Micro-donation: Rewriting the fundraising rulebook

Micro-donations via card transactions provide a hassle-free way of making a positive social impact in step with consumers’ modern payment habits.

For charities that rely on cash donations, whether street side or in stores, the advent of the cashless revolution, whereby consumers increasingly carry little hard currency, instead relying on cards, poses a serious challenge. However, consumers and retailers are both evermore focused on how they can make a positive social and environmental impact, and that’s where micro-donations come in. It’s the equivalent of loose change dropped into a charity box reinvented for an increasingly cashless society. It allows consumers paying by card to opt to make a small donation at the point of sale, enabling them to have a positive social impact with a donation mechanism in line with the way they want to pay.

It’s this “tech for good” ethos that drove Ingenico to launch a series of international partnerships with organisations that enable consumers to use payment terminals to make much-needed donations for good causes. And the results are reshaping the charity collection ecosystem. In France, microDON, in partnership with Ingenico, raised more than €4 million since 2015, while in the UK, Pennies and Ingenico have collected some £2 million (€2,2 million) since 2011.

We sat down with Pennies’ CEO Alison Hutchinson and Ingenico Group’s Positive Impact Offer Manager Marie Cipriani to talk about how and why micro-donations hold so much potential for the future of charity fund collection.

How do micro-donations work in-store?  
Alison Hutchinson:
When you go to pay with your card or digital wallet you get a prompt on the terminal asking if you want to donate with Pennies to the retailer’s nominated charity. This may be rounding up to the nearest £1 or 50p or by topping up by adding say 25p to the bill. It’s a one-click process and if the customer does nothing then that option simply disappears.

Marie Cipriani: Having the solution implemented on the terminal makes it really easy. The message appears on the screen; the customer just has to say yes or no – or ignore the message and it disappears after a few seconds, a time set by the retailer. It’s already in their payment process and it’s on a device with which they are familiar and know will be 100% secure.

How do collaborations like yours make it easier for retailers to introduce micro-donations? 

AH: The brilliance of the partnership with Ingenico is that together Pennies and Ingenico have fixed the IT. It’s trustworthy and works brilliantly, all the retailers need to decide is do they want to switch it on and how do they want to tailor it to their environment.

MC: Pennies was the first partner we worked with and it was a fantastic way for us to leverage our expertise in secure payments to have a social impact. Now we also have microDON in France and we are adding new partnerships to cover more countries, throughout Europe and beyond.

What concerns do retailers typically have about micro-donations and how are they overcome?

MC: Most of the time, retailers are afraid of the impact it can have on their payment system. But we are used to deploying this in different countries and different configurations. We know how to do it quickly and with minimum disruption.

AH: There’s a lot of things retailers are trying to contend with at the moment in a difficult environment. And so if we can make it a really low impact IT project, then it can slipstream into existing work – and before long retailers can begin to scale the impact they can have for causes and communities that are important to them.

How do micro-donations positively impact local communities and enable retailers to use tech for good?

AH: The retailer chooses which charity or charities they want to support. Some will decide to nominate a local charity, some regional or others national. The important thing is it’s not just about the donations collected. It’s also about the wider community impact. For example, bar and restaurant chain Drake & Morgan partners with cancer charity Maggie’s. One evening of customer donations pays for a family to receive an hour of support from one of Maggie’s psychologists, while at UK tiling retailer Topps Tiles, every hour of their customers’ donations funds two hours’ work by a nurse from Macmillan Cancer Support, a leading UK charity.

Why are micro-donations such a powerful tool for retailers?

MC: When you are implementing micro-donation in-store you are leveraging what you do best – selling goods to people and interacting with customers. So, just as it makes sense for Ingenico to deploy micro-donation given our expertise in payment technology, it also resonates for many retailers to say, ‘We want to have a positive impact in the world. The biggest opportunity we can leverage is our customers. Let’s use it to change things around us!”

AH: Our average donation is about 26p and in-store 20% to 30% of the customers choose to join in without any significant marketing plan. Over time we see those donations increase. In one of our retailers where we have been live for 8 years now, about 50% of customers regularly donate because they see the real impact they’ve made through the storytelling the retailer uses to explain where the money’s going and what it’s done. They realise it’s only a few pennies at a time but that they are part of something much bigger. Suddenly you start to see the acceleration and that’s the power of the micro-donation – an aggregation of many people giving just pennies at a time.

Why is it important to work in partnerships to extend the global reach of micro-donations? 

MC: Payment methods are completely different from one country to another so the advantage of involving players like Ingenico is down to our global reach and our expertise in handling this diversity of payment structures and regulations. But there are also differences in terms of consumers’ vision of generosity and giving. That’s why it’s important for Ingenico to have local partners who are experts in the social habits of each country but also capable of handling the technical complexity of such a solution.

What’s the future for micro-donations internationally?

MC: Micro-donation could appear micro but it’s not. It’s impressive how big micro-donation could be. With all the major crises we face today – climate change, refugees, pandemics – people are more determined than ever to help make a difference. Micro-donation is not the only solution but it’s a great solution and it’s our duty as a technology provider to work hand-in-hand with our partners to push this movement across Europe and beyond.

AH: On a global scale the potential for micro-donations is quite phenomenal. In the UK alone, we know that if every cardholder gave just 35p a week, an extra £1bn could be raised for the UK charity sector. This is game-changing for causes, charities and communities – and at such little cost to each individual. That’s why people like Ingenico, ourselves and microDON are all so excited about the power of micro-donation.


> Read the press release: Ingenico and Pennies donations hit huge £2million mark


Alison Hutchinson CBE is the CEO of Pennies, an award-winning fintech charity making digital giving affordable, sustainable, and feel-good. Previously, Alison spent 15 years at IBM running a European consortium of banks, and leading the global business for eCommerce solutions for the financial services sector. She next joined Barclays Bank where she was the first CEO for a small digital subsidiary joint venture with Accenture, and latterly Marketing Director at Barclaycard. Prior to Pennies, Alison was Chief Executive of FTSE financial services company Kensington Group plc. She currently holds Non-Executive Director positions at Yorkshire Building Society, LV= and is the Senior Independent Director at DFS plc.  

Marie Cipriani is Positive Impact Offer Manager at Ingenico Group. Within the CSR team she works in close collaboration with marketing teams to develop solutions offering both positive impact and financial viability. Combining her experience in marketing & project management with her passion for Tech for Good initiatives, her role is to help the Group leverage its expertise to better contribute to the common good.