Salvos’ ‘high standards’ for donations slammed

NOBODY is donating to charities anymore and it's causing them to lose millions of dollars - but plenty of people think it might have something to do with the standards they need.

Speaking to last week, chief executive of Salvation Army stores Matt Davis said the stark drop in donations was "shameful".

Mr Davis cited the rise of the second-hand market, especially sites like Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace, as the reason for the 15 per cent drop - which translates to $1 million in lost revenue each year.

But ever since the Salvation Army asked for people to consider charity instead of making a quick buck, hundreds of Aussies have come out of the woodwork to describe their interactions with the stores.

Sydney woman Stefanie Jackson told she became disillusioned with the charity when she tried to donate a small table to her local Salvation Army store.

Ms Jackson was trying to donate a "tiny side table" from Ikea to a Salvos store in Neutral Bay when she was stopped outside the doorway.

"Before I even made it into the store the lady was on top of me saying they can't take it as they don't have room," she said.

As Ms Jackson turned to leave with her table, a woman in the doorway asked her if she was intending to donate it.

"I said, 'Yeah but they won't take it, so you can just have it for free,'" she said.

"And then the Salvos lady came back and said, 'Wait wait, we'll take it and you can purchase it from us for under $10,'" she added.

The Salvos worker then charged the woman and told her to come back later and pick it up.

Ms Jackson said while she's never had an issue donating clothes, the charity won't take any bigger items like doonas.

"It is a small store so I get it, but they could be nicer about it," Ms Jackson said. "I wouldn't say [she was] outright rude, but snippy and clearly frustrated.

"She didn't say sorry or anything, just sort of waved her arms and was all, 'No, no, no, we can't take that!'"

Ms Jackson tried to donate to a Salvation Army store but was knocked back.
Ms Jackson tried to donate to a Salvation Army store but was knocked back.

And Ms Jackson isn't the only Aussie who's struggled with donating second-hand items to charities.

In a snippet of The Project last night, panellist Pete Helliar did a public service announcement for people who keep donating "crap" to charity.

But after it aired, co-hosts Waleed Aly and Carrie Bickmore admitted even they've been knocked back.

"I actually found it quite tricky when I moved house because I realised a lot of these services they just don't want your old crap. They want stuff that you can't use anymore that's still operational and works. They just don't want all the stuff that you can't be bothered taking to the tip," Bickmore said.

"I've had stuff rejected that I thought was perfectly good," Aly said. "They have very high standards."

The Salvation Army is losing millions each year taking people's poor quality donations to the tip, which Lisa Wilkinson said was "unfair".

"It costs a fortune for the Salvos to sort through it and get rid of it which is really unfair," she said.

And just like The Project panel, many commenters on Facebook have fallen victim to the charity knock-backs.

"They need to speak with their stores. A perfectly good lounge, in fact rarely sat on, in mint condition was knocked back as no one likes plaid. Perfectly good ikea shelves no damage knocked back as they are laminate. Easier to sell than donate or put in landfill," Kiralie Allan wrote.

Will Diri, another commenter, also admitted he tried a charity first but went to Gumtree when he was knocked back.

"Tried to donate my mum's brand new lounges less than two months old purchased from a local furniture store for around $5,000, 100% Australian Made, 10 year warranty. Was told that style is not current! Put them on Gumtree, sold that day $2,000."

Mr Davis, the Salvos Stores chief executive, said the past 18 months had been especially bad for donations and had noticed a stark drop across the 220 stores he is in charge of.

But people suggesting charities had become too "fussy" with accepting second-hand items was a reputation Mr Davis wanted to end.

"There's this common misconception that whatever gets donated just gets given away to people in need but the reality is that most of what gets donated is sold by us and we can then use the profit from that to help people," he said.

"It might seem like we're fussy but we have to think about what the community will actually be willing to buy because if we can't sell it, we then have to pay to get rid of it."

Often, the Salvos truck will turn up to a house ready to grab some second-hand furniture but the drivers quickly realise there's nothing they'll be able to sell.

"It's shameful the sort of stuff people try and give to us," he said.

"From my personal experience, it's often because people just aren't bothered to go to the tip so they call us instead. They don't realise it's costing us millions each year to get rid of that."

Some of the rubbish and unsellable furniture people dump out the front of Salvation Army stores.
Some of the rubbish and unsellable furniture people dump out the front of Salvation Army stores.

Despite the standards some claim the charity has, the company is still having to spend a ridiculous amount of money on waste.

Speaking to The Project last night, Retail Development Manager at St Vincent de Paul Society NSW, Jacqui Dropulic said the charity spent $1.75 million managing waste in NSW alone.

"That's $1.75 million taken away from frontline services," she said.

And each year, more than 30 per cent of the one million tonnes people try donating to charity is destined for landfill.