Cancer Research UK withdraws support for volunteer-run charity shops

Cost of risk management deemed too great after unspecified health and safety issues come to light

Charity shop
Charity shop

Cancer Research UK is set to withdraw support for all of its volunteer-run charity shops after inspections uncovered what it described as "considerable issues".

Simon O’Leary, head of volunteer fundraising at CRUK, told Third Sector that assessments of eight volunteer-run shops had uncovered significant problems.

He would not give precise details but said the issues included health and safety risks for supporters and the charity.

The eight shops, which are spread across England, are run independently by volunteers but raise money for CRUK. They had a gross income of £150,000 in the last financial year.

O’Leary said he asked the commercial brokerage company Colliers International, which provides support for all of the charity’s shops, to carry out a routine inspection of the volunteer-run shops last November.

He said the inspection found that all of the shops were in an "unsatisfactory state".

O’Leary said it was likely that some of the shops would close. Others might continue to operate but would be raising money for other charities, he added.

"It is unlikely we’ll be able to continue to support any of our volunteer-led shops," said O’Leary. "We can’t manage the risk in a cost-effective way."

The cost of bringing the shops up to an acceptable standard might be too high, he said, so CRUK might not be able to keep its donor promise that of every £1 given to the charity 80p would be spent on research.

He said that if a supporter came to him now saying they were interested in starting up a volunteer-run charity shop, he would ask them to seriously consider other methods of fundraising.

"There are simpler ways of raising money," he said.

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