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What difference can a penny make for charity?

Alison Hutchinson
penny 300x225 What difference can a penny make for charity?

(Getty Images)

A penny really doesn’t sound like much does it? Especially in these hectic few days before Christmas when the receipts are adding up and we are all rushing around trying to get those last few presents. The humble penny seems quite insignificant. But just imagine if that extra penny from your granny’s £6.99 slippers or 20p from your niece’s £10.80 trendy t-shirt could be put to good use helping charities?

Well this is one thing we don’t need to imagine. Giving micro-donations via charity boxes has been a reality for many years.  And now, at a time when we are seeing those boxes less frequently, their electronic counterpart, Pennies, has become a real and growing fundraising channel for charity.

Pennies, itself a charity, has brought a simple idea to life: the option to give a few pence to charity in a way that fits into our busy lives. We’re all familiar with the idea of dropping our change into the charity box sitting on the shop counter. The electronic charity box is exactly the same idea but it works instead when we pay by card in a shop or restaurant, online or via a smartphone. With one in five of us regularly leaving home without any cash, we wanted to find a way to capture those digital pennies at a time when charities are feeling the pinch.

The latest figures show that this pinch is even worse than previously thought. Last month the UK Giving Report stated that donations had fallen by 20 per cent in real terms in the past year, with £1.7bn less being given to charity. The number of people donating to charity has also fallen.

A decline in giving is not surprising in the current economic climate but such a dramatic fall was unexpected. A number of reasons for this have been advanced. One opinion is that fundraising techniques are not keeping up with the way our lifestyles are changing. For example in 2010 using cards overtook cash as the preferred payment method for the first time.

That is where Pennies comes in. Whilst the most popular way to give remains dropping a few coins in a charity box we are seeing less boxes around. Add this to the increased use of cards and the charity box needed a makeover. Pennies is that makeover, an electronic version of our favourite way to give to charity.

Two short years ago our first retailer, Domino’s Pizza added Pennies to their website offering the option to round up pizza purchases to the nearest pound. They have recently also added Pennies to their mobile app. We were delighted with their customer response which was immediate and generous. Domino’s Pizza customer’s donations have already added up to £400,000 much of which is helping to transform the lives of 12,000 people with learning difficulties through Special Olympics GB.

When you think that the most common donation for Domino’s Pizza is still 1p and that this is only one business, it really proves that pennies do add up to make a difference. It also helps paint a picture for the possibilities if Pennies was more widely available. There are 43 million card holders in the UK today and around 1 million card transactions an hour. If the UK’s card holders donated 30p once a month well over £150m would be raised for charity every year.

Pizza-loving donors have been joined by the customers of a range of other retailers including household names like Travelodge, Screwfix, DFS and Monarch Airlines. And it is not only the big chains that are getting on board. There are also lots of local merchants giving their customers the option to give a few pennies to charity to support causes in their local area when they pay by card too.

Thousands of donations are coming in every day, with over 3.8 million donations received so far. The most exciting thing is that the number continues to grow as more organisations join the Pennies movement. In fact last week alone there were more than 150,000 donations made via Pennies.

The money raised is already impacting the lives of thousands of people supported by the 50 charities that have already benefited. Big and small, these charities cover a range of different causes. From smaller charities like Rays of Sunshine and Carers UK right through to major charities such as Macmillan Cancer Support and NSPCC. The number of causes supported continues to grow as each retailer chooses the charity to benefit from the pennies donated by their customers and as charity shops begin introducing Pennies into their own retail outlets.

Pennies has just celebrated its second anniversary with 100 per cent growth. Of course it is still early days but with even more organisations in the wings, 2013 looks set to be another exciting year and who knows where we will be by this time next year.  One thing is for sure, many more charities will be benefiting and those pennies will soon be adding together to raise millions every year. It truly is amazing what a penny can do.

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