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  • Writer's pictureCharity Chat Podcast

E237 - Retailer models for charities with Michael Chuter

““…if you’re given something for free there’s nothing you can do about it if it doesn’t meet your needs, because you go it for free anyway…” – Michael Chuter

In this episode we speak with Michael Chuter, CEO of Pump Aid. We speak about how Pump Aid’s work in Malawi has evolved to take the form of the delivery model best known among commercial retailers. We also talk about how they have changed their charity in order to accommodate this and why.

1. What we can learn from the consumer sector

The success of Amazon and other large retailers should not be ignored by charities looking at how they can best solve the needs of their beneficiaries. In this episode, Michael talked about the models for delivery of products, and how this has fundamentally changed among retailers in recent history, and some charities may well benefit from taking note and adapting their delivery models as Pump Aid has.

2. Giving things to beneficiaries for free

In the context of water pumps, Michael made a compelling case for charging some beneficiaries and developing a commercial industry among local people for local people which sees those in need of water having their payment for water subsidised by the charity. The benefits of this model were spelled out by Michael and it sounds like this is certainly improving the water accessibility of many people in Malawi.

For many charities the idea of charging beneficiaries for services that they provide seems to run counter to their mission. But in these particularly challenging times for charities and the people they seek to support, a subsidised model of support, or one that lends itself to embracing some form of commercial basis is certainly worth considering for some.

3. Creating a social enterprise

Michael talked about the presumptions that come with the word ‘Aid’ and the hurdle this poses within the communities in which his charity works. For Pump Aid, setting up a social enterprise was a helpful tool to a hybrid approach to providing water in Malawi. This sounds like it’s also made for a more compelling proposition to the charity’s funders as well as those providing subsidies to their social enterprise model.

In our society right now, many of us will have views around the effectiveness of governments, the greed of markets, and the shortfalls caused by both for the people our charities exist to support. But speaking with Michael, it occurred to me that rather than seeking to address the imbalances in our society, and provide a counterweight to the greed and ineptitude of big business and government, the charity sector should be seeking to take a larger market share, to lead society more than we are already. Perhaps by taking from other models of business we can start to do that and better address the inequalities that keep us hungry to change things.

This episode of Charity Chat has been brought to you by our platinum sponsor Work for Good. Work for Good believes everyone should be able to turn the work they do into good. Through their fundraising platform, they offer charities a way to engage and work with small businesses, including founders, owners and sole traders who want to make an impact for charities through their sales. To find out more, please visit

We hope you enjoy this week’s episode.

Related episodes that you may be interested in:

E182 - Challenging The Status Quo To Achieve Change Wth Tom Vozzo -

E170 - Is Charging Beneficiaries The Route To Sustainability With Joe Saxton

E149 - Supporting Humanity with Idris Patel


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