Serving Harrow Road, Queen’s Park  Westbourne, Church Street Little Venice, Maida Vale  Bayswater Lancaster Gate Wards    People in Brent  People in North Kensington & Chelsea.

The best way to support us- physical donations vs regular financial giving

By James Quayle

Why regular donations (of all sizes) are the best way to support us

Food donations make an important contribution to our service and suit a lot of donors who want to know that they are contributing to something that will suit a particular need. However, with the high levels of varied demand that we are currently experiencing, relying too heavily on physical donations raises a few issues when considered alongside the food banks operational and logistical capacity. This means that regular donations of as little as £2 per month are the most efficient, cost-effective and best way to support the North Paddington food bank.  

We currently distribute around 2,500-4,000 items per week. We have the budget to purchase around 800-1,000 of these (at a cost of between £250-£400) currently thanks to a grant from Westminster Almshouse. We would like to increase this amount so that it makes up around 60-70% of the items we distribute, still leaving a significant amount of our items distributed coming from physical donations. Please read on to see why we would like to take this approach:


Physical donations

Whilst many donors kindly drop donations off to us, it is not always possible. We do not own a vehicle and have one full-time member of staff (the manager), with some volunteer time to assist. This means that, with the use of a taxi or Zipcar, the manager will move most donations themselves, which can become a time-consuming task.

Considering that the manager is responsible for overseeing the service, meeting the needs of users, supporting volunteers, raising funds, collecting food and developing the charity, amongst many other things, the 8-15 hours per week that can be required to collect and sort donations restricts their ability to focus on other tasks. This means that having items reliably coming in at set times frees up their time to focus on the needs of the service, the people who use it and the volunteers who help run it.

Collections then have to occur at suitable times for those donating the items. As we only have access to our food cupboard twice a week, donations cannot always be put straight into storage, which means we have to put them in our office (where we are kindly hosted by housing association WECH) and then move them again when we are able to get into the cupboard, increasing the time taken to sort the food.

In terms of volunteers who assist with collecting donations, they are not always available to collect items at the required time and have vehicles that are only suited to smaller donations, and it would be impractical and unreasonable to rely upon their capacity to collect the amount of food required, so any hoped increase in their current contributions, as important as they are, is not possible.

Regular financial donations

With the correct amount of funds, we are able to purchase the items we need either from a wholesaler at a time that is convenient for the manager, or by the items being delivered to us at a time we know that we have access to our cupboard and when there are volunteers to sort them for distribution.


Physical donations

There are periods of the year in which we will receive large amounts of donations that more than meet the needs of the people using the service, namely Easter, the harvest festival period and Christmas. Whilst this increases the logistical pressures explained above further, it is manageable over the short periods that they are coming in.

The issue arises with the fact that outside of these periods, physical donations do not meet the needs of the service, particularly now, as demand continues to grow month on month, year on year.

As many of the larger physical donations come from organisations and institutions that want to run drives around these periods, we cannot ask that they spread them out throughout the year, which means that we need to rely on other means to get the large number of items required during quieter donation periods.

Regular financial donations

Having a consistent, higher regular income to cover the purchase of items will mean that we are able to provide the items required year round whilst continuing to use holiday periods to receive larger donations from our supporters.

Also, having the budget will mean that we can purchase fresh food as when it is needed (for distributions, home deliveries and emergency referrals). We cannot store fresh food as physical donations, but can purchase it from local grocers on Harrow road at agreed times. This will provide a more nutritionally balanced package whilst also meeting more of the specific dietary requirements of people using the food bank.

Reliability and quantities

Physical donations

Whilst we do have our shopping list to provide information on what to donate, and what is physically donated will go to good use, we do not always get exactly what we need at the correct times.

Physical donations will always seem to have larger numbers of certain items alongside those that can be used that week, which can serve to take up our limited storage space, and risks some of the items going out of date before they can be distributed.

Alongside this, some items that we regularly need are not donated as often, as they may not be available in the places we receive donations, or they are too expensive. An example of this is gluten or dairy free food products or items that suit diabetics. Whilst only a small amount of these items are needed, when we do not have them it can make a big difference to the person receiving the package.

It is also the case that we will receive unsuitable items (already open, out of date, without clear instructions etc), which cannot be used. All items also require date checking and counting, which can be time-consuming and impractical considering the access restrictions we have on our storage space.

Finally, the home deliveries we make require special purchases even when we have large amounts of physical donations coming in due to the specific, usually medically based, needs of the person receiving the package.

With this considered, physical donations will continue to play an important part of what we use as it can provide some much appreciated variation on what we distribute. In order to maintain the stock levels of what we need however, financial donations can play a big role.

Regular financial donations

If we are able to use some of the resources that go into physical donations, we can make sure that the items that we bring in are those that we know we need based on the needs of the people using the service at the time that they are needed.

We know the approximate amount of each item we use on a weekly basis and the specialist items that it is important to have consistent access to, whilst items being ordered by us are already date checked and quantities already recorded, saving time, resources and reducing the chance of having unsuitable items.


Physical donations

We realise that around our area and the areas that donors purchase items from may be smaller or more expensive stores, where the items being donated could be brought for cheaper and in larger quantities elsewhere, which has an effect on the amount of items we end up getting donated to us.

Regular financial donations

With regular funds, we are able to purchase more items at a lower cost from places identified by us as being affordable with good quality. This means that all of the resources being put into the food bank are being used as efficiently as possible to serve as large and diverse a group of people as possible.

You can give a one-off donation or a sign-up to donate monthly through If you are a UK taxpayer you are eligible to claim gift aid on your donation, which increases the amount we receive by 25%, so please be sure to include it.

Please note that BT Mydonate is closing in June/July 2019, so if you want to become a regular donor, please leave your email address when setting up your donation so that we can inform you of any future changes in how we receive donations.

Thank you for your support.