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Charities miss out on more than £80m a year by only accepting cash donations

Barclaycard leads trial of contactless donation boxes with 11 national charities including NSPCC and RNLI

Sun Mar 05 04:00:00 EST 2017

Charities may be missing out on more than £80m in donations each year1 by only accepting cash donations, payments business Barclaycard has found, as four in ten (42 per cent) Brits say they carry less cash now than they did three years ago.

According to the research from Barclaycard, one in seven (15 per cent) people admit to walking away from a donation opportunity at least once last year because they were unable to give using a debit or credit card. This comes amidst predictions that cash will shift from accounting for roughly half (45%) of all payments made in 2015 to just one in four (27%) by 2025 – with debit card payments overtaking notes and coins by 20212.

To help charities adapt to evolving consumer behaviours, Barclaycard recently led a trial of 100 portable donation boxes, the first in the market to accept both Chip and PIN and contactless donations including those made by wearable and mobile devices.

Eleven national charities kicked off the trial in September 2016, using the lightweight, portable payment boxes in a number of different ways according to their fundraising needs – from volunteers roaming with boxes at special events to placing them next to the checkouts in charity stores.

Although it was only a short trial, the charities took more than £20,000 in donations – including one for £1,000 given to the NSPCC (see case study) – and reported positive responses from the public around the ease and flexibility the boxes introduced for donors looking to give to their preferred cause.

Despite the trial being scheduled to end in December 2016, some charities are still using the boxes due to their success, demonstrating the potential for these devices in a society where there are an increasing number of ways to pay. Barclaycard’s latest Contactless Spending Index revealed contactless payments grew 166 per cent in 2016, with half (50 per cent) of Brits saying they make a ‘touch and go’ payment at least once a month.

The trial is the latest milestone for Barclaycard, a pioneer in payment solutions in the charity sector. The company first partnered with The Royal British Legion in 2012 to introduce acceptance for card donations during its annual Poppy Appeal through handheld terminals, and the partnership has continued every year since. Barclaycard also enabled payments for the Penny for London scheme, run by the Mayor’s Fund for London from 2014 to 2016.

Barclaycard – which provides the acquiring technology that allows charities to accept payments through the donation boxes – led this trial, bringing together partners from across the industry. Visa, which first enabled cardholders to support their favourite charities using contactless in 2014, commissioned the pod, which was designed by Sprout. Payworks developed the donation box app, and integrated this with payment functionality inside the Miura card reader. The Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) consulted on the trial.

Paulette Rowe, Managing Director of Barclaycard Payment Solutions, said:

“In today’s world there are more ways to pay than ever before. The donation boxes that we trialled enable charities to tap into these new options, raising more money no matter how their donors choose to give – whether that’s with cash, through a mobile device or by using a debit or credit card.

“Feedback from the trial has been extremely positive; our charity partners told us the boxes were simple to use, adaptable to a variety of situations and vital in securing donations where it may not have been possible before. We are proud to use our payments expertise once again to open up more opportunities for fundraising, and are excited to work with the charities to help them adapt the technology to best suit their needs.”

Christian Deger, Co-Founder & CEO of Payworks, said:

“Barclaycard is a true pioneer in the payments industry and it’s beyond exciting to have such a reputable company deploy Payworks. It’s always great to see our technology used for furthering innovation, but having it support charity makes it much more rewarding.”

Chris Allwood, Head of Product Development at CAF, said:

“People in the UK donate around £10 billion to charity every year. However, a rapidly growing number of them can no longer make donations on the street when they feel inspired to do so because they have stopped carrying cash. This makes it vital that charities are able to accept payment by debit and credit card.

“CAF helped set up the very first trial of mobile contactless donations and will be supporting Barclaycard to build on the results of this latest trial as we work towards making card payment technology available to all charities.”


The Barclaycard donation boxes are comprised of three parts: a small card reader; a branded, hand-held box specific to each charity; and an accompanying payment acceptance app, connected to the reader via Bluetooth.

Charities use the app to designate a fixed donation amount, which can be set on a ‘repeated transaction’ mode, to collect that same value each time a donor taps the front of the box.

Should someone wish to give more than the set amount, charities have the flexibility to quickly and easily change the amount via the app for a one-time transaction.

Because the boxes accept both contactless and Chip and PIN transactions, this means charities can receive card donations over the £30 contactless limit.

Due to their lightweight, portable nature, the boxes are easy to use on the street or at special events.

The charities involved in the trial including:

  1. Barnardos
  2. Battersea Dogs & Cats Home
  3. Cats Protection
  4. The Design Museum
  5. NSPCC
  6. Oxfam
  7. Prostate Cancer UK
  8. RNIB
  9. RNLI
  10. Royal British Legion
  11. The Science Museum


  • The survey cited above was carried out between 19th and 20th January 2017 by YouGov on behalf of Barclaycard with 2,028 adults. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+). 
  • Barclaycard’s latest Contactless Spending Index was issued in December 2016: http://www.leighvincola.com/media-centre/press-releases/contactless-spending-increases-166-per-cent-in-2016.html

NSPCC Case Study

The NPSCC participated in the Barclaycard trial from September 2016. They used 10 contactless donation boxes over 40 times at NSPCC events, tube stations, public spaces and shopping centres by volunteers.

During the trial, the average donation was £3.07 (not including the exceptional donation of £1,000), higher than the average amount the charity receives through spare change. The devices were pre-set at £2, although donors could give more if they wished and were made aware of this if it was deemed appropriate by NPSCC fundraising volunteers.

In one instance, the NSPCC used a device to accept a £1,000 donation during a visit to the Houses of Parliament in aid of The Liam Charity Tribute Fund in November. An audience member was so moved after hearing one fundraiser’s speech about why his brother’s suicide inspired him to support Childline that he wanted give a substantial amount – and having the donation boxes at the event enabled him to give then and there.

Megan Johnston, Senior Fundraiser at the NSPCC, said:

“As we are living in a society with many different ways to pay, the NSPCC were keen to adapt to the rise of cashless payments to ensure we can keep children safe from abuse. The Barclaycard trial provided an excellent opportunity for us to do this and to learn more about changing financial habits.

“The feedback we received from the public was overwhelmingly positive. Previously, many people have said they would like to donate even though they no longer carry cash, so it was great to offer a cashless giving alternative through our hard working volunteers who are committed to our fight for every childhood.”

The trial was scheduled to finish in December 2016 but due to its initial success, the NPSCC have decided to extend it.

1 Based on the ONS estimate of 49,921,573 GB adults aged 18+ and calculations by Barclaycard. 15.38% of consumers surveyed said they have walked away from a donation in the past year because they could not give by card. This equated to 7,677,937 Brits. On average they walked away 4.31 times, with the average amount lost £2.48. This equates to £82,067,941.

2 According to Payments UK, May 2016: http://www.paymentsuk.org.uk/news-events/news/debit-cards-overtake-cash-payments-2021