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Setting up your charity Pop Up Shop

A guide to the basics when setting up your pop up event

Setting up a pop up shop or event is a fantastic way for charities to use empty shops and units and build relationships with new supporters, as well as raising funds!

Without the commitment of a long term lease a Pop Up Shop lets you test the water of the charity retail market in your area. Or if you have a cupboard of old fundraising merchandise you can use a pop up shop to clear old stock, raise income and make room for a new range of products.

It's also an exciting way to launch new campaigns and of getting your local community engaged in your work.

Exploring the idea of running your own pop up shop event but not sure where to start? Here are some ideas taken from a recent event for the Childhood Cancer Parents Alliance (CCPA):

Finding a venue

Many local high streets and shopping centres are unfortunately still feeling the effect of austerity, a move to online shopping and huge out of town centres have left many high streets with a high void rate: shops left empty and looking uncared for.

This means that a well thought out proposal to set up a vibrant, community based shop and event bringing people to the high street, even on a short term basis, will be welcomed. Build relationships with shopping centre managers with high ’void’ rates or local commercial estate agents who can help you liaise with property owners to secure a unit. You might want to ask them about:

Potential footfall – if it's out of the way how will you get people to visit the shop?

Storage – will there be room to store donations or stock?

Is there parking and how accessible is the unit?

Utilities – is electricity, water etc available?

Draw up a plan

Once you’ve got the basic outline of your shop event draw-up a timetable and plan.

Consider all the resources that you are going to need. What physically needs to be done, like collecting donations, producing marketing material or checking your insurance? Who is going to do all of these tasks? If you have someone with a retail background why not get them to help with aspects of the shop such as window dressing, shop layout or signage?

Draw up a timeline of when everything needs to be done. Finally, plan for the unexpected; what happens if you have a shop-lifter or your volunteers don’t turn up?

Shop or event or both?

What’s the objective of your Pop Up shop? With the CCPA event the primary objective was community engagement. As a small, relatively new charity they wanted to raise profile and awareness.

Could you work with other organisations with similar aims to get more people involved? Each of the five days of the CCPA shop opening was themed but the busiest day saw a local dance troop host a belly dancing demonstration where shop visitors could join in, as well as a Ukulele community singing session. By getting fun, entertaining community groups to work with the charity they bought a whole new audience to the charity.

If you want to engage with people why not give out free tea, coffee and cakes? This enables staff and volunteers to sit and chat with visitors about the charity’s work in a relaxed and informal setting. Don’t forget to use simple data capture to collect details of potential new supporters – and follow them once the shop has closed.

For CCPA fundraising was the secondary objective in hosting the Pop Up event. Donated clothes, household goods, books and toys helped the charity raise over £2000.

The CCPA shop took card payments as well as cash. You may want to investigate alternatives to taking cash, such as text to donate or card payments, especially if you are not able to bank cash over the weekend.

Have a great team

Collecting, moving, sorting and displaying donations for your shop takes A LOT of time and effort. Build a team of volunteers and give them clear and concise tasks to ensure you shop is run effectively.

If your charity already has a team of volunteers this may be fairly easy to organise. If not, ensure you have basic guidelines in place to ensure the wellbeing of those giving their time to help you. Your local voluntary action group can help with this.

Tell everyone about the pop up shop

The key to any successful event is great publicity and marketing! Make sure you have a marketing plan in place for maximum promotion prior and during the shop opening.

Working with a local photographer, designer and printer CCPA used a combination different media with great visual content, including email campaigns, social media, posters and flyers to get people talking about the Pop up Shop and all the different aspects of the community event.

For CCPA their supporters are highly engaged on Facebook and engagement rate increased significantly prior and during the event, as they liked and shared content creating a real buzz around the event.

If you have a core of active volunteers on social media, why not give them training to become ‘social media ambassadors’ to increase your coverage and keeping momentum going during your pop up?


Setting up your shop will take much longer than you anticipate. Make sure that you have a clear idea of how you want the shop to ‘look’ to keep your time focussed. With CCPA they very much wanted it not to look like a charity shop but like a quirky, vintage store.

Whatever your vision for your pop up make sure everyone, staff, volunteers and the shop manager/owners understand what you are trying to achieve. Diagrams, mood-boards and plans will help everyone get the shop set up before the big opening.

Allow yourself time at the beginning of the day to make sure everything is ship-shape before you open. At the end of the day give everyone the chance to ‘debrief’ on what went well and what you could do better.

And don’t forget to have fun!

You’ve worked hard to create a fabulous event, you’ve promoted it effectively, lots of people are there raising money for your charity or learning about the work you do and they are having a great time!

If your charity or small business would like to investigate running a Pop Up Event Danells and Bewley can help! We produced the marketing material and ran the promotional campaign for CCPA's event, as well as event managed the 5 days of the shop's opening. Give us a call if you'd like to have a chat about working together on your next event.

Make your first pop-up shop a success with our free ultimate guide below.

The Ultimate Guide To Pop-up Shops for charities and small businesses