Voluntary Sector

Business models predicated on local authority or other forms of funding can place charities in a financially vulnerable and unsustainable position. Greater Manchester has lost at least two furniture re-use organisations in the last 18 months.
We specialise in supporting organisations with strategic development, income generation and cost reduction analysis. We’re creative, we provide solutions which reflect current and potential resources and capacity, as well as provide business coaching to senior managers and trustees as a side benefit!
With over 10 years knowledge and support of the furniture re-use sector, we know what services will work for your organisation, saving significant time, money and heart-ache.

The Cyrenians, Newcastle (now Changing Lives)

The brief was to research the feasibility and value of integrating an off-the-shelf franchise model into the organisation; to generate income; and increase training and employment opportunities around pre-used furniture. Research indicated that resources would be better spent establishing their own enterprise, which would complement their current business activities and objectives. A business plan was developed, and suitable retail premises identified. This solution saved on significant up-front and on-going costs on a business model that wouldn’t work for the organisation.

Community Transport – National

The brief required a high-level review of Community Transport’s furniture re-use and recycling service (9 locations); identifying opportunities and constraints for growth; and proposing solutions to minimise the forecasted loss of local authority funding. A full and quick analysis revealed the need for a focused strategy that would motivate and empower the people within the furniture services division. A sales and marketing pilot was undertaken at one of the sites to demonstrate sales growth potential, cost reductions (predominantly waste disposal) and staff motivation. Sales income tripled in the first month, new partnership opportunities emerged, and staff were motivated to contribute to the on-going sales success on their site.

Cost/Benefit Analysis

A furniture reuse charity had been providing affordable, pre-used white goods to low income households for years. The brief was to confirm that the service was costing the charity far more than it was able to generate in income or subsidise with its other services. From analysis of internal and external data; a full cost recovery exercise of its operation; and consideration of the impact the removal of the service would have upon a core offer to the community, it was recommended the charity should end the collection, testing and re-sale of white goods; working instead with a local supplier of refurbished white goods. The charity is now able to concentrate its resources on other core activities, as well as continue with the supply of essential and essential household goods to people in need.

Generating Income

A charity, dedicated to the support of carers, had begun selling second-hand paint sourced via the Community Repaint network. The brief was to maximise sales income to fund a new, part-time youth carer worker. It did not possess, nor was likely to invest in a dedicated high street retail space. The potential marketplace (e.g. professional and domestic customers), retail partners and procurement practices were researched; guidance on retail presentation, pricing and branding was given; and a financial analysis and plan provided which highlighted the weekly sales targets they could meet without the additional investment in retail staff. The charity’s initial income targets were revised downwards for year 1, and their product offer was reframed so that the excellent price value, rather than environmental benefits of buying the paint were emphasised.

Social Housing Sector

We’ve worked with a large number of social housing landlords across the UK in the past 10 years. Requests vary from reducing void waste and alleviating tenant hardship; to creating workplace opportunities and developing social enterprises. There are many service options and benefits in-between.

It is possible to combine resource management improvements and lower disposal costs, with sustainable tenancies, enterprise development, debt and poverty reduction.

Trafford Housing Trust/Clean Start Enterprises

Trafford Housing Trust (THT) has developed an award-winning social enterprise – Clean Start CIC – dedicated to improving skills and employment opportunities for ex-offenders and ex-service personnel. By providing best practice advice, on-going technical guidance and market development opportunities associated with the collection, storage and reusing/recycling of bulky waste (household goods), Clean Start has saved time, money and reduced operational risk. Acting as broker, we also supported them in the negotiation of a new bulky waste collection contract with a waste management company.

Affinity Sutton Housing Association

Affinity Sutton owns housing stock across England. Wishing to alleviate hardship within their tenancy base and work with local voluntary sector partners to support the provision of affordable household goods, Affinity required one point of centralised co-ordination and control, with a bespoke local response in each area. Capability and capacity assessments of furniture poverty organisations were undertaken, and method statements and standards of operation produced in order that a consistent level of service could be guaranteed.

Enterprise & Employment Development

A charity, providing housing first-type accommodation and support, required a structured volunteering/work placement pathway for its `guests’ – vulnerable, ex-homeless men, often presenting with complex needs – along with advice to improve the financial sustainability of their social enterprises through which guests could receive workplace experience.

National policy on supported housing funding was out to consultation at the time. We researched and then translated national and local policies into social enterprise opportunities and provided the charity with guidance on influencing local commissioners. The charity was presented with a secure strategy and financial plan to weather the funding storm. In the event, the supported housing funding model was left unchanged. However, additional advice was provided in order that the charity could satisfy the anticipated increase in scrutiny of standards, policies & procedures, and report on the social and financial value of its work in the future.

Private Sector

Waste Management Company (WMC)

Specified social clauses in a waste management contract tender meant that reuse maximisation, social value and local voluntary sector partnership working were prerequisites of a successful bid. Commissioned by Suez Recycling & Recovery, the concept and benefits of sub-contracting were sold to local voluntary organisations. Quick capability and capacity assessments produced a short-list of suitable voluntary sector partners for Suez, who were able to deliver a reuse service to contract standards. Signed exclusivity agreements were obtained, and a method statement was produced, detailing how voluntary organisations would operate re-use diversion from multiple HWRC sites.

Public Sector

There are moral, environmental and economic motivations for ensuring reusable and repairable bulky household waste is intercepted before disposal. We work with local authority waste and welfare departments throughout the UK to ensure reusable and affordable items are made available to low income households.

Greater Manchester Waste Disposal Authority (GMWDA)

GMWDA is the largest waste disposal authority in England. Recommendations were made to end reuse credit payments; to reduce the volume of free-of-charge waste disposal by charities and to divert volumes of reusable waste from landfill. Also, GMWDA wanted an initial scoping plan for establishing regional, voluntary sector waste processing hubs across Greater Manchester.
A voluntary organisation, with the ability to re-use, repair and recycle bulky waste, piloted a scheme in which charity retail shop waste was processed from one Greater Manchester borough. Significant volumes have been diverted from landfill thus far, but the more important result is in the changing of operational behaviour by the charities. The loss of re-use credit payments was tough to negotiate, but advice was given to charities about ways of maximising the re-sale value of items previously sent for waste disposal, to compensate for the financial shortfall.