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How cashless giving can improve our trust in charities

By Ashleigh Adair

16 March 2016

Financial transactions made via digital technology are fast becoming the norm. It’s faster (tap-and-go), tidier (no piggy banks required), and arguably more reliable than exchanging cold hard cash. Whether a cash exchange is physical or virtual, the value of a pound or penny remains the same – the only major difference is the trust we place in its security.

Historically when donating to a charity, we’ve dug around in our pockets for spare change to plonk in a donation bucket on our way to work, or written out a cash cheque at a fundraising event. When handing over our money we’ve placed all of our trust in the person we see in front of us holding the bucket or collecting the cheques. It’s a person-to-person trust exchange that takes place.

In today’s world, every single transaction we make online relies intrinsically on a third party’s credentials, whether that be a trusted authority or automated information handler. Online shopping has reinforced our understanding that whether a financial transaction is administered by PayPal, Facebook, Mastercard or our bank, our money will always be processed via an anti-fraud detector, making us feel secure when we press the ‘Enter’ button. We entrust not to a person, but to an automated computer system that removes any and all human error or misjudgement.

It’s becoming so popular that some people just don’t carry cash anymore. Contactless credit and debit cards have made paying for things so instant and simple that charities simply must provide contactless donations if they want to capitalise on impulse spending – an obvious symptom of a cashless society beginning to lose perception of the value of money.

Cancer Research UK have recently combined the best of both worlds, by arming their trusted face-to-face fundraisers with digital collection tins using contactless technology. And as part of World Cancer Day last year they also trialled contactless systems in the windows of their shops to enable passers-by to make donations themselves.

The benefit of charities offering people cashless donation options means they get to share the trust burden of the transaction with the digital technology provider. The donor need only have respect for their bank’s security protection for their debit/credit card, or the transaction facilitator’s (i.e. PayPal’s) encryption technology in order to have confidence the transaction will process. While that trust remains strong, cashless giving will continue to become popular. Charities who capitalise on cashless transactions may experience allied trust benefits.