Partner content: How will a cashless society affect donations to your charity?

How will a cashless society affect donations to your charity? Dr Steve Francis explains there are opportunities to be found with this latest technological wave.


donationsAs a digital fundraising and technology company, FrontStream is focused on the latest developments in digital and electronic payments systems and processes. With commentary surrounding a cashless society abounding, we’ve started investigating what impact this may have on fundraising.

Australians love ‘tap and go’

According to research conducted by RFi Consulting, a global intelligence and digital media provider for the financial sector, Australia has the highest use of contactless ‘tap and go’ credit and debit cards in the world. RFi’s research scope included data from more than 16 countries and surveyed 30,000 bank customers. It found 59% of Australians had made a purchase with a contactless card, ahead of New Zealand on 53% and Singapore at 50%, and significantly ahead of the UK at 38% and the US at 16%.

While leading the way with ‘tap and go’ technology, Australians are less likely to use mobile wallets as much as other parts of the world. Despite the understanding that using cash for everyday payments is plummeting, around 32% of Australian bank customers surveyed thought they could not foresee a cashless society in the near future.

Dwindling cash donations

Across the board, charities are telling us that cash donations have dropped significantly and more and more people are giving via digital payments. The famous tin shakers have been affected the most since the introduction of contactless payments, especially for transactions under $10. For example, ordinarily someone who
orders a $3.50 coffee from a local cafe would easily put 50 cents change in the coin tin sitting on the counter. Now, with widespread payments under $10 being paid by card, our clients tell us this type of donation has halved almost everywhere. Today, people commonly leave the house for the day without any cash
in their wallet without the fear of being caught short. Being cashless is the new normal.

The market is changing and some charities across Australia are trialling a new countertop contactless payment system through which people are asked to tap their card and donate a set amount of between $1 and $10. The Royal Society for the Blind is trialling this method in Adelaide in response to reduced coin donations to the charity resulting from the rise of cashless payments such as payWave, PayPass and Apple Pay. The Salvation Army is also about to roll out a pilot program for a ‘donation point tap machine’, which will also have a preset donation amount. Both are in the early days of the trial but it does sound like a positive response to the shift in donor behaviour, and donations are sent to the charity’s account overnight, which is a real benefit.

The power of suggestion

At FrontStream, we’ve found that when our clients prompt donors with suggested giving amounts, the average donation size increases, compared to no prompting.
Some not-for-profits test their ideal suggested donation amounts on their website every few weeks or months and record the results to determine what is the best ask. Others tie their giving levels to tangible goals
or objects, such as $20 for a child’s schoolbooks or $50 to feed a family for a week. So it seems there is hope that a cashless society will improve the bottom line for many not-for-profits as donors are already donating more when asked and prompted online.

Why are we talking about a cashless Australia right now?

Some experts and major banks believe Australia could eliminate coins and bank notes in the next decade! And the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) is right behind this ideal by making digital transfers quicker, safer and easier.

The RBA is working on launching its New Payments Platform (NPP), which will be an open access infrastructure for faster digital payments in Australia. According to the RBA website: The NPP is being developed with industry collaboration to enable households, businesses and government agencies to make simply addressed payments, with near real-time funds availability to the recipient, on a 24/7 basis. Each payment message will be capable of carrying much richer remittance information than existing systems.

Currently the downside of cashless transactions is the time lag from when the transaction takes place to when you see it in your account. Now, with the RBA working towards eliminating this hurdle, digital banking, and consequently donation ‘pay and go’ points in retail environments, is being incentivised. Once again, fundraisers are embracing the changes and, in some instances, leading the way in order to continue their important charity work. While technology offers so much possibility, it is ultimately the people who decide what works and what is good. So the question is: Will you ‘tap and go’ your small change to impact change?


Dr Steve Francis

Steve is Managing Director Asia Pacific at the online fundraising provider FrontStream. He has a PhD in Anthropology, 20 years’ experience working in not-for-profit and for-profit sectors, and a passion for growing businesses that do social good.