The Multibank charity initiative donates 1.5 million products to 150,000 families in need

The Amazon Multibank

1.5 MILLION essential products have been donated to more than 150,000 families in need across Scotland and Greater Manchester by a charity initiative called The Multibank, founded last year by Amazon, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and the Cottage Family Centre in Kirkcaldy, together with local businesses and suppliers. 

In January 2022, Amazon announced it was working with a coalition of Scottish charities brought together by Mr Brown to donate goods to people living in poverty from a dedicated warehouse, based in Lochgelly. Amazon has led The Multibank, working closely with charity partner, The Cottage Family Centre. The project is known locally as “The Big House”.

The Cottage Family Centre provides support to families and individuals who are vulnerable to social exclusion as a result of poverty, poor housing, unemployment, relationship breakdown, drug and alcohol problems, or other health-related issues.

Earlier this year The Multibank launched a second site in Greater Manchester, known as “The Brick-by-Brick” project, working with Wigan and Leigh charity, The Brick.

The Multibank operates as a “click and collect” service for over 1,000 local charities and professionals including social workers, teachers and midwives to access goods from the warehouse in Lochgelly to help people in need. 

The products are donated principally by Amazon, but include support from other businesses including Fishers Laundry, Craig & Rose Paint, Morrisons, The Paint Shed, Blue Earth Clean, the Bell Group, Tesco, SemiChem, Vision, Morrisons, Scotmid, Purvis, PepsiCo, Unilever, Accrol, Kraft Heinz and others.

Simon McMahon, Senior Programme Manager for The Multibank in Amazon UK’s Impact team,is originally from Fife and has overseen the project since its inception. He said: “The Multibank has grown rapidly since we first started last year. There is no other project like it, offering this type of support to people for free. The success of The Multibank has far exceeded our expectations – we’re now supporting over 150,000 families and 1,000 charities and trusted professionals across the two sites to date in Fife and Wigan. But we continue to be ambitious as more charities and businesses join The Multibank coalition in helping those who need it most.”

Former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, said: “I thank Amazon for their willingness to experiment with redistributing their returned goods to families in need in Fife via the Cottage Family Centre, whose network and ability to get surplus goods directly to families and children in need is creating a path-breaking new model, where big corporations can do real social good at a grassroots level.

“I’m grateful to Purvis, our own Fife based warehouse and logistics partners, who donated a warehouse and in which we have created our first Multibank, as well as our partners in Greater Manchester. We look forward to working with the pioneering systems created especially for us by Amazon to scale and speed up our own delivery operation as we seek to reach and support even more families facing another tough winter.”

Over the last six months, software development apprentices from the Amazon Development Centre Scotland, supported by experienced engineers, have built a new cloud-based tech solution to allow The Multibank’s network of local partners in Scotland get a real-time snapshot of the warehouse’s inventory and request product donations for their service users.

Amazon apprentices Milda Zdanyte and Declan Fisher, who are working towards a BSc degree in Software Development & Computer Science from Edinburgh Napier University, have streamlined the workload of The Multibank’s warehouse team, who were previously manually logging inventory onto spreadsheets. The success of the project meant they were handling thousands of donations every week.

Milda Zdanyte, Apprentice Software Development Engineer at Amazon, said: “It’s been a fantastic experience to build a complex piece of tech which will have a direct and positive impact on the community in Fife and Edinburgh. The tech will help charity partners use The Multibank more effectively – by selecting specific product donations from a large range of stock online. It means we can get the right items to the right people at the right time. Ultimately we’re bringing the best of Amazon to help the project grow in the future.”

Amazon helped set up The Multibank warehouse operations at the Cottage Family Centre’s site in Lochgelly with a contribution of pro bono staffing, operations and logistics expertise, and an initial cash grant of £150,000 but the operation has grown since starting last year with Amazon donating hundreds of thousands of surplus products, with support from around 30 other businesses.

Goods such as bedding, toilet roll, nappies, wipes and toiletries to clothing, backpacks, home furnishings, lightings and electrical products having been donated, or banked, at the warehouse – which was provided free-of-charge ahead of the initial launch by Bob Purvis, chairman of The Purvis Group.

An independent report commissioned by Amazon and The Cottage Family Centre from the Social Value Lab has shown that for every £1 invested by Amazon in The Multibank, the project generates a social value of £5.95. The report found that challenges associated with the cost-of-living crisis was the most commonly cited reason for charities making referrals to The Multibank.

Just over half of parents and carers (55%) said the support they had received had enabled them to deal with critical issues quicker and potentially avoid a crisis situation, while three-quarters of parents and carers have noticed an improvement in family relationships and 11% said it prevented a breakdown in their tenancy situation or their children going into care. A further 90% of parents and carers said it increased their financial autonomy and reduced debt by allowing them to spend money on other things such as food or heating. 

So far this year, Amazon has facilitated the donation of more than 13 million products to charities across the UK through its Retail and Fresh operations, as well as Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA) Donations, a programme which helps independent sellers using the Fulfilment by Amazon service donate their overstock or returned items automatically. The process is easy for sellers, from coordination to delivery, where Amazon uses its supply chain and operational expertise so that the right items get to the right charity partners to give more products a second life. Amazon also donates millions of products to more than 2,000 charities and volunteer organisations every year, such as the British Heart Foundation, Barnardo’s and In Kind Direct.

This Multibank builds on a wide range of charitable partnerships that Amazon supports. During the academic year 2022-2023, Amazon delivered healthy breakfasts to more than 25,000 vulnerable children in schools across Scotland in partnership with Magic Breakfast. So far this year, the company has donated more than £60,000 to Scottish charities, including HomeStart Kirkcaldy, Change Mental Health in Edinburgh, and SAY Women in Glasgow.

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