their Gift Aid collections. For example an independent charity called Willowbrook Hospice, that has 10 shops covering the Merseyside areas of St Helens and Knowsley, is now claiming Gift Aid on over 50% of purchases made across their stores. This success has been achieved in part through the appointing of a Gift Aid co-ordinator, who was able to oversee and train volunteers on how to approach Gift Aid donations at a store level.
When charities first started to adopt Gift Aid systems, the choice from IT suppliers was limited. The main solutions had been designed for mainstream retailers with a Gift Aid capability bolted on. While this fulfilled a basic need, the systems were over complicated.
The result is that many charities invested large sums on money in these systems which possessed far more functionality than needed. This unnecessary complexity, combined with the sheer effort needed to ensure volunteers are adequately trained (this can be as many as 30-40 in one store alone) has led to ongoing struggles to use these systems most effectively.
Thankfully, second-generation Gift Aid systems are now available, which have been designed specifically for the charity sector and remove all of the unnecessary functions and complexity associated with earlier Gift Aid solutions. Newer systems are also more cost effective while still offering the flexibility to grow as the charity expands and develops.
Many charities are now starting furniture shops where they collect and sell on good used furniture. This is a great bonus for as often these items fetch a high price, but often when the furniture is collected volunteer drivers are not in a position to request that Gift Aid is applied. This could be addressed either through mobile technology or prior planning by the charity to ensure that the driver is trained to encourage the donor to fill out the correct gift aid information.
Equally, when goods are donated through clothing banks or shoe banks or scheduled house collections Gift Aid is often forgotten. Simple solutions to encourage loyalty by the donors, such as supplying them with gift aid stickers that they could apply to their donated goods would ensure that more Gift Aid could be collected from existing donors.
It is important to remember that it is not just technology that will make the difference. There needs to be a shift in attitude across the entire organisation and the importance is communicated from the top right down to every individual team member.
All initiatives can lose momentum and Gift Aid is no different. Maximum results can be achieved by keeping the staff on their toes. For example, one of our charities encourages staff with a shop award for the most donors signed up that week.
Alastair Petrie is general manager of BMcAzurri, a company specialising in the provision of Gift Aid systems and IT services for the charity sector