Do charity shops make the most of their high street positions?

I’m not going to debate the good, bad and ugly elements of charity shops on the high street (not right now anyway), but I am struck by something – how they don’t make the most of their positions.
Recently, I have had some time on my hands and so have joined the estimated 1/4 million people in this country who work in our charity shops, so I have some first hand experience.

My beef is that we don’t turn the charity shop experience into a campaigning, donating experience.  There seems to be a lack of ambition in some (most? all?) chains.  What I don’t see is shops taking the opportunity to turn a casual shopper into a regular shopper, or the regular shopper into a direct debit donor.
Neither do I see genuine campaigning going on, explaining to the customer just what the charity is trying to achieve.

According to Demos, the charity shops already achieve some of that I would argue without really trying:

Almost two-thirds of people (59%) agreed that the presence of charity shops made them more likely to donate money to a good cause, vital in a time of recession when many charities are struggling to receive sufficient revenue.

That sounds great, but this is a loaded statement – they agreed that the presence of shops made them more likely to donate not to actually donate.  Indeed that figure drops to 22% of customers did something more tangible (donated cash or goods, signed a petition etc).
Just think what the shops could do if they actually built genuine relationships with customers, created mailing lists, got customers involved in campaigning…

One key element being missed is the potential of social media for this sector – and that’s something to which I will return soon.

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