Contactless giving – are you ready?

  • In 2017, contactless giving will become much more widespread within the charity sector, as many charities begin trials
  • Contactless payments are growing fast in the UK with £2,903m spent in November 2016 alone
  • Here we look at examples of innovative uses of contactless and how contactless units are replacing collecting tins

According to the UK Cards Association, November 2016 saw a £2,903m spend in the UK via contactless devices. This was a rise of 183% on the previous year.

As contactless transactions become an everyday method of payment for many (particularly in urban areas) and cash disappears from people’s pockets, new challenges and opportunities emerge for charitable giving.

How can charities optimise the use of contactless giving? In time, will this method replace the old street collections or collecting boxes left on the counter? Are the public ready to get their cards or phones out to donate rather than handing over loose change? How can charities make it fun?

We look at some examples of how the major charities are approaching contactless fundraising and consider what this means for smaller charities.

Innovative uses of contactless giving

A few charities are already using this technology to explore new approaches to fundraising. They have designed systems to make contactless giving fun or unusual, in an effort to encourage first-time donors.

Cancer Research UK launched a world-first in 2015 for World Cancer Day with its contactless shop window. Four of its charity shops had a video and a contactless point, which facilitated £2 donations. The charity followed this up in October 2016 with contactless collections at 16 locations across the UK for World Cancer Day.

Also in 2015, Red Nose Day produced statues with built in contactless payment points. People were invited to take selfies with them and donate £1.

Then in May 2016 The Blue Cross announced the “World’s first canine fundraisers” who wore contactless jackets so that people could “Pat and Tap” to donate £2.

Some charities are starting to have a contactless terminal as well as a traditional bucket or tin at their collection points. For example the NSPCC used this form of collection in London underground stations before Christmas.

Others plan to launch their contactless collections in 2017. In time, this could see a welcome end to the time-consuming processing of buckets of heavy coins.

Digital collecting tins and small purchases

Mary’s Meals collects individual donations of 30p via Lunchbox. It asked shops, workplaces and events to host digital versions of the traditional collecting tin on the shop counter.

The Barbican added a contactless unit at the entrance to its Curve Gallery to take optional £2 donations. It previously asked visitors to donate via text.

Big Issue vendor Simon Mott in London, was the first to accept Apple Pay and contactless payments for magazines in 2016 when his sales dropped because fewer people were carrying cash.

Smaller charities

Smaller charities are starting to trial contactless donations too, but the cost and effort of setting it up and uncertain results may deter many.

Haven House Children’s Hospice on the borders of Essex and North East London used contactless terminals alongside its collecting buckets throughout December, at events, supermarkets, High Streets and train stations.

Results were disappointing, which was put down to people just not being familiar with donating in this way, especially in a rushed environment. They are however, going to continue.

Natalie Tominson, Head of Marketing and Individual Giving explained: “We see contactless giving as the future. We will be trialling use at events next. We feel it will work better in situations where people have more time and the process can be explained to them.

“We are also going to be using the portal with our corporate partners. Many of the firms we work with are now cashless buildings. Staff are used to using tap/contactless to pay for lunch and coffees so for them it won’t be so alien.”

She added that “setting up contactless will get easier for charities and eventually it will become the norm to donate in this way”.

JustGiving is currently running a trial for its new TapDonate app which aims to “open up contactless payments to charities of all shapes and sizes”.

Is contactless right for everyone?

Although making payments though contactless is growing in the UK, it is likely to be more popular in areas with reliable mobile signals and digitally confident populations.

As more charities offer this option, it should become more usual to donate in this way. Set up processes should become easier and costs more reasonable, making contactless donations more achievable for many.

If you are a charity that runs collections or has collecting boxes on shop counters, or hosts events or takes payments for small items, contactless giving should be on your radar for 2017.