In 2019 more than half of our debit card payments became contactless; the technology has certainly changed how we pay but it is also changing how we give away.

For years, the fundraising landscape has been shifting – we have seen an increase in giving time over money, a focus on the value exchange, and a rise in the considered giver. Alongside these changes has been the impact of finance technology on how we carry and handle our money. Over 70% of charities are saying that bucket shaking and street sign ups are failing to retain their previous donation values because people do not carry enough cash anymore. In fact in the UK alone, it is expected that cash will account for only 21% of purchases by 2026. Meaning the ability to rummage around our pockets for loose change as we are asked on the street to give is becoming a thing of the past. 

That’s a good thing. On a neural level, it ‘hurts’ to handle and part with cash, but we’ll happily pass on tokens or virtual money. It’s why casinos use chips, and why Apple, Amazon and others have enjoyed such success with gift cards. It works at the checkout too – if you’ve been asked at your self-service till to ‘round up’ your basket total with a charity donation, you probably agreed without agonising over the issue. 

Charities face a financial quandary

Despite all the signs pointing towards digital payments, and many charities talking about transformation in fundraising, we have still sensed a nervousness from charities to not only begin their contactless journey but to champion it for the solution it might just be. 

There is a significant obstacle to overcome first: the new contactless technology requires investment, and charities are already under the spotlight when it comes to spending scrutiny. It’s not a barrier, however. The answer is having a strong ROI argument to help justify costs and support funding. But whilst we can all see the requirement emerging, innovative campaigns to date have had varying success and understandably it’s a hard measure when you consider different cause values, different demographic audiences and the creative implementation of such technology. 

In the last few years we have seen some inspiring and successful implementations, and whilst they are not all charity based they demonstrate an adoption rate and also lay the path in terms of approaches to success. 

These charities are contactless innovators

In the charity sector we have seen a number of smart media implementations for the technology;

  • Blue Cross developed wearable contactless coats for their four legged friends, essentially creating ‘tap dogs’ 
  • Dutch agency (N=5) installing contactless technologies in coats they give away to the homeless allowing donations to be made on the street (of which the value could only be reclaimed in the shelter shop)
  • And Cancer Research UK fight against cancer tap and donate shop windows with an interactive reward for donations 
  • A pilot collaboration between Charities Aid Foundation and Visa Europe for Save the Children placed contactless payment terminals in coffee shops, tube stations and venues across London. At Costa Coffee, 20% of those who paid with contactless also made a donation. 

And media owners are quickly catching up with the demand and creating various innovative and interactive solutions alongside more traditional Out of Home and Point of Sale media. Entire enterprises such as Goodbox have been set up to create and install contactless technologies into charities’ giving channels. 

But whatever the reason, it feels like we are not seeing adoption as quickly as we would imagine. And whilst we know there is a hesitation from an investment point of view, we also ponder the challenge from a journey and connection point of view. 

How to retain the emotional value of giving cash

In some implementation approaches, the bucket shaker themselves is removed entirely, and gone with them are their uniforms, stories and passion. To make the most of the contactless giving we have to implement it at points of ease and relevance in the audience journey, but we also need to ensure the implementation continues to have the same core motivation shown in its messaging – why give.

Luckily, that chimes with the question many charities are asking themselves anyway. Is charity giving an issue of wellbeing for the donor, rather than a target achieved for the fundraiser? It’s especially important for those charities raising money towards a finishing line that will never be reached. Many charities are embracing the notion that giving is about satisfying a personal need to play a more meaningful role in the world. Appealing to these donors will focus more on the intangible benefits of giving rather than the actual ‘cost’. To that end, contactless donations take away the cash as hero and allow charities to focus on the sentiment. 

We may have made it easier to give, but we cannot forget to tell you why to give.