Two North London branches of local store Thornton’s Budgens are raising funds for a local charity by selling hope in the form of small blocks of recycled wood. The signs on the shelves read "£1. Buy HOPE for people affected by dementia".
The donor takes the blocks, with the word 'Hope' imprinted on them, together with a bar code, to the checkout and they are charged £1, which is donated to the charity. The block is then returned to the shelves so that other donors can 'buy' it.
The beneficiary charity from the Belsize and Crouch End shops trail is Alzheimer's Society.
The Blocks of Hope campaign has been created in partnership between Thornton's Budgens and advertising agency JWT London. Alzheimer's Society is the first charity to sign up to the initiative.
Andrew Thornton from Budgen's told BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning that, if successful, the blocks could be extended to other stores and to benefit other charities. If donors could 'buy hope' then they might equally want to 'buy' other positive and uplifting concepts.
JWT has funded the creation of the blocks of wood, and Budgen's is covering the administrative costs of the scheme. The companies are testing putting the blocks in different parts of the shop, from next to impulse buys like chocolates and sweets to other relevant products.
Joseph Petyan, Executive Partner at JWT London, said: "We are immensely proud of HOPE, an initiative we believe will revolutionise the way people think about making a charitable donation. The aim is for HOPE to become a part of people’s everyday lives and something as regular as buying everyday grocery items."
Alzheimer’s Society Community Fundraising Manager, Jennifer Moseley, said: "We're always looking for innovative and quirky new ways to raise money and the Hope’ initiative does just that."
Unfortunately, the donations are not tax-efficient: the scheme focuses on speed and impulse donations, so donors are not invited to complete a Gift Aid declaration form. But Horton did not seem to think this was significant, quoting the planned introduction of the (automatic) Gift Aid on small donations scheme announced in the 2011 Budget.
Buy a brick schemes have a long history in fundraising in the form of capital appeals. Charities have also tested making donations into commodities for 'purchasing'. For example, back in 2005 WWF UK began selling four different cardboard box products through Argos, John Lewis and other high street retailers to make their animal adoption programme more tangible.