Regulation with Rosie: Making what you've got go further

I wasn't sure whether to be appalled by the story of a charity shop worker who bought much of the shop's jewellery stock to sell at a massive profit on auction website eBay, or whether to applaud the initiative she'd shown.

But I did wonder why, on a wider level, more charities don't use initiative like this to maximise the value of what they are given. After all, if the shop had paid the worker a bonus for every £100 she additionally generated, its profits would have been higher. And while some charities use experts to identify first editions, valuable stamps and other rare items of high value, perhaps this approach should be more widespread.

For example, why put a designer frock on your racks priced at a tenner when, by selling it to a commercial vintage designer shop, you could increase that price four or five-fold?

Should you be lucky enough to be left a house with no strings attached, rather than put it up for sale on our thoroughly depressed housing market, why not take advice on whether a local housing association might be happy to guarantee a rent until prospects improve? As long as you adhere to charity law, you could keep your asset appreciating and ensure it brings the charity income too.

Experts and non-experts all have ideas to make a little go further. This type of 'outside the box' thinking might have got financial institutions into the mess we see today, but it is unlikely to do anything but good for charities.

Your staff, volunteers and trustees might welcome the chance to offer their suggestions. In these straitened times, at least brainstorming is still free.

- Rosie Chapman is executive director of policy and effectiveness at the commission.

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