We can only imagine how Christmas will be in the middle of a pandemic and, surely, this isn’t something we could have thought about in a million years. Now more than ever, it is time for us to think about what the meaning behind this festive season is: sharing and giving.
I couldn’t think of a better opportunity than to introduce you to In Kind Direct, of whom I am a trustee. In Kind Direct is a UK charity helping other charity organisations by distributing consumer goods from companies to them. They not only help within the UK but overseas as well.
During the pandemic, we have never been more needed. We welcomed over 1350 new charities into our network this year and dispatched over 60% more orders than usual.
Today, I am giving the floor to Charlotte Walshe, Head of Charity Partnerships at In Kind Direct to tell us what In Kind Direct is all about, how companies but also individuals can help people in need, and also what the future holds for charities.
Charlotte. Thank you for agreeing to do this interview. First, can you tell us about your organisation and for how long you’ve been helping charities?
In Kind Direct champions product giving, connecting manufacturers and retailers with products to donate, to the communities that need them through an amazing network of thousands of local charities, community groups and schools. We believe everyone deserves access to life’s essentials and that no usable product should go to waste. We were founded by HRH The Prince of Wales in 1996 so we’ll be 25 next year!
What brands do you work with?
Since we were set up, we’ve worked with over 1200 companies including P&G, Kimberley-Clark, PZ Cussons, L’Oreal, Disney, Essity, Unilever and many more. That includes well-known brands like Carex, Andrex, Huggies, Always, Cif and PG Tips. But the list is much longer and so many brands have stepped up and increased their support during the pandemic.
On your website you say “there’s always more to do” and we agree! Which sectors are the most sought after by your organisation currently?
Undoubtedly, the need to keep people clean, safe and well has been even greater this year, and over 70% of our network tell us that this will remain the case in the months to come. That means more toiletries, laundry and cleaning supplies, nappies and period products. However, with Christmas round the corner, the need for treats, toys, tech and activities to keep people entertained, connected and thriving rather than just surviving is also hugely important. Giving warmth, dignity and care is at the heart of our Christmas with Kindness campaign this year.
Helping charities stay afloat and taking care of people must be quite difficult. What are the obstacles you’ve encountered or are still encountering to this day?
The Charity Sector has been a lifeline to millions of us during the pandemic, and every day. Their support to help people who are self-isolating and shielding, escape dangerous situations, access food, products, benefits, advice and care has never been more needed. Charities have had to deal with all the same challenges as other businesses – adapting services, losing income, using their reserves, closing venues, staff working remotely – at a time when demand is increasing and people are more reliant on their support. The savings we create for our network, over £20m this year and counting, unlock precious resource back into the sector and help our partners to reach twice as many people each week.
During your last In Kind Direct Speaker Series, you said what charities needed now was to “survive”. What could be the first step to make the whole situation better?
The short answer is more funding for the sector and a more flexible approach to the government measures in place to support businesses in general. Charities are struggling to fund their vital work – they need to be able to keep going in the months ahead, but the people they support cannot afford for frontline staff to be furloughed. The sector is on track to lose £12.4bn in funding this year as charity shops have closed, income-generating events were cancelled and people who might usually donate have been managing tighter budgets themselves. Over 40% of our network surveyed in July told us they were not eligible for the standard government support schemes in place. Tackling these two issues – more funding and a flexible approach – will help the sector survive.
Sometimes, we, as individuals, would like to do something to help! What could we do to help these charities survive?
There is a lot people can do to support charities!
We’re living in unprecedented times and we appreciate the impact COVID19 has had both on charities and the people they support. How are you tackling the pandemic situation?
During the pandemic, we have never been more needed. Just as our corporate and charity partners have stepped up during the crisis, so have we, increasing our capacity with more warehousing, staff and deliveries at weekends. We’ve welcomed over 1350 new charities into our network this year and dispatched over 60% more orders than usual. This increase shows no sign of slowing down, and our Christmas with Kindness campaign recognises that more families and households will be struggling this year. We know that when companies and charities work together, everyone wins – so building new partnerships has been key. This includes campaigns with brands like Andrex, LifeBuoy, Huggies and Carex, and launching the Product Giving Alliance and National Business Response Network with our charity peers, to make giving easy. Looking ahead, we’re encouraging companies to build planned giving in to their business as usual, and embed their crisis response into their everyday activities.
Oftentimes, we think charities are only needed by certain people. What would you like to say to those now finding themselves in a difficult situation?
Many of us cannot imagine being unable to keep ourselves or our loved ones safe and clean. For a lot of us, stock shortages in shops in March gave us our first taste of not knowing where something as simple as our next toilet roll was coming from. But research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation estimated in August that 70% of families had already cut back on essentials like food or electricity, and 1 in 8 people could be unemployed by the end of the year. No one is immune to needing a helping hand. If you need support, contact your local community centre, foodbank or Citizens’ Advice Bureau, their local knowledge will help you find the support you need.
Christmas is right around the corner. Do you have a nice memory around that time of making Christmas amazing for a family?
So many of our network pull out all the stops at Christmas, with Santa’s grottos, Christmas parties, present wrapping workshops and outreach events. This year is, of course, going to be quite different but we’ve already been hearing about how charities will be adapting to ensure children have presents to open on Christmas morning and that those living alone stay connected. Christmas Eve kits, delivering Christmas trees and decorations and distributing craft packs to children and adults alike will all help people experience Christmas this year.
Finally, what would you say to companies or charities who would like to join you?
Do it! We always love to hear from companies wherever they are on their product giving journey. We provide a single point of contact to support thousands of communities and make the whole process easy. Get in touch with Maya, Chris and Eva at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re working with a UK charitable organisation, they can register for free at inkinddirect.org.
If you’d like to learn more about the wonderful work In Kind Direct is doign everyday, I invite you to follow these links:
LinkedIn: In Kind Direct
YouTube: In Kind Direct