Raising funds with a clothing bank

Show notes (summary)

Fundraising is never easy, but one UK company has come up with really simple way of bringing a bit of extra income to village, church and community halls, while also supporting charities and helping the environment. Our guest, Alexandra Holmes from ASTCO, explains how it all works…

Transcript: Season 2 / Episode 9

Johnny Thomson 00:00
Fundraising is never easy. But one Lincolnshire based company has come up with a way of supporting charities, helping the environment and bring a bit of extra income to village, church and community halls. Hi, everyone, I’m Johnny Thomson and welcome to The Village Halls Podcast sponsored by Allied Westminster, the UK’s largest specialist provider of village hall insurance, and the home of VillageGuard. We often hear the phrase win-win, but my guest today is going to be talking about what you could call a bit of a win-win-win-win. Alexandra Holmes works for ASTCO, a Lincolnshire based storage and textile company that’s working closely with charities and communities across the country to raise funds in a way that has all kinds of benefits. Hi, Alex, thanks for joining me today.

Alexandra Holmes 00:52
Thank you Johnny for having me on here. I’m very excited to be on the podcast.

Johnny Thomson 00:57
Brilliant. Before we get on to talking about ASTCO and what it does, and in particular what you’ve been up to with village, church and community halls, tell me a little bit about you and the company you work for?

Alexandra Holmes 01:10
Oh, gosh, okay, where to start? Well, I would say I’ve been working at ASTCO for a couple of years now. My role is mostly working very closely with our charities and our community partners. So what I’ll be getting on to, you know shortly, village halls as well. Helping them to fundraise with clothing and clothing banks. So my role is to kind of outreach to everyone, kind of making them aware about what we do, and especially to people who might find benefit from it. So you know, charities, small communities, things like that.

Johnny Thomson 01:47
And so tell me more about these free clothing banks Alex, and how the idea came about and kind of how it all works?

Alexandra Holmes 01:57
Yes. So firstly, we did this 15 years ago with the Firefighters Charity, which is a whole nationwide charity helping to raise funds for firefighters. So it kind of started with that and we found how successful that it was. And so how that roughly works is those would be clothing banks placed outside of fire stations to you know, raise money for them. And we actually helped to raise £5 million for that charity.

Johnny Thomson 02:26

Alexandra Holmes 02:26
So that’s kind of where it all started. And then we especially over lockdown, realised that village halls really need that extra funding as well, because they’re such a pivotal kind of part of our community and they offer a lot of support, and especially with COVID where everything was slowing down and places couldn’t open, I think that village halls took a massive hit. And I feel like giving them an option to kind of fundraise with us in this way, we’ve really found that it’s benefited a lot of the, you know, village halls that we work with.

Johnny Thomson 03:00
Yeah and of course, you’re right, you know, they really are like the focal point aren’t they for many rural communities. And it’s a great little, little scheme. If anybody’s still not entirely sure, basically it’s a big metal box, isn’t it, that sits outside where you can take your old clothes, things that you don’t want anymore and effectively just donate them by adding them to… like when you take things to the recycling and so on, yeah? It’s just like that, isn’t it?

Alexandra Holmes 03:31
Yes, that’s right. Yes. So our clothing banks can we place anywhere kind of outside of the village hall, on any surface. So a lot of the questions we kind of get asked is oh, I don’t know if we’ve got enough room, kind of things like that. So really, we can kind of make them fit in most places. And I would say they’re actually quite, quite aesthetically pleasing as well. They’re really nicely branded, we’ve spent a lot of time really trying to make them look something special and explain you know what they do on them, just so it kind of separates them from the bottle banks and things like that, because we want people to know that this is a way that they can fundraise and help support, you know, their community projects. So, that’s, you know, what we try and do with that.

Johnny Thomson 04:18
And they’re entirely free. You don’t have to pay any kind of fee to have it there each month? No?

Alexandra Holmes 04:24
Absolutely. It’s completely free. This is a, you know, a free scheme that we’re offering to the village halls. So there’s absolutely no cost whatsoever, and also no contracts as well. We don’t do any contracts or anything like that with, you know, our village halls and things.

Johnny Thomson 04:39
Yeah, so great, a great source of additional funds basically to help village and church halls keep running.

Alexandra Holmes 04:45
Yes, that’s right. Yeah, I mean, we found with a lot of the village halls that we work with, it really does make a big difference to have that regular monthly income stream, because this isn’t something that’s just you know, a one off. It will always be there. So, you know, throughout the whole entire year, you’ll get kind of like a monthly payment for whatever has been donated.

