Written By Maisie Cartmell

The Charity Shop Gift Card is a social enterprise that aims to provide councils and charities a way of offering welfare assistance to people experiencing financial hardship so they can shop for essentials in charity shops with dignity and autonomy. 

Feedback from recipients has been overwhelmingly positive and research from one foodbank in Birmingham shows how effective this approach can be. 

Research was conducted in September 2022 at the Trussell Trust B30 and South Birmingham Foodbank. Many recipients spent their gift cards at the nearby Acorns Children’s hospice shop. 

Key findings from the research are: 

  • Most recipients prefer the idea of receiving a The Charity Shop Gift Card to an Argos voucher as their money goes a lot further. 
  • The money participants received was spent on a range of items from necessities to ‘little treats’​, the purchases were reported to have a positive impact on physical and mental health​. 
  • The importance of choice was valued: in a follow-up interview one mum who had benefited from the scheme said: “It’s a brilliant idea, people can choose what they actually need.” 

Other feedback: 

  • Charlotte, a single mother of two children, said: “I felt overwhelmed that I needed [something] and I could actually buy it.” She bought a winter coat for her son and said: “I haven’t had the money to buy him a proper winter coat [before] –he absolutely loves it!” 
  • Michael, a single man in his 40s, has been housed in a flat with no means to cook. Look what I got,” he said having bought an electric grill with his gift card. “I wouldn’t have got that anywhere else – it would have cost a lot more. I’ll be able to have something warm to eat. And the money goes back into the charity.” 

The gift cards distributed in the trial were funded by Utility Aid, an energy broker in the third and fourth sectors and the research was conducted by Sally Beswick at Shine Business Research Ltd. More donations will make it possible to give out more gift cards via foodbanks and other charities and we are about to launch our Gift of Thrift Advent Campaign encouraging businesses to fund gift cards to support organisations this festive season, as the cost-of-living crisis has created more demand than ever. 

The three key pillars of The Charity Shop Gift Card scheme are: 

  1. Supporting people experiencing financial hardship (centred around the importance of choice). 
  2. Supporting the amazing work of charity partners (as the cards are spent in their shops). 
  3. Supporting the growing second-hand revolution and circular economy (which is helping to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill). 


Sarah Cox, co-founder of The Charity Shop Gift Card, said: “We’re really excited about working with foodbanks in this way as it is one more step on the path to achieving a more circular approach to welfare – it is a way of making sure that financial support given to people in need stays within the charity sector. The findings of our research show how even a £20 gift card can have a huge impact on someone’s physical and mental well-being.” 


For more information see www.thecharityshopgiftcard.co.uk