Charities are becoming more professional

WITH 3,700 square metres of retail space, the Emmaus megastore on the outskirts of Preston, a northern English city, is the biggest charity shop in Britain. Customers wander among endless rows of sofas, testing the cushions and examining the other wares, from bric-a-brac to bicycles. Some staff are volunteers. Others were once homeless, and the £250,000 ($337,000) the store makes a year goes towards their housing, training and food.

Charity shops increasingly resemble other retail outlets, with appealing layouts, professional customer service and managers who honed their skills on the high street. Indeed, all kinds of non-profit organisations have become more businesslike over the past few decades. This shift is global, says Lester Salamon of the Johns Hopkins Centre for Civil Society Studies. But it has progressed furthest in rich countries, where the non-profit sector (which we generally take to exclude hospitals, universities and religious groups) is a bigger part of the…Continue reading

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