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How to make your charity cashless

Written for CharityComms. Live link here.


When was the last time you paid for something with cash? In the UK in 2020, the use of cash machines dropped by 38%. The general shift is being reflected in the way people donate to charities.

According to the Charities Aid Foundation, for example, there has been a large and sustained increase in cashless giving since March 2020. And while the pandemic has played a big part in that, cashless giving is certainly here to stay.

It’s essential that charities make it easy for supporters to make cashless donations – from online fundraising platforms and donations buttons, to QR codes and tap-and-donate devices. Here are our tips to help smaller charities get started.

Spend time deciding what you need

Just because someone is happy to throw change into a collection tin, that doesn’t mean they’ll be happy to tap and donate. So begin by working out what you actually need before you invest in any devices – and then go with the biggest opportunity first.

For example, it might not be worth investing in contactless tap devices for supermarket collections as they often involve a high volume of small donations. But you might get a greater return on investment using them at evening fundraisers when supporters are more likely to make larger donations. You can often hire devices on a monthly basis, which is a great way to trial them and see what makes economic sense for your charity.

Get supporters to tap and donate

Tap-and-donate devices come in all shapes and sizes. For smaller charities an inexpensive card reader might be enough to get started and there are plenty on the market. SumUp and Zettle are well-established and the devices are simple to set up.

You could consider a contactless charity donation box (the Natural History Museum use tap-to-donate podiums which have helped it to raise an extra £1 million in donations).

There are even ‘GoodPlates’ – contactless church donation plates available through GoodBox. And Blue Cross introduced ‘pat and tap’ lightweight contactless devices in specially designed jackets for some of their first fundraising dogs to wear.


Use QR codes

QR codes have experienced a comeback during the pandemic as they offer supporters a quick and easy way to donate, without getting their hands grubby. They’re versatile, in that you can use them on different campaign collateral such as advertising boards, charity shop windows, press ads or donation buckets (The Royal British Legion uses them for its poppy appeal).

And it’s easy to get started. JustGiving offers free QR codes for charities and fundraising teams registered with them. Or Give A Little offers QR codes as part of its free basic package.

Offer a range of cashless options

For Christian Aid cash donations have been crucial – especially during Christian Aid Week, when the vast majority of donations (from over 12,000 churches) have been made in cash. To go cashless, they worked with TapSimple to provide fundraisers and supporters with a range of different ways to donate.

They now use contactless devices to take card donations, have an online giving platform that can be easily customised by local fundraising groups, and an events platform for supporters to hold events – from small virtual coffee mornings through to carol services for thousands.

Get set up for small change donations

In the past, supporters have been able to chuck their spare change into collection buckets. But with fewer people carrying cash (and fewer collection tins during the pandemic), Pledjar has developed a micro-donations fundraising app.

The app automatically rounds up pennies from everyday purchases to the nearest pound and lets users choose which charity they want to choose. For charities, it has no registration or monthly platform fees but charges a 10% transaction fee to process donations.

Invest in text to donate

While it’s been around for a while, text to donate is still surprisingly popular. Between March and July 2020, more than 2,000 charities raised a total of £2 million through Donr’s text giving platform.

Using Donr, charities can receive regular or one-off donations. There are no fixed fees, but a charge of 5% per donation (with a maximum donation of £20 per text). Other providers to try include Donate and instaGiv.

Choose a platform that works for you

There’s a lot of choice when it comes to online fundraising platforms with mainstays being JustGiving and Enthuse. But smaller charities might want to look further afield, to the likes of Localgiving which allows charities to receive one-off and repeat donations, run crowdfunding campaigns, and raise funds for projects.

A £96 annual membership fee also gives members the opportunity to apply for grants, and offers free training and fundraising support from experts – a particular bonus if your charity is making its first venture into cashless giving.

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