Pennies is a UK fintech charity which started five years ago and dubs itself “the digital charity box”. It works with payment technology providers and retailers to enable micro-donations to be made by customers at checkout through the addition of a small sum to their bill. It is an alternative to the traditional charity box found near tills into which customers typically tip their small change. Donations can be made in-store, online or via apps using the same bolt-on to the transactional process.
“One of our USPs is that the service is data-free,” says Rob Dyson, head of marketing and communications, Pennies. “There have been some well-publicised cases in the last 12 months about charities and the use of personal details, but Pennies follows the donation, not the donor - they remain anonymous and there is no follow-up.” Dyson points to a survey commissioned by Pennies which found that 85 per cent of consumers were put off donating by what charities do with their information afterwards.
Dyson argues that the solution is one way to allow retailers to support their customers’ charitable impulse without this barrier. “Charities are looking for channels that don’t involve data and we are able to provide that. There is the real potential to draw in people who don’t know and haven’t given to a charity before – meaning new givers making their pennies count for the UK charity sector,” he says.
Pennies adds a prompt to in-store card readers, web site checkout pages or apps asking if the customer wants to donate, with a yes or no choice, then a prompt for an amount between 1p and 99p (or sometimes a set top limit selected by the retailer). The checkout process is not interrupted as it is all part of the seamless transaction for the customer. “Pennies is not about committed giving, it is rather a choice every time for customers who want to do it,” says Dyson.
Domino’s Pizza was an early adopter, embedding the “donate” button into its online order website and smart devices back in November 2010, with its first charity Special Olympics GB (now celebrating having raised £600,000). Its current supported charity is Teenage Cancer Trust. Pennies now has a client list of over 100 charities and has already collected over £6.5 million via over 28 million mini-donations made at more than 50 different brands. Other retailers who have deployed the service include The Entertainer, Evans Cycles and Screwfix.
“We estimate that, if every adult cardholder in the UK donated 30p a month (a penny a day), it would generate £150 million annually,” says Dyson. For retailers, Pennies represents a modern way to meet their CSR goals - many chains typically support a specific cause at national level or allow local stores to choose their own charities to support. For charities, Pennies offers a new way to build relationships with retailers, extending their audience reach without the marketing costs usually associated with this.
With a modestly-sized team and plans to continue growing both its retailer and charity base, Pennies needs to be fleet of foot and efficient in the service it provides. It also needs to avoid spending on running the business. Two years ago, it benefited from the pro bono provision of data visualisation and analytics tool QlikView through Qlik’s charitable initiative, “Change Our World”.
Transactional data on donations is run through a SQL server before being output into Excel to produce the reports which are then viewed in the data visualisation tool. “That has dramatically sped up our ability to provide tailored data prepared for reporting purposes,” notes Dyson. “QlikView allows us to report to our retail partners how generous their customers have been so they can tell those customers how much has been raised. That generates a feel-good factor.”
Retailers can track performance right down to the terminals in particular stores. Equally, the reporting allows stores to feedback to customers how much they have given towards a specific cause or charity. “Transparency is paramount,” says Dyson. As a not-for-profit itself, Pennies is able to support philanthropy on all sides through a self-service, frictionless process that, despite not harvesting personal data, still yields a rich return.