Three UK charities have pioneered a
new approach to online philanthropy: a virtual collection tin. They
have teamed up with online retailers to give consumers the option
to round up their internet purchase values, donating the excess
funds to charity. Will consumers buy into it? Louise Naughton


Online retail: Spending - online in the UKA never-ending list of
retailers and organisations are migrating to e-commerce. It is easy
to see why. Forrester Research predicts UK online retail will
experience annual growth rates of 10 percent over the next five
years reaching a value of £36 billion ($56.1 billion) by 2015.

More consumers are steering away from the
hustle and bustle of the high street to enjoy the online shopping
experience from the comfort of their own homes, and it is not only
the high street which is suffering.

A UK Giving survey conducted by Charities Aid
Foundation (CAF) found that there was an 11 percent decrease in
charitable donations last year. Faced with declining contributions,
charities are starting to realise the electronic payments industry
may be able to help them replace collection buckets and donation
tins with a more efficient way to collect money.

In a bid to move with the payment revolution,
Cancer Research UK, along with three other charities, World
Wildlife Fund (WWF), British Red Cross and Great Ormond Street, has
launched the ‘Give Change, Make Change’ (GCMC) project.

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The project is centred on the concept of a
‘virtual collection tin’, allowing online consumers to round up
their purchases and donate the spare change to the charities.
Consumers who choose to round up the amounts tick an opt-in box
which is claimed to have little to no impact on the checkout
process. The funds are then distributed equally between the

Sophie High, the senior project leader of the
innovations team at Cancer Research UK, sits at the heart of the
proposition which has been in development for the past two

“GCMC is about creating new consumer
behaviours,” said High.

“We have a vision of this becoming the norm
and people should expect to be able to write off their change,
which is valueless to them. GCMC is simple, convenient and easy to
understand which really comes into its own in the online
environment. Simplicity drove us there with the view that the
biggest opportunity in the long term was the online space.”

High cites consumer research carried out by
the four charities involved, that shows the benefits retailers will
experience if they partner on the scheme. They found 28 percent of
consumers would be more likely to shop at a retailer that offers
GCMC, 16 percent would spend more money and 23 percent would shop
there more often.

High told CI that the project will
launch with its first online retailer The Hut Group, whose clients
include Zavvi and Debenhams, in February next year. She said
retailers large and small are also looking to get on board.

GCMC selected e-payment solutions provider RSM
2000 to set up its payment model and distribution framework.

“We think it’s a brilliant idea,” said Mark
Freeland, technical director at RSM 2000.

“We have managed to leverage some of our
existing technologies to provide the information input of the
donations from the merchants. There are also log-ins for the
charities so they can see the donations that are going through the
system at any given time. We have also used our debit and credit
facilities for the transfer of funds on a regular basis from the
merchants to each of the charities.”

Although RSM does not have a big retailer
base, which could be useful in promoting the concept, High argues
that it was chosen as it had “the right product coupled with the
best approach.”

“It would have been nice to have a technology
vendor that had more retailers as its client base,” said High.

“We had spoken to a company for a while before
working with RSM who did have more retailers on board, but we
decided what RSM brought to the table was more important.”

GCMC will initially be launched online but as
the payments industry continues to innovate; both High and Freeland
claim the technology is futureproof.

Looking forward, High expressed her dream of
partnering with online payment service PayPal in the future.

CI spoke to Robert Harper, a senior
project manager for PayPal and asked whether this would be a

“I think what [GCMC] are doing is fantastic.
Anything that can promote convenient charitable donations is
something that all of the payment organisations should look to
embrace and I include PayPal in that.”

However Richard Jolly, a senior business
development manager for PayPal was more reluctant to comment on a
possible partnership.

“PayPal met with Cancer Research in spring
this year to discuss GCMC.  We are keen to support the
initiative but I prefer to wait until a clearer roadmap is
presented by the PayPal developers before commenting further.”

Speaking at the VendorCom conference hosted by
PayPal where the GCMC project was unveiled, Paul Rodgers, chairman
for VendorCom urged the cards and payments industry to get behind
the concept.

“It is our responsibility as an industry to
make sure that GCMC does not fall down a hole,” he said.

“We have to get involved and plug the gap. If
you see something they are not doing, or not doing well, tell them.
We have to protect the charitable world.”

The GCMC project hinges on whether consumers
view their virtual and physical loose change in the same way. Spare
coins do usually end up in collection tins. Whether that attitude
will migrate to e-payments remains to be seen.