As the holidays come to a close in 2011, it got me thinking about charitable giving. We are all familiar with donating money into a bucket outside a department store or into a collection jar on a shop counter. However, a charity in the United Kingdom called “Pennies” is taking this a step further by allowing consumers to donate electronically by rounding up their bills to the nearest whole pound amount when they paid by credit or debit card.
Customers utilizing the service can safely donate pennies to the charity chosen by the retailer participating in the program whenever they use their debit or credit card to pay for goods or services. Consumers are asked electronically if they wish to donate and then they are given the option to round up to the nearest pound, or they can donate a set amount, such as 5 pence. The other nice thing about the service is that anonymity is provided to consumers. No one, not even the checkout person, knows whether or not you donate, which puts no additional pressure on the customer. However, a consumer may be influenced whether to donate or not due to the charity chosen by the retailer. The retailer chooses which charity (or charities) the money collected via Pennies will benefit.
More and more retailers in the United Kingdom are embracing the year old service, such as Travelodge, Zizzi, The Entertainer, and the Rugby Football Union. Retailers can choose to either participate in the Pennies service online, in-store, or both online and in-store. In particular, Domino’s Pizza was one of the first businesses to sign up and the company chose the Special Olympics as the charity to receive the micro-donations from their customers who ordered and donated online.
The technology is free and ready for use by all United Kingdom retailers. All the retailer has to do is select the charity that they would like to benefit and turn the technology on. I am positive that more United Kingdom retailers will embrace the new technology in 2012, especially since it removes the donation tins on their counters that are often susceptible to theft. Even though Pennies is only a year old, it has already accepted over 1 million donations totaling over £250,000 from the public’s ‘spare change’ for more than 20 United Kingdom charities. I am positive that this charitable service will continue to grow and flourish. In particular, over 5 new retailers have agreed to partner with Pennies by early 2012. My hope is that Pennies will expand the service to the United States and we would see how well it works here.