Johnny Thomson 05:07
Yeah. Now we we’re going to get Mandy Armstrong from Toynton Village Hall to come on today as well, but unfortunately she hasn’t been able to. However, I did speak to Mandy, and she’s a big fan of the free clothing bank that they have from ASTCO outside the hall. And she told me this scheme was brilliant! Brilliant was the word that she used Alex.

Alexandra Holmes 05:28
Oh, that’s fantastic. Yeah!

Johnny Thomson 05:30
Yeah and kind of the story she told me as well sort of matched with what you said earlier, because she said that their charity shop had closed during the lockdown. And the clothing bank really offered a great, a great alternative. She made a great point to as well about the rising costs of running the hall, particularly energy costs. And what she said to me was that the money that they’re receiving, is making up a little bit, you know, for the additional costs that they’re having to pay out.

Alexandra Holmes 06:01
Yes, that’s right. Yes. I mean, we hear that a lot, especially at the moment with with, you know, the rise of everything. We find that there’s so many different reasons, people want to have this extra fundraising scheme for things like that, to just keep things running. Also, if they’re having kind of any refurbishments, or they want to offer, you know, additional services from the village hall, we even have worked with one village hall to help them raise money to get a defibrillator. So it’s a great way to fundraise for whatever kind of idea or project that a village hall has coming up.

Johnny Thomson 06:36
Yeah, brilliant. And it’s probably worth mentioning as well, it’s not just village and community halls that you help. As you mentioned before that the thing with the firefighters charity goes back a few years. And you do work with the Yorkshire Children’s Trust, as well understand. How does this kind of additional work with charity fit in with all of this?

Alexandra Holmes 06:58
Yeah, so we offer the same kind of schemes for our larger charities as well. So, for example, with the Yorkshire Children’s Trust especially in that area, you know, we kind of offer clothing banks on their behalf. So instead of maybe, some village halls don’t need the extra fundraising, or they would rather it go to a charity. So instead, they could host, you know, a Yorkshire Children’s Trust Bank instead. And that would really benefit that charity to have, you know, the funds go to them to help them continue what they’re doing. So that’s kind of how we work with charities as well, on that aspect of things.

Johnny Thomson 07:34
Brilliant, brilliant. And there’s an important environmental benefit to all of this as well. In fact, I understand around half of all clothes that we throw away each year, end up in landfill, which obviously isn’t good. But you’re stopping a lot of that from happening as well, right?

Alexandra Holmes 07:52
Yes, yes, exactly. So, you know, everything that is collected is either reused or recycled. So that’s something that we’re really big on the very, you know, environmental, eco impact on things. And I’m sure the figure is that 350,000 tonnes of clothing goes to landfill each year. So you can imagine, that’s a huge amount of waste. So we try and do whatever we can to kind of eliminate this. And that’s the whole goal of our company, as well as supporting the charities that we work with in small communities as well.

Johnny Thomson 08:27
Where does all this come from with ASTCO, because a lot of people just dismiss businesses as money making machines and all they’re interested in. But it sounds to me like there’s a social attitude there within the company. What’s that all about? Why, why is the company doing all of this?

Alexandra Holmes 08:49
Yeah, I think we definitely saw a kind of need in the market, I suppose to kind of connect those small communities and charities together in a way to fundraise that’s beneficial and also help the planet as well. You know, I feel like it’s really benefiting so many areas that are so you know, important to us. And obviously, being as eco friendly as possible is such an important thing, especially right now. It’s fantastic to see that so many more people are, you know, seeing the impact of their clothes and what’s happening to them and how we can try and eliminate that and be a bit more conscious when we’re shopping and everything. So, you know, to offer a way to kind of support these charities as well. You know, it’s a huge thing. And I’m really proud to be working for a company which really supports that and it’s at the ethos of everything that we do.

Johnny Thomson 09:39
Yeah, I was just thinking that must feel really good to work for an organisation like that.

Alexandra Holmes 09:44
Yeah, you know, it’s so rewarding. Especially, you know, like you said, with Mandy, knowing that those funds even though you know, they may vary, that it really does make a benefit and helps those communities. It’s a very rewarding job, definitely.

Johnny Thomson 10:00
I understand you’re also supporting something called Textiles 2030. What’s that, Alex?

Alexandra Holmes 10:08
So this is a scheme that we’re also really proud of. So it connects Defra, the major retailers and also reuse-recyclers like ourselves. And we work together on schemes to have full traceability in the industry. So this is from the manufacturer to the final end-user. So creating a whole traceable loop, you know, with the life of a clothing item. And I feel like this is a great way again, to kind of help make the whole system better and kind of, you know, prevent waste and making sure that we’re all doing everything we can to be as eco-friendly as possible to help, you know, protect the planet.

