ATM Charity Giving Looks Set to Become Part of the UK Big Society

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The UK Coalition government is calling on banks and ATM providers to let them know how to make charitable donations via ATM happen in the UK. Consultations are taking place in the early months of 2011 and will be led by Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude.

The request was made in their 'Giving' Green paper, issued in December 2010 as part of David Cameron's vision of a 'Big Society' for Britain. In 'Giving' they introduce ideas such as empowering communities, opening up public services and encouraging social action. The idea is to increase levels of mutual support and giving in British society, make social action a cultural norm, and to kick-start a debate to feed into a White paper due to appear in Spring 2011. Citizens are encouraged to participate by volunteering their time and skills, and by making financial contributions to good causes.

It is amazing just how generous the British public can be, even when they are going through hard times. In fact, they are possibly even MORE likely to donate to charity during hard times. Although high earners are the most likely to give, low earners also like to be generous to good causes, with 4% of those in the lowest income quartile regularly giving away over £100 per month. (Source: National Council for Voluntary Organisations/Charities Aid Foundation survey of 2006/2007).

The government is looking for innovative ways to make charitable giving quicker and easier, and cites the example of the Colombian system of ATM giving, which allows customers to make a donation every time they withdraw cash. Since 1998 Colombian customers have been able to donate to charity whenever they make a withdrawal from a Servibank ATM. Around 100,000 donations, averaging $1 each, are made this way in Colombia every month.

Some cynics might think that there is a fat chance of getting British people to dig even deeper into their own pockets at a time when inflation is on the up, pay rises are on hold, public services are being slashed to the bone, and many are losing their jobs. Critics of the scheme, including some Tory MPs, are describing it as more like 'Big Brother' than 'Big Society', and are calling on the government to lower taxes before asking consumers to cough up.

It is an interesting idea, but there are many questions still to be answered, including:-

* Which charities will benefit from the scheme?
* Will ATM users be able to choose who they donate to?
* Will all the donations go to charity or will third-party vendors take a slice?

I look forward to seeing what Francis Maude comes up with over the coming weeks, and what technical solutions are offered by the ATM industry.


Charlotte Mooney is an IT professional with many years experience, now working for IT Software Consultancy Proswift, a leading provider of international credit system solutions to banks and finance houses. Click here for more topical stories from the world of credit card processing. ProSwift News

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