How to treat your donors & their gifts with the respect they deserve


Vicki Burnett, 
Senior Consultant – The Charity Retail Consultancy


As someone working in the charity retail sector, I’m often given donations from family, friends and neighbours to drop off “next time you’re in a shop”. If you work in the sector too, you’ll know how it goes.

I’m always delighted to help – after all, where would charity shops be without stock to sell? And with the growth of peer to peer and commercial second hand selling, quality product is going to be harder to come by, so we need everything we can get.

So – last week, a neighbour who has limited mobility kindly gave me 3 big boxes of lovely stock to donate to the charity of my choice.


Donating my goods to a charity shop

I tried…..

Shop number one – I pulled up outside and saw a sign in the window “Sorry – we can’t accept donations as we’re short of staff”

Disappointing, but at least I didn’t get it out of my car.

Shop number two – I parked outside, lugged a box through and was told they weren’t taking any donations as they were already “overwhelmed”

I was cross by now. The shop didn’t look “overwhelmed” – and I have to say, in over 30 years of working in charity shops, I struggle to remember a time in one where there was absolutely no way they could accommodate any more stock.

I left, pretty annoyed, thinking that I’d never donate to that shop again.

Shop number three – a large superstore with furniture as well as clothing. I followed the signs to the donation drop off point, winding through lots of furniture that didn’t make my journey with a large, heavy box very easy.

On reaching the till, the staff member behind it was chatting to two others on the customer side – both with their backs to me. They eventually moved away and the person behind the till said “just put it there” and waved in the direction of a walkway. I was concerned about blocking this but he shrugged and said “put it anywhere”. I was thanked at this point – but no ask about Gift Aid and I certainly didn’t feel like my donation was appreciated.

Once again I left feeling fed up and dejected.

Surely, we can do better than this?


What donating goods means for the donor

Giving something away is an act of kindness. It takes time, effort and energy to donate goods. It sometimes involves giving away things that belonged to a loved one we have lost. It can be emotional, hard work, complicated….. the least we can do is ensure we accept the goods our donors bring and let them know how much we appreciate their support.


How can we do better?

So, how do we make the most of this generosity and leave our donors feeling great about donating their goods?

  1. Do everything you can to never turn stock away. We know it can be tough, but saying no is a real no-no.

Things that can help are:

    • Make sure there’s sufficient allocated space for incoming stock in your back room. Using stock pens helps keep things safe and makes the most of the space as you can stack goods higher
    • Keep your stock moving – regular rotation of unsold stock drives teams to keep filling up. Goods shouldn’t be out for more than 2 weeks, so keep on sorting and moving the stock through at all times
    • Have a plan for when you get lots of stock – can you pass it onto other stores in your chain, if you have them? Can you work with corporate partners to have temporary storage nearby? Planning in advance can really help relieve those super busy times
    • Have a promotion – make all items (or those you might have lots of) a single, great value price to help stimulate sales and make space for new stock
  1. Let your donors know where to come to drop off their donations. Signage can help – and bear in mind they will need a clear route through the shop if they’re carrying large bags or boxes. You can use your website and social media to let them know in advance too.
  2. Make sure your shop floor team are trained in how to make your donor feel special:
    • Say thank you with eye contact and a big smile,
    • Refer to and treat the goods with respect – it’s a donation, not “stuff”.  Don’t ask the donor to “dump it”. And if you handle it, handle it with care.
    • Tell the donor what a difference their donation will make – how it can help your charity’s beneficiaries
  3. Gift Aid it!
    • Always ask if the donor can Gift Aid the donation – help your team find a form of words they’re comfortable with. I always start the conversation with “Are you a part of our Gift Aid scheme?”
    • Have a simple and efficient sign up process – and say thank you again.


Every donation brings the opportunity to engage and delight your donor, as well as raise much needed funds. Do it right and your donors can become long term supporters and advocates of your charity.


How we can help

We have several click-through courses available that can help with the different aspects of accepting donations:

Engaging Your Customers – Creating a brilliant customer experience – Charity Retail Learning

Right stock, right shop – how to effectively stock your shops – Charity Retail Learning

Essential Stock Processes – from back room to shop floor – Charity Retail Learning

Space management – making the most of your shop floor – Charity Retail Learning

We also run face to face courses in customer service, incorporating mystery shops in advance of the day to have real life, relevant scenarios to include in your training


To find out more, drop us an email or give us a call on 07985 574904


More About Us

The Charity Retail Consultancy helps charity retailers and other non-profits (including museums and galleries) develop their retail operation, improve their product offer and people, and improve their profitability.

The Charity Retail Learning provides online & face to face training developed by charity retailers, for charity retailers. We work in partnership with the Charity Retail Association to deliver Charity Retail Learning to their members and beyond.

The Charity Retail Coach offers a first class executive coaching service via our Associate, Dan O’Driscoll.

To find out more or to speak to us about how we can help you, please get in touch:

Jayne – 07598 243210

Vicki – 07985 574904

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