Charity bags: a good cause or a nuisance?

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 to make me wonder about these bags. The first is that while popping to the small Sainsbury’s around the corner, I see two men delivering the bags. They don’t exactly look as you might expect charity volunteers to, although perhaps that says more about me than them. They are young, scruffy and unshaven, sharing in that moment a similarity with me in only one respect (the last, in case you should be left wondering).

Back home, one of the bags is by the front door. Instead of putting it in the bin, I place an old linen jacket in the bag, and later my wife adds further items.

The bag goes out for collection on the Friday, as marked on the front, where it sits in the pouring rain without being picked up. This happened once before and the contents were taken to a charity shop or thrown away; I don’t recall which.

The uncollected bag is marked “National Kidney Federation”, and for a moment I wonder if that charity exists, but Google puts me right – “The largest kidney patient charity in the UK. Run by kidney patients, for kidney patients.”

Below that label, it says that the bag is the property of Recycle Proline Limited. That name rings a distant bell, so it’s back to Google to discover a headline from the Guardian of 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 being donated directly to a charity.

When I click on the Recycle Proline website, listed to a company in Liverpool, it comes up as unavailable. In that Guardian report from 2016, the company said it had changed the design of its bags following a previous complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority, “making it clear that it was a commercial company that donates a portion of its profits to charity”.

This company appears to have previous, as they say, but the bags keep dropping through our door, along with the flyers for all those 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. I am not about to disrespect charities, but some aspects of raising funds do raise concerns – including all those ‘chuggeers’ who stop you in the street in the hope of a standing order. I never say yes to them and now don’t know whether to pass on old clothes or not.

Giving is good, so you how 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, occasionally they send me a 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 give you a dodgy excuse for not donating elsewhere? Those charity bags are a nuisance – a small-scale annoyance, it is true, but it seems wasteful for them to be delivered through our door and then placed in the bin. Or left outside for no one to pick up.

Is anyone else troubled by all these bags; and does anyone want a blue linen jacket?

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