ONE OF THOSE CHARITY BAGS falls through the door. This is not unusual around here, as we seem to be on a route.
I haven’t counted them in or counted them out but, at a guess, four or five of the bags drop through the letterbox each week.
Two things happen which makes me wonder about these bags. First, while popping to the small Sainsbury’s around the corner, I see two men delivering the bags. They don’t conform to the way I expect charity volunteers to look, although that might say more about me than them: they are young, scruffy and unshaven, sharing at that moment a similarity with me in only one respect (the last, in case, you’re wondering).
Secondly, one of the bags is lying by my front door. Instead of putting it in the bin, which is what usually happens, I place an old linen jacket in the bag, and later my wife adds further items.
The bag goes out for collection on Friday, as requested on the front, where it sits in the pouring rain without being picked up (this happened once before and the contents were later either taken to a charity shop or thrown away; I don’t recall which).
This uncollected bag is marked “National Kidney Federation”, and for a moment I wonder if such a charity exists, but Google puts me right: “The largest kidney patient charity in the UK. Run by kidney patients, for kidney patients.”
Below the main label, however, the bag tells me that it is the property of Recycle Proline Limited. That name rings a distant bell; a little more research recovers a headline from the Guardian in March, 2016: ‘Company’s clothes collection bags banned for being misleading’.
According to that report, the bags in question were headlined “Cancer Research & Genetics UK” and also included a charity registration number, as does our uncollected bag. The ban was imposed because the company failed to make clear that it was a commercial business and that money raised was not donated directly to a charity.
When I visit the Recycle Proline website, listed as belonging to a company based in Liverpool, it comes up as unavailable. In that Guardian report from 2016, the company said that, following a previous complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority, it had changed the design of its bags “making it clear that it was a commercial company that donates a portion of its profits to charity”.
So this company appears to ‘have previous’, as they say, but it’s bags keep dropping through our door, along with the flyers for takeaway pizzas and curries we will never order.
Not all the bags have anything to do with that company and many are clearly branded by leading charities, but all raise in me mixed and guilty feelings. They’re for charity so they must do good, you think; and perhaps they do.
But while I am not about to disrespect charities, some aspects of this kind of fundraising do raise concerns, along with all those ‘chugging’ fundraisers who stop you in the street in the hope of a standing order; I never say ‘yes’ to them and I now don’t know whether or note to pass on old clothes.
Giving is good, so you want to give what you can afford. Some years ago, and for no obvious reason, I decided to donate a hardly-generous £5 a month to the MS Society. In return for that sum, they send me an occasional magazine I rarely read. I am happy to give the money and don’t need a magazine in return.
Does this get me off the hook? Or does giving a small amount in one area provide a dodgy excuse for not donating elsewhere?
I fear I must conclude that charity bags are a nuisance: a small-scale annoyance, it is true, but wasteful for them to be delivered through our door and then placed in the bin or filled and left outside for no one to pick up.
Is anyone else troubled by all these bags? FAiling that, does anyone want a blue linen jacket?