Johnny Thomson 10:49
Yeah, because there’s just too much waste, isn’t there and it’s a great way of contributing, like you’ve said to charity, as well. So if anyone out there is listening, and they’re looking at their wardrobe and thinking, there’s a few things that I haven’t worn for, for many, many years, this is a great way of recycling that and providing additional benefits in the community.

Alexandra Holmes 11:14
Yes, that’s it. You know, it’s a great way I feel like everyone loves a spring clear out, you know, especially so, you know, it’s great to think that when you’re donating those clothes that not only are they not going to be contributing to landfill, but they’re also going to be benefiting your local community as well. I think it’s just a total win-win, like he said at the beginning of this podcast, so…

Johnny Thomson 11:36
Yeah, fantastic. Yeah. And I mean, what I said at the beginning, you know, what you’re doing is a win for charities, it’s a win for village, church and community halls, it’s a win for the environment and I guess, as a commercial organisation as well, in all honesty, it’s so it’s a win for you as well?

Alexandra Holmes 11:53
Yes, that’s right. Yeah. I mean, obviously, you know, we are a business. But at the core of everything that we do is giving back and helping to protect the planet and everything. So, yeah, it’s great in terms of how it benefits everyone so much.

Johnny Thomson 12:09
Fantastic. So for anyone out there who’s listening, and they’re interested in maybe getting a clothing bank for their, for their hall, what’s the first step?

Alexandra Holmes 12:22
So the first step would be first to probably check out our website. So that is www.asyco.co.uk. On there, we just have a video, which explains a little bit more in detail about what we do. And you can also fill out our kind of like application form. And we get back to you as soon as possible with that. And basically, as soon as you’re happy, I know it has to go to a lot of committee meetings and things like that. But you know, as soon as you’re ready to take a bank, then we’ll completely organise all of that with you, keeping you in the loop at all times. And yeah, just arrange to get it out. We can usually get out within a couple of weeks.

Johnny Thomson 13:08
Fantastic. And they’ll be a phone number on there and things like that as well, if people want to want to contact you that way.

Alexandra Holmes 13:13
Yeah, absolutely. All of the contact details will be on our website as well.

Johnny Thomson 13:18
Okay, well, I’ll make sure that there’s a there’s a link to that with the episode on website as well.

Alexandra Holmes 13:25
Oh that’s perfect. Yes, thank you.

Johnny Thomson 13:28
But yeah, it’s brilliant. And thanks very much for for coming on, and telling us about your scheme. I know yours isn’t the only one out there, but you know, you were very kind enough to connect with our podcasts through Instagram, so here we are talking now. And all I would say is keep up the good work and best of luck with everything. I think it’s a great way to support communities and at the same time, prevent unnecessary waste.

Alexandra Holmes 13:57
Yeah, that’s it, you know it’s a total win win. So yeah, thank you so much for having me on the podcast Johnny, it’s been great to speak to you. And yeah, hopefully we can help more village halls and some listeners in the future.

Johnny Thomson 14:10
Yeah, absolute pleasure. And as I said, if anoyone out there is interested get in touch, because it sounds like a pretty simple thing to get up and running really. It’s a case of contacting you and then you know, get the get the bank outside the hall and let the local community start to do the work for everyone, yeah?

Alexandra Holmes 14:29
yeah, that’s right. I mean, really, as soon as you get you get in touch and say that you’re ready, we just talk about where abouts you’d like it to go and then within you know, a couple of weeks, we’ll get it out to you and get the ball rolling. So yeah, it’s a very quick and easy process. We try and make the whole process as easy and as straightforward for all the communities we work with. Because we know that they don’t need the additional stress and things like that. So any problems as well. You’ll have an account manager who you can message and let know if any issues arise.

Johnny Thomson 15:03
Brilliant. Well, as I say, thanks again for coming on and explaining all. I really appreciate it Alex.

Alexandra Holmes 15:08
Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Johnny Thomson 15:10
And one last thing for everyone, before we go, don’t forget our Wonderful Villages Awards. There’s five awards all together and each could result in £1,000 for your hall. We’ve had several entries in already and yes, there is quite a few months to go until the closing date, but as I said, don’t forget to enter. And if you can, spread the word as well. And so that’s it for this episode. Big thanks to our headline sponsor and specialist insurance provider Allied Westminster for making our podcast possible and whose services you can discover more about it villageguard.com. And to online booking system provider Hallmaster, who also sponsor our podcast and can be found at hallmaster.co.uk. You’ve been listening to The Village Halls Podcast, a unique listening community for Britain’s village, church and community halls, and anyone interested in the vital community services they provide. We’ll be back again soon with another episode. So, if you haven’t already, visit the villagehallspodcast.com to subscribe, sign up for updates, link through to our social media pages and to find out more. But until the next time. Good bye for now.