The WEA has developed practical numeracy based training for charity shop volunteers to help increase charity shop surpluses and develop skills for everyday life and the retail sector

“Charity Counts” was introduced through two taster sessions in partnership with Maths Week Scotland.   The content was developed and delivered by the WEA and an experienced charity shop manager to address a need for numeracy/finance based training for ESOL and non-ESOL shop volunteers.  The charity shop volunteers come from a wide range of backgrounds, some may be volunteering after retirement but many are volunteering in order to gain work experience whilst looking for permanent employment or waiting for changes to their immigration status.  Raising awareness of the importance of numeracy and maths in business and everyday life will increase the skills of the individual volunteers, increase the surplus of the charity shops and therefore the donations to the charities’ beneficiaries.

There is a gap in training provision for charity shop volunteers at two distinct levels:

1) Everyday Numeracy for life and work for ESOL learners

The aim is to help ESOL volunteers develop skills to enable them to take on more responsibility in charity shops.  This would include understanding of sizes, reading labels, brand and quality awareness as they relate to pricing, as well as cash handling, using a till, customer service, including cultural differences, eg bartering and/or bargaining vs. fixed price. 

2) Understanding the business needs of charity shops

The course is for higher level ESOL learners or non-ESOL charity shop volunteers with an interest in developing their understanding of managing a shop in order to progress beyond their current roles.  This would include balancing the need to maximise income generation with the basic price and functionality needs of local consumer groups.  In addition, the course provides an overview of overheads and operating expenses associated with running a charity shop, eg governance, bills, rent, rates, staff, marketing and fundraising. 

The courses will also develop digital skills to use online sales platforms such as e-Bay to estimate pricing and to sell high value items to make the most money for their charity shops.