Coalition calls for Government innovation fund to help charities develop a digital-first approach

eBay UK, Barnardo’s, the Charity Retail Association and New Philanthropy Capital are today 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 UK announces an extensive package of financial support and training to help UK charity shops boost their sales online.

Despite last week’s easing of lockdown restrictions on 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 UK is urging charities to embrace online retail as a way to help raise funds in the face of the challenges posed by Covid-19.

At a time when charities’ income has been decimated and they’re having to adapt to the challenges posed by coronavirus, they need investment to be able to innovate to find pioneering solutions which can be shared across the sector. A government fund would mean charities can develop these solutions without diverting vital cash from essential frontline services.

While 89% of charities see digital technology as important for achieving their mission, their confidence in making the best use of digital has plummeted from 70% in 2017 to just 59% in 2020, according a recent report from New Philanthropy Capital.

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

Charity Connect

To upskill charities to boost online revenues, the e-commerce platform has also announced plans to launch Charity Connect, an ambitious training programme to support at least 500 UK charities, including those not yet on eBay, to help them raise more money through more effective online sales. Charity Connect will help charity retailers build an effective online presence through dedicated customer service, onboarding assistance, promotional support and a tailored eBay training programme.

Charity Connect will begin next month with a series of free weekly webinars for new and existing charity sellers on how to boost sales on eBay, including follow up 1:1 sessions with e-commerce experts. Training will begin from Tuesday 7 July and charities can book for free by visiting here.

The charity initiative follows the blueprint of Retail Revival, a 12-month pilot programme with small businesses in Wolverhampton, where over 60 companies increased sales by 33% on eBay with revenues of over £7million through intensive ecommerce training and support.

Barnardo’s Retail Director, David Longmore, said: “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. 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.”

Chief Executive of the Charity Retail Association, 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.”

Director of Innovation and Development at NPC, Tris Lumley, said: “Charities have been hit hard by the lockdown and its impact on charity shops, trading and fundraising. At the same time many have accelerated their shift to digital by several years through the current crisis – a transformation that can help them maximise reach and income, and minimise costs – ultimately making them more resilient to future shocks. But as our State of the Sector research showed, many small charities have been struggling to make that digital leap, and they need the help of the technology sector, funders and investors, and government to harness the tools and skills they need.

“NPC is keen to support those that commit to helping the charity sector tackle its digital challenge and work collaboratively to help charities large and small achieve their potential online.”

Director at British Heart Foundation, 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.”

Rob Hattrell, eBay UK Vice-President, 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 £1.7million 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.”

Big Charity Sell and celebrity auctions

eBay UK is also supporting charities to fundraise during the lockdown through its Big Charity Sell campaign. The drive encourages eBay’s 27million buyers to donate unwanted items and donate up to 100% of the proceeds to their choice of 8,000 charities, raising funds and reducing waste.

In addition, eBay UK has provided a platform for sports heroes, national treasures and celebrities alike to raise vital funds for charity through high profile auctions and most recently Shirts for Heroes, the first ever raffle on the marketplace. Alongside the #PlayersTogether initiative, £1million was raised for NHS Charities Together, supplementing an additional £100,000 donated to the charity by customers via eBay’s Give at Checkout function. 

In the UK, eBay powers over 800 charity retailers and helped charities raise £160 million since its inception with over £27 million raised last year.

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