Britain’s growing adoption of digital payments is having an adverse effect on charities: in 2017, donations dropped by £80 million compared to the previous year. For the first time in the country’s history, payments by debit card have prevailed over cash calling for an adjustment to the current charity collection system.
Donations on the street dropped by 73% in 2017 and donations overall declined regardless of the age group, the greatest drop being recorded with the 16-to-24-year-olds. According Charity Finance Group’s Policy Manager, Richard Sagar, “larger members are adapting to these changes”, but smaller charities still depend on cash.
Methods to integrate contactless technologies varied. For example, Cancer Research UK installed video screens on their charity shop windows with contactless payment points. The technology allows passersby to donate £2 simply by tapping their cards to the window. In return the screen plays a video demonstrating a way the donor is contributing to society. A similar technology was applied in Cardiff during the Give DIFFerently campaign, raising £7,500 in only two weeks. The Church of England installed contactless terminals in over 16.000 churches and cathedrals. The payments could be made via Apple Pay, Google Pay or via chip-and-pin transactions. Blue Cross, an animal welfare charity, even went as far as to equip its cats and dogs with payment terminals, promoting “pat and tap” donations.
In 2017, 55% of donations were made in cash. And although digital payments could be the solution to increased charity funds, “it hasn’t taken off yet” according to the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF). The biggest obstacles for integrating contactless payments were cited as being installation costs and security concerns. In fact, 72% of charities would only use such a system if current barriers were removed. But there are also ethical costs that need to be taken into consideration, at least for some forms of charity, as in the case with Greater Change’s current fundraising scheme for the homeless.
So far, the technology has yet to become widespread. Ultimately, CAF claims it vital for the government to collaborate with charities and the payment industry in order to provide maintain a quick and easy way to donate at no extra cost to the charity.