Heroes of Procurement

Our approach is boosting PPE buying power for smaller charities

CIPS 12 June 2020

The collaborative Charity PPE Buying Group, an alliance of almost 40 charities led by furloughed procurement volunteers, has revolutionised the sector.

A group of furloughed procurement experts have devoted their free time to setting up the Charity PPE Buying Group to coordinate between around 40 charities in the UK. The team has used the power of collaboration to maximise the buying power of smaller charities to attract larger PPE providers, while sharing essential best practices to help each other with challenges brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The global demand for PPE has made it harder for smaller charities to obtain the necessary items to protect vulnerable people and staff in non-profit organisations that own medical care facilities, such as hospitals and care homes. Many in the charity sector have been stuck at the back of the queue due to a lack of procurement resources and the barrier of minimum buying quantities.


  1. Collective Purchasing Power
  2. Utilising Furloughed Expertise
  3. Core Members
  4. Building a System
  5. Central Support System
  6. PPE Requirements
  7. Sharing Best Practices

As a solution, Leigh Kopec, head of procurement and contract management at The Royal British Legion, suggested that charities pool their purchasing power to buy PPE, thereby mitigating pricing, sourcing and organisational issues. In the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak, many procurement teams became overwhelmed with supply challenges, and the charities agreed it was a prime opportunity to set up a meaningful project allowing furloughed procurement professionals to volunteer their spare time to make a positive impact.

 Collective Purchasing Power

The Charity PPE Buying Group has an estimated purchasing power of between £5-10m and includes some high-profile organisations, including The Royal British Legion, Sue Ryder Care, The National Trust, WWF UK, Barnardos and Oxfam GB.

Together, the group has addressed challenges around establishing PPE requirements and meeting these with up-to-date specifications, sourcing barriers such as price-gouging and logistics, and coordinating and organising the procurement of a large, diverse group of charities for PPE.

Kopec says the group has been a great demonstration of the power of collaboration: “We’ve been able to quickly support some smaller charities, which don’t have dedicated procurement resources, with critical PPE provisions as well as using volunteers to do market research and get best pricing and due diligence on supply chains. This is a true piece of collaboration bringing the industry together for mutual gain.”

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 Utilising Furloughed Expertise

The project has given furloughed procurement professionals the chance to give back to the charity sector by resolving problems caused by Covid-19. The volunteers have been a vital element in forming a new alliance within the sector, to bring efficiency and cost-effective practices to charities with low levels of procurement support.

Kopec is overseeing the initiative as charity representative lead for the sector, alongside Kavita Cooper, managing director at Novo-K procurement solutions, who led the volunteer recruitment and is providing the project’s operating infrastructure, and project leader Michelle Jones.

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 Core Members

The core members of the team include: Michelle Jones, head of procurement and supply chain at ASM Technologies Ltd, Rajneesh Kumar, procurement and commercial manager at the Ministry of Defence’s Strategic Command, Laura Neville, category manager and social value lead at a leading food procurement company, Joe Burgwin, procurement business partner at UK veterinary charity PDSA, and Bernadette Heppell, operations manager at Dando Drilling.

Kopec emphasised that Jones has done a phenomenal job leading the team of furloughed professionals and maintaining the project plan and objectives. Together, the volunteers have supported charities’ immediate supply requirements while increasing efforts towards building the supply base and ensuring the relevant resources are available going forward.

James Watson-O’Neil, chief executive at the deaf health charity SignHealth, praised the efforts of the group, saying: “The work of the group is really impressive – I think we’d have been lost without it so I’m genuinely very grateful for the support you’ve given us.”


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join hands

 Building a System

The buying group team set out to ensure the collaboration was built on a foundation of trust and security, by asking all charities participating to sign a mutual NDA. The central base was then created through a shared Google drive to store documents and information, as well as an email account for communications. The charities also completed an online survey aimed at capturing legalities such as GDPR approval and the level of PPE quantities required. 

Kopec says: “A detailed PPE requirements spreadsheet has gathered all immediate, short-term and longer-term requirements, if known. Immediate needs have generally focused on charities providing health/care settings, and now, moving onto those with physical retail footprints.

“The biggest challenge has been collating, reviewing and organising the sheer amount of companies offering PPE, all at varying levels of quality, price and lead-times.”

The furloughed procurement team has been using the PPE requirement data to work with potential suppliers, communicate supply volumes on an ongoing basis and share knowledge  of PPE provisions within the group to enact strategic joint purchasing.

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 Central Support System

Since the buying group entered the market many larger PPE suppliers have shown interest in working together which has helped smaller charities gain access to more PPE supplies they would not otherwise have the resources to acquire due to minimum quantity requirements. Small charities have also been able to learn from the types of supplies and suppliers of other charities, which has enabled more strategic discussion around long-term ordering. Concepts are being developed around how to provide support to help break down the barriers for smaller charities, including the possibility of larger charities storing stock for distribution to smaller ones that lack the warehousing capacity.

“The biggest challenge has been collating, reviewing and organising the sheer amount of companies offering PPE, all at varying levels of quality, price and lead-times.”

Kopec says: “The most important outcome has been supporting the smaller charities, as well as the chance to network and ‘sell’ the bigger opportunity of a large group of charities to the market.”

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 PPE Requirements

The collaborative network has been instrumental in helping charities better understand PPE specification requirements and types needed for different environments (e.g. care settings compared to office or retail etc.), as well as pitfalls to avoid during Covid-19, such as fake suppliers or certifications.

Kopec highlights that “a real challenge” for a lot of the charities was “they don't know what they don't know”. With PPE an unfamiliar category, many have had to learn specialist knowledge from each other in order to source the correct PPE grade and manage stock more effectively in such high-pressure times.


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women wearing ppe


 Sharing Best Practices

Communication has been one of the key practices shared across the group due to the extreme volatility in the PPE market. Kopec says the new entrants in the market, demands for up-front payments, and questionable certifications and quality of stock all posed problems for smaller charities. However, through the group, clear and specific guidance has been made available including information on government white lists of trusted suppliers and blacklists, certification checking, and references from major clients to support each charity’s purchasing choices.

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