The shift from a cash-carrying to cash-less society in the UK has been incredibly rapid, with the effects of the shift to contactless increasing in the past year. Although this shift to using digital transactions has been lauded by many as proof of our technological advances making lives easier, many others have identified the creation of a two-tier world where those without access to bank accounts or incomes are cut off from life because of their dependence on cash. The CEO of Mastercard, Ajay Banga, has been vocal about his passion to bring people who live outside of the financial system into it, as otherwise we risk ‘creating islands, where the unbanked transact only with each other’.
For many of us who don’t carry cash – or at least not in the same way we did 10 years ago – we are unable to donate the spare change to those in need as we used to do. In the Netherlands an ad agency recently released a new solution to this growing gap; a jacket, to be worn by homeless people that not only keeps them warm but also allows passers-by to donate €1 by tapping the contactless payment area. The money that is donated can then be redeemed in shelters for food, a bed and a bath.
This isn’t the first foray by charities to try and encourage us to donate using our contactless cards – Cancer Research UK has trialled contactless donation terminals in central locations, and the Blue Cross attached contactless donation points to dogs to create the world’s first ‘canine fundraisers’. The move to cash-free is forcing charities to rapidly innovate, but this can be beneficial. The children’s charity NSPCC said that their recent trial using contactless donations set at a fixed amount such as £1/£2 actually increased their average donations, because people are less likely to donate small coin denominations, and because contactless offers a quick and easy spontaneous donation.
We’d love to see charities partnering with other brands in this area to fully explore all innovation opportunities; people want to donate money to worthy causes, but they now expect this to be as easy and on demand a process as everything else in their lives, and charities must rise to this. A financial brand such as Mastercard could back a charity contactless campaign, such as the jacket for homeless people, to provide more credibility and confidence for those who decide to donate on the street. Alternatively brands such as supermarkets could encourage in-store charity donations by offering to round up transaction amounts, from say £6.59 to £7.00, with the extra money going straight to the customer’s charity of choice.
Although the evolving digital economy offers solutions and possibilities for many, we must be careful as a society to ensure that those without access to it are not excluded entirely – and brands should play a vital part in helping to bridge this gap.