The Children’s Society boosts Gift Aid funding with Mystery Shopping

The Children’s Society has improved compliance with the Gift Aid scheme by its 97 stores to further increase its £8 million annual revenue to fund support services that help vulnerable children in England and Wales.

The charity appointed React in 2014 to assess each store twice a year. This includes an audit to check standards of in-store merchandising, service and business processes, with a separate visit by mystery shoppers for further inspection.

“The survey programme was not designed to catch people out. We work with the shop managers to develop the questions
and checks that produce information that they themselves want to run their stores efficiently. So we look at everything from the cleanliness, ambience and background music in-store, to getting the correct change and how customers are greeted -measuring courtesy and sales competency, for example.”

There are key operational areas that carry more weight than others do in the inspections Paul Tate says, in particular compliance with the Gift Aid scheme.

Donations of money and gifts through Gift Aid enable charities to claim an extra 25p for every £1 donated. But to comply, charities must ask donors to provide agreement and some personal details. A merchandising ticket is then produced for scanning at the point of sale to record the transaction. In the past it has been a process that might get overlooked instore, says Paul Tate, because goods could be purchased without scanning the label.

Gift Aid represents a significant investment for the charity. It requires high value EPoS (Electronic Point of Sale) technology to process the mandatory compliance data. There is also additional training for the volunteer staff, and a commitment for the charity’s head office team in London to administer the scheme.

Mystery shoppers from React identified two areas requiring improvement. They were briefed to hand over a bag of stock and also make a purchase and record how staff dealt with transactions. The report from the exercise showed that for 29 per cent of purchases the operators had failed to scan the bar code. Also around 50 per cent of donors were not invited to join the Gift Aid scheme.

In response, software developers at the Children’s Society revised the EPoS program so that every transaction would have to be validated at the till by a scanned bar code for all donated merchandise.

“React represents a very useful tool to help mitigate risks in the retail process that might otherwise go undiscovered. The audits ensure staff are conscious of how they come across to customers. We can also quickly target stores or specific retail processes for attention if we need too. As a result of the success of our retail operations, we’ve opened 16 new shops last year and grown the business by over 7 per cent annually,”