What happens to charity collection tins when we all go cashless?
The poor may always be with us, but as digitisation replaces cash, will the collection tin? Here’s a bit of history: The first known use of a ‘collection tin’ was in Jerusalem around 800BC, the story goes the High Priest placed a vessel outside the main entrance for worshipers to drop coins to raise funds for the renovation of the Temple. Nearly 3000 years later, as we edge towards a cashless society, individual charities and the charity sector as a whole are having to adapt to the changing digital environment. Even something as simple as the collection tin on a shop counter is becoming rapidly outdated. Possibly to disappear, never to been seen again. Three thousand years of functionality then, just like that, gone.
Estimates suggest static collection tins still exist in 17,000 newsagents, 45,000 pubs, and many of the tens of thousands of independent retailers, takeaways, fish and chip shops, and in charity shops themselves. It’s a fact that people like to donate to charity on the spur of the moment, and one of the biggest obstacles is the ability to act there and then. With fewer and fewer people carrying coins, the opportunity for spontaneous giving reduces. Nearly 40% of us don’t carry cash anymore. This is definitely impacting Big Issue sellers, there’s talk of giving them contactless machines, and it’s likely to be causing a continuous decline of money from collection tins. If you don’t use cash, there’s no way to put anything in a tin.
According to Sofii.org, the average static charity tin collects £260 per year in coins. It’s hard to know how many tins there are in circulation, but it could be as many as 100,000. That’s £26M a year in cash collections, although the nature of cash means it’s very hard to know exact figures, which is in itself an inherent problem with cash. There must be tens of thousands of half full charity collection tins sitting on counters across the UK, some might have been there for years. Some of them act more like a waste bin for copper coins than an actual way of raising charitable donations. From the givers perspective, there’s no way at all to know if and when the money is going to reach the actual charity
Cash is the least convenient way to collect funds. Firstly, there’s security. Tins are sometimes stolen, causing much more expense in break-in damage than in lost coins. A valid reason why many retailers refuse to have them. In addition, it’s the hassle of cash. Once the tin is full the money needs to be processed. Does the retailer bank it and send the charity a ‘cheque’ for the same amount? Do they count it themselves, or give the sealed tin to an actual representative from the charity? How do they actually hand the money over? It’s all a lot of hassle and administration, many multi site retailers would find the admin and security issues too much to want to deal with. Then there’s the obvious issue that more and more sales are done online, with no opportunity for a charity collection tin at all.
As always, there’s an attempt to create a digital version of the collection tin. You knew it was coming right? You can see them at Pennies.org.uk
From the shoppers perspective it couldn’t be much easier. When you buy something with a card, be it online or in a store, the process system will ask if you want to round up the pennies and donate them to a named charity. You click yes nor no. That’s it. Actually easier than moving your arm to put a coin in a tin. Very efficient and seamless. The shop doesn’t have to do anything other than deciding to have Pennies added into their point of sale system, and choosing a charity to recieve the money.
As with all good fintech solutions it’s really simple. Seamless, safer, quicker, easily managed and accounted for. The only surprising thing is that it’s not more mainstream already. Will cash disappear from society entirely? Probably. One day. But everything changes. And stays the same. Pennies will just replace pennies.