Variety Club pledges more transparency over shoe recycling banks

Charity responds to claims that it did not make it clear it receives less than £4.50 a year from each bank

Variety Club shoe bins
Variety Club shoe bins

The Variety Club has agreed to change the information on shoe recycling banks operated in its name after a national newspaper report claimed the charity’s arrangement with the company that runs the collection points was not transparent.

The report in The Guardian newspaper, published today, claimed the children’s charity did not make it clear to the public that it received less than £4.50 a year from each of the banks, which are run by the European Recycling Company, a commercial firm.

A spokeswoman for the Variety Club said the charity expected to receive £35,000 from the ERC this year. The ERC has about 7,000 recycling banks, meaning the donation would equate to about £5 per collection point.

A spokesman for the company said that calculating a figure for each bank was misleading because the company’s donations were not linked to its profits or to the level of shoes collected.

"The way the agreement works is that once a year the charity and the company together agree a level of donation," he said.

The Variety Club spokeswoman said the charity was "happy with the level of donations from the ERC".

"They are a business, not a charity, and they are not obliged to make charitable donations at all," she said. "I can’t stress enough how much it means to us that they do give us this money."

She said, however, that the information displayed on the shoe recycling banks would be changed. "We will work with the ERC to make sure that what is said on the bins is as clear as possible," she said.

Alistair McLean, chief executive of the Fundraising Standards Board, said the organisation had received a complaint about the situation and had passed this on to the charity, which is an FRSB member.

He said information provided to him by The Guardian suggested the charity’s shoe recycling banks did not clearly display information about how much money the ERC, was receiving from the arrangement.

"It is not the FRSB’s role to make a judgement about the terms of the commercial arrangement between the Variety Club and the ERC, and whether the charity is making enough money from it," he said.

"But there is a legal requirement that commercial participators must confirm the amount of money they raise from every tonne of shoes donated, and they must say how much of this they are receiving and how they have calculated that figure. That should be clearly displayed so that members of the public can see it when they make their donation."

The ERC spokesman confirmed the recycling banks did not display information about how much money the company made from the donations or how much it gave to the charity.

Wording on the banks advertising the relationship with the charity changed regularly but "generally said that donations were made to the charity", he said.

"If what we are doing is not compliant, we will change it," he said. "We are not out to mislead people."

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