I read Paul Vallely’s article in The Independent with interest. In it, he talks about the coalition government’s latest ‘Big Society’ type initiative to encourage philanthropy – by making it easier for shoppers to add a donation to their purchases through the credit card PIN machine. And it made me wonder whether I would consider adding a donation to my bill at the end of the usual frantic shopping at Tesco experience. And I’m a professional fundraiser. All the, who gets the donation, how much should I give, will I Gift Aid it – is that not expecting a bit too much of shoppers who really just want to get out of there as quickly as possible (preferably with all the children, bags, keys etc. they arrived with)?
And then, of course, there’s the point of view of the charities themselves. The article made the valid point that PIN machine donations don’t give donors the opportunity to really connect to the charity itself – as those charities benefitting from the donations will have been chosen by the retailer rather than the person making the donation. It also means, in all likelihood, that the large well-known and already well supported charities will benefit while small, local or less appealing causes will be unlikely to make it onto any list of potential beneficiaries chosen by the likes of Waitrose, Tesco or HMV.
And so, where is the potential for donor engagement; encouraging future possibly larger donations; and increasing the sustainability of fundraising for these organisations. And how likely is this initiative in helping to fill the gap left by the inevitable government cuts to the sector – both direct and indirect?
Of course, encouraging philanthropy and making it easier for people to give to charity can only be a good thing – perhaps it might get people thinking about how they can support charities close to their own hearts. However, the cynic in me suspects that this is yet another PR exercise. And that, while taken as a whole, the entire level of donations may sound impressive at the end of the first, second or third year of this scheme, it is unlikely to have made that much of a difference to individual charities – and even less likely to have helped those smaller, leaner and often highly effective grassroots charities that our society really needs.
Would you consider adding a donation onto the end of your shop at your local Tesco’s? Or are you so busy rounding up children, filling up bags and trying to find your car keys that charity is likely to be the last thing on your mind?