It all began in 1996. HRH The Prince of Wales immediately had one of his brilliant ideas when he learned of the enormous amount of surplus stock clogging up companies' warehouses or being sent to landfill. He knew there was need for those products by charities and vulnerable people across the UK they help. His simple yet pioneering idea was to engineer the start-up of a charity which could distribute those unwanted goods to organisations which could pass them on to people who needed them most. The Prince gathered together the first Board, asked me to 'make it happen,' and that's how In Kind Direct was born.
Over the past 20 years In Kind Direct has supplied goods, with a value of £165 million, from over 1,000 donor companies to 8,200 charity partners. Charities, not-for-profits and social enterprises sit at the centre of everything that we do. Last year alone, charities received £20 million in value of goods from In Kind Direct saving an average of £7,500. These savings free up scarce funds for other purposes, enabling the charities to deliver new and enhanced services for their beneficiaries and also reduces the amount of funding they need to seek.
Charities need all kinds of products to run their vital services for people in need: sleeping bags and clothes for a refugee shelter, stationery and tools for an employment project or toiletries, bedding and cleaning supplies for a homelessness charity. As funding cuts to the sector hit hard, we recognise the vital role we play. This is particularly true for small charities at the front line which deliver essential support locally. It is a huge and increasingly difficult struggle to find the funds to pay for the goods they need. More and more tell us that their clients are expecting to be given essential items even when this was a service they had not previously provided.
This motivates my team and me to work harder to provide ever more support to charities. Thanks to our donors, in 2016 we handled more stock and a wider range of products than in any previous year in our history. This meant we generated record savings and growing impact for more charities than in other year too.
What is also important about In Kind Direct in addition to the significant social impact we deliver, is the powerful, practical, environmental impact. As companies work to reduce the amount of waste being generated in their production lines and to stop sending safe and usable products to landfill, In Kind Direct offers a perfect solution. Companies can act responsibly and donate their surplus products for the use for which they were originally intended, whilst protecting their brands.
Our 20th anniversary this year is an opportunity to look back at the work we have done and acknowledge and recognise all those who have contributed to our growth and success. But it is also the time to look forward and set our vision for the next 20 years.
With this in mind In Kind Direct has commissioned research on the surplus product market in the UK; the social, economic and environmental impact of product giving and how the latter is likely to be affected by long term mega trends such as resource scarcity, population growth, disruptive technologies and climate change. Why are we doing this? To understand the potential size and shape of product giving over the next 20 years and to establish how In Kind Direct and companies can maximise their impact on communities across the country. We will reveal the findings of this research in June which may very well convince more retailers and manufacturers to donate products for good causes - building on The Prince of Wales's visionary idea.