Featured business – local charity In Kind Direct


In Kind Direct: The power of leverage.

In Kind Direct CEO, Robin Boles, explains how In Kind Direct got started, what it does and how YOU, in the Ward of Cornhill, can help!

Robin Boles Profile Photo

“In Kind started in 1996. Our founder, HRH The Prince of Wales is passionately against waste and he wanted to tackle the problem. I got head-hunted by Whitehead Mann (I’d been deputy CEO and Head of Operations for the Financial Services Compensation Scheme) and I went into the interview incredibly well-prepared because I REALLY wanted the job. It was such a great idea and I relished the opportunity to start something from scratch and set the culture. I was full of ideas of how to take it beyond the Prince’s original idea of concentrating on second hand goods. So much surplus new goods were being wasted – what people need in their homes or charities need for their operations – everyday consumer products. These products could make a tremendous impact to improve people’s lives. Why should charities have to make do with second hand goods? So that was it! In Kind Direct enables manufacturers and retailers to help communities and charities make their funds go further by donating surplus goods; something that would be impossible on an individual basis.

The first companies to donate were Disney, Johnson and Johnson and Colgate…They’re all still with us. We got help from the lottery to pay for staff. Lloyds Bank also made a grant and our first Chairman was its CEO. Lloyds Bank agreed to house the charity for the first six months. 19 years later and the Bank is still providing us with office accommodation. We couldn’t have achieved what we have without Lloyds Bank. Their people are engaged from the top down and it’s been such a fantastic relationship in so many ways.

In early 1997 we produced our first paper catalogue with 12 products listed. I was so proud of it! Now we have around 1,200 products on our online catalogue at any point in time, adding up to 2,000 new ones every month. We have worked with over 1,000 companies. To date In Kind Direct has distributed over £140 million in value of goods to 7,500 charities.

One of our USPs is to help the maximum number of charities that we can. The majority of the charities we help have incomes below £50,000 and many have no paid staff. But they are the ones working day in, day out at the grassroots making a real impact in their local communities. They don’t have the resources to go to companies for help. We do all that. We are the only organisation which takes on the administrative and logistical complexity of co-ordinating this throughout the UK and this includes delivery to charities’ doors. But we bring so much more to the process and we collect stories and case studies to feed back to the donors so they can see the difference their goods make.

There’s a lot of talk about the circular economy…goods wasted here get made into something useful there, but LOTS of goods can be used as originally intended. I can tear loo paper with faulty perforations and it works just as well! In Kind Direct has a big part to play in reducing environmental waste whilst helping millions of people in need every year!

Our IT and ecommerce platforms are very sophisticated. Stock varies on a daily basis. We don’t always know exactly what we are getting, but donor companies understand not to try and solve their problems by using us as a dump! Our outsourced warehouse operators have focused their service to meet our needs, rather than trying to make our operation fit their model like the largest firms. Ours is a complex operation and warehouse costs are our biggest expense. Rent rising in steps significantly year on year is a real challenge.

There are three main benefits for charities:

  • We help them to stretch their budgets and save money
  • We help them improve and enhance their services and equip them with products they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford
  • In Kind Direct relieves hardship and helps charities build the self-respect of the people in need they serve.

This year has seen an 11% increase in charities using our service. We had 180 new charities sign up in September alone. It’s not surprising. Demand is up and funding is down. We are enablers. There are little charities doing great work who have told us they are only surviving because of In Kind Direct.”

In Kind Direct in action. Some examples: A learning disability charity took a consignment of Meyer pans and Portmeirion dishes which enabled them to run cooking classes and a ‘Come Dine with Me’ programme. It made a real improvement in their social skills too. That simply would not have happened without In Kind Direct.

An autism charity was able to build a sensory deprivation room with the money saved from its budget because they had received all their cleaning supplies from In Kind Direct.

A youth centre dealing with deprived and disadvantaged young people in North West London is able to provide them with essentials like toothpaste, tooth brushes , Vans shoes, T shirts; items of quality that really make them feel valued and make a big difference to their social lives.

Around 75% of In Kind Direct’s charity partners say that the access to high end and branded goods has improved the confidence and self-esteem of the people they work with. A young woman seeking refuge from domestic abuse is welcomed with an assortment of cosmetics and toiletries from L’Oreal. She languishes in the first uninterrupted bath she has ever had. She starts to feel human again and that she might, after all, be worth bothering about.

People stop buying toothpaste and fairy liquid long before they start using food banks. We take these simple things for granted but they’re a big deal for people who have very little. Over half of the benefiting charities say In Kind Direct enables them to support people who are struggling to afford basic supplies.

How can YOU help?

A donation to In Kind Direct is a donation towards helping every charitable focus area. You don’t have to pick a cancer charity or a refugee crisis fund or a shelter for the homeless. In Kind Direct works with every type of charity right across the spectrum.

In Kind Direct needs to fundraise for around £500,000 a year just to stand still. The charity earns 70% of its income but it has to fund raise for that last 30%. The more financial support In Kind Direct receives, the more it can focus on finding and distributing essential goods rather than fund-raising.

In Kind Direct gives you LEVERAGE! Every cash donation received is multiplied at least tenfold in value of products received by charities.

It would be amazing if the Ward of Cornhill could fund that 30%. Go on to In Kind Direct’s website and see how you can help or give Robin Boles a call on 0300 3020240. You can spread the word. You can fund-raise. You can be a patron.

Will you help?


The Cornhill team would like to thank Richard Hills and his agent Anthea Simmons for their help and encouragement in promoting In Kind Direct in the City of London.

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