You can’t have too much of A Good Thing this Christmas
Imagine a version of Tinder for good causes, a means to match charities in need of items with businesses looking to rehome pre-loved goods. That’s the idea behind A Good Thing, an online platform aimed at forging supportive links between local charities and the business community in their areas.
Here, co-founder Cathy Benwell explains more, and shares the positive impact A Good Thing is making in areas like Angel and beyond.
Hi Cathy, please tell us a bit about your platform and where it all began.
A Good Thing is a non-profit online platform that connects charities across the UK with businesses that have things to give away, meaning less to landfill and more to a good cause. Businesses sign up with us and create a listing for an item they’d like to give away – just as you would on a site like eBay. Charities receive email alerts about these items, and can submit a ‘request’ if they can make use of them.
My husband Richard (pictured below with Cathy) and I co-founded A Good Thing in 2020, but we’d been discussing the idea for many years before that. When lockdown happened it was a real ‘now or never’ moment. In March 2020 Richard began developing the online platform and building the website. I threw myself into using Zoom to create connections in the Thames Valley, where we were living, with nearby charities, local authorities, businesses and community foundations.
By February 2021 we had registered with Companies House, made our website live and were ready for the pilot. The response was brilliant: charities loved the idea, and scrambled to sign up. Businesses were desperate to support their local communities, many of which were suffering the devastating effects of Covid and multiple lockdowns.
Tell us a bit more about how it works.
A business signs up to A Good Thing and creates a listing for an item it has to give away, including a photo, and a collection deadline if there is one. Nearby charitable organisations that are registered with A Good Thing get an email alert to let them know the item is available, and can submit a request for it via the platform.
The business chooses one of these charities to donate the item to, and at this point their contact details are swapped. They arrange all the logistics between them – when collection will take place, and so on.
The platform is entirely free for charities to receive items. For businesses, it’s free to donate occasional, one-off or small items, but we also have unlimited donation options with fees starting from £29 a month. Businesses can create an account here and can then create their first listing immediately.
What’s unique about A Good Thing?
There are lots of great routes for individuals to give things away to charity (such as Freegle and Ferris), but A Good Thing focuses on businesses. We also focus on keeping the donations super-local – we’re all about building links between businesses and their immediate communities.
What are the challenges?
Charities are very imaginative with how they will make use of things but often businesses won’t realise they do in fact have things that are of value to charities, so at the moment it’s about spreading the word – getting more businesses in more parts of the country to give things away.
We’re also emphasising to businesses that short deadlines are not an issue – if it’s something they really want or need, charities will often be more than happy to collect something very quickly.
What’s Christmas like for A Good Thing?
Christmas has historically been quite busy in terms of charity requests as they will often have specific projects they’re busy working on at this time of year. Many of our charities prepare care packages for families and children who otherwise might not receive very much at all over the festive period. Other charities set up Christmas grottos for the families they support, and many see a surge in demand for their services as people tip into crisis.
Meanwhile, businesses typically tend to be focused on other things at this time of year – and it can be a little harder to engage them. Having said that, in the past we have had organisations donating fake snow, cards and Christmas decorations. Also toiletries, toys and other things that can be used to make up care parcels.
The period immediately after Christmas can often be quite a fruitful time for us – a time when many businesses are looking to carry out a refresh, and may have items to give away.
How do you see A Good Thing developing? What are your ambitions?
We would love to see every business in the UK using A Good Thing as we see A Good Thing as an overall brand for corporate giving and engagement – an easy way for businesses to connect with and support the communities around them.
Are there any particular charity appeals in the Angel area we can share?
The charity Sense, based in Pentonville Road, is in need of packaging materials or bubblewrap for the items it has sold online: all profits made from sales go straight into funding activities supporting people who are deafblind or have complex disabilities.
The Eritrean Youth Club is looking for disposable cups, plates and serviettes, as well as stationery items. Also appreciated would be food vouchers, as well as donations of vouchers for educational trips, theatre trips, cinema outings or theme park excursions for the young people it supports.
Are there any examples of local success stories/case studies you can share?
This summer the Single Homeless Project charity, based in Gray’s Inn Road, had 15 brand new pairs of running shoes donated by the Business Design Centre, left over after a running show.
YMCA City London & North recently had some brand new Christmas baubles donated via our platform. The charity will be using them for the tree in its residents’ canteen, as usually it never had enough baubles to go around. The charity also recently had 10 large unused black plastic buckets donated by the Momentum Transport Consultancy, which it was very grateful for as it is dealing with multiple leaks throughout its premises.
Headway, a Barbican-based charity that provides resources for brain injury survivors, received a donation of 45 branded notebooks. These will be given out at its support groups, to help brain injury survivors keep track of dates or used as an art journal between sessions.
The Eritrean Youth Club received a donation of brand new mugs from the British Promotional Merchandise Association, which the charity planned to use for tea and coffee at its sessions for disadvantaged young people.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Just to remind businesses they can donate absolutely anything at all. Some recent items have included baby blankets, bamboo poles, lanyards, milk and umbrellas. And of course the more regular donations like stationery, furniture and laptops are also welcome.