In some shops, there are still a few collection jars about the place, in the same way as you’ll probably still find some working fax machines and people using cheque books. But, these days, there are fewer and fewer of them and it’s only a matter of time before they give way to digital completely.
While there was perhaps something quirky and fun about dropping a coin in a slot and being rewarded with a sticker, the fact is that the move to digital has benefitted both charities and donors in three key ways:
Sadly, charity boxes were never immune to theft and while the digital world cannot be said to be completely secure either, especially as cryptocurrencies are still finding their feet, the average financial services company can be expected to have higher security than a charity box by a shop till.
Donations left in charity boxes were anonymous, which denied charities the opportunity to connect with people and to try to engage them further even if only by getting them to follow the charity on social media to learn more about it and become ambassadors for it. Digital giving can make it much easier to reach out to donors.
Physical cash needs to be counted, bagged and deposited in a bank. Digital donations can go straight into a bank account and be recorded in appropriate software, thus reducing processing costs even more.
Charities are now looking to pare transaction costs down to an absolute minimum, which is one of the reasons for their interest in cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. There are, however, a couple of other, significant, reasons, why charities are taking a great interest in cryptocurrency.
The reason charity boxes were generally placed beside tills was because it made it easy for shoppers just to drop in their small change and, while this might only have been coppers, over time those donations added up.
Even though cash is more labour-intensive to process, established digital payment methods such as payment cards and PayPal also have processing costs, which mean charities have to encourage (or mandate) a minimum level of donation to make the exercise worthwhile, particularly if they were collecting them via third-party sites such as JustGiving, which required payment themselves.
Cryptocurrencies have much lower costs and as their adoption becomes more widespread, we could see the return of the old-fashioned charity jar by the till, but this time in digital form. In addition, as small amounts can be added to a total, without incurring additional charges as it would as a one-off payment, fees are reduced and more of the micro-donation can go straight to the good cause.
So, if you are paying for a product that costs the Bitcoin equivalent of £29.50, the retailer could ask if you want to round this up to the equivalent of £30 and give the difference too, say, the NSPCC. This is a small donation on the part of the individual but can add up to a significant amount for the charity if enough patrons round up to the next pound and donate the difference.