Cashless Giving: A View from Marie Curie in Northern Ireland

An interview with Heather Miller, Community Fundraiser with Marie Curie, about her experience of venturing into the world of "cashless giving" 

Q1) Why did you chose to get involved in cashless giving? 

Like most charities we have been seeing a drop in community fundraising income, particularly from street collections and we really wanted to offer our donors a choice in supporting us other than through cash.  A new trial project seemed the best way to take this forward. 

We actually ran a trial back in 2017 during our Flagship Campaign, The Great Daffodil Appeal, but the technology was still in its infancy.  We are now looking for a more robust, scalable and volunteer-friendly solution. The groundwork started last August and we are now at the stage where we are rolling out the contactless terminals in each region of Northern Ireland (and Nationally), during this year’s Great Daffodil Appeal street collections in March.

Q2) How easy did you find sourcing and buying/renting the terminals?

Our senior management and innovation team have been leading this work and the team shortlisted a large number of different companies.  Based on this research and our particular needs, we then chose to test devices from two separate companies, GoodBox and LibertyPay for comparison purposes.  We chose to rent the terminals simply because we felt that the technology is changing so quickly that we would be in a better position to simply upgrade to newer devices as opposed to having to re-purchase multiple devices all over again.

Q3 What kind of issues did you need to address before starting the pilot?

We really needed to think about all of the logistical aspects of adding contactless to our street collections, e.g. connectivity, battery life, storage, transport, refunds, amounts of units and monetary amounts on the units. Training and confidence in using the devices was also really key – we needed to make sure everyone could use the terminals correctly and confidently.  We also needed to find engaging ways of sharing the information that were digestible and memorable and also relevant to our diverse staff, volunteers and supporters.

Q4) What would be your Top 5 tips for organisations setting up their first cashless giving "project"? 

  1. Give yourself plenty of time to do your homework on the companies that provide the technology.  Talk to those that have already done some of the groundwork to save time and get good practical advice.
  2. Be realistic about how quickly you want to get your project off the ground.  We spent a lot of time researching a suitable and cost-efficient solution, but ran into issues in finalising the contracts in time to enable us to both acquire the units and train staff.
  3. Realise that it may not be a “quick hit” as it will take volunteers, staff and supporters time to get used to the new concept of cashless giving.
  4. Understand that some people will be wary of the new technology with regards to the security of their personal data and this needs to be considered.
  5. You need to determine if it is actually going to benefit your organisation in terms of the cost vs the amount of income generated.  (This is usually an unknown until you trial it and it is difficult to find enough data capture options to fully analyse benefit realisation.)

Q5) Any other interesting thoughts?

I think it’s very clear that retailers are seriously thinking about future-proofing methods of fundraising in their stores in relation to charities.  For example, we are extremely pleased that Morrisons chose Marie Curie as a charity partner for a week in March this year.  Interestingly, they did however stipulate that cashless donations must be provided as an option.   Our pilot is therefore extremely timely.

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