Hi-tech Gift Aid boost for charity

Help the Aged is on target to raise an extra £500,000 this year after introducing new technology that allows it to claim Gift Aid on items sold in shops.

The charity revealed that it sold £11,000 of Gift-Aided stock and signed up more than 2,300 donors within a week of putting the technology into its 365 shops.

Help the Aged is only the second UK charity to run the scheme, which allows shops to reclaim Gift Aid at 28 per cent on the sale value of donated stock.

"This is a great way of using existing resources to raise more funds," said Hugh Forde, director of retail at Help the Aged. "It's free cash at a time when it's becoming harder for charities to increase donated business.

"The overall cost of the system is minimal and the business case for using it is sound. The potential prize far outweighs the initial outlay."

The system, which was first piloted by Sue Ryder Care, was developed by internet technology company Eproductive.

The process of reclaiming Gift Aid is not simple, however. Donors first sign a declaration agreeing to the scheme, after which all their items are tagged with the same identification number.

When their items are sold, the number is entered into the system, which triggers a letter to the donor notifying them of the sale price and giving them 21 days to opt out of the scheme. After this period has elapsed, the charity can pursue the claim in the usual way.

Help the Aged's target revenue is based on 20 per cent of donors signing up to the scheme.

The current technology works only for donors who deliver stock to the shops in person and cannot yet accommodate donations that are collected by van.

Jo Shuttlewood, retail development manager at Help the Aged, said early reactions had been positive. "It's working fantastically well," she said. "The response from donors has been amazing and we've had repeat donations already."

Lekha Klouda, director of the Association of Charity Shops, said different parts of the sector would adopt the scheme in different ways according to how their shops operate and what time constraints they have. "Some charities are looking at using this process only for donations above a certain value," she said.

Julie Beames, business development manager at Sue Ryder Care, said her charity had raised £200,000 claiming Gift Aid on donated goods since it began the scheme last May. "We are aware of four other charities looking to introduce their own programmes," she added.

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