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Why has e-commerce been so slow to embrace charity?


By Dan Grech, Marketing Consultant

November 28, 2011 | 3 min read

Last week Cancer Research UK, Britain’s biggest fundraiser, announced that income had fallen for the first time. It would be simple to assume that street collections had been hindered not just by the “current economic climate” but perhaps by the dominance of cash being replaced by plastic. However, according to the average Britain carries £200 cash at all times(?!)

We’ve seen some technological advances by charities, embracing a social element. The more cutting edge bodies have enjoyed success building fundraising with a greater experiential aspect. Events such as Race For Life and Movember allow partakers to set up online profiles to generate sponsorship where all funds go direct to the charity.

This is all well and good, but I’m confident we could be doing more via our online transactions. Ebay offers sellers the chance to donate 10% of their sale to charity, perhaps not practical for online stores with a low mark up but none the less it gives casual sellers opportunities to perhaps stand out to similar items.

Whilst there’s nothing wrong with the aforementioned incentives, what I can’t believe is that we’re still so behind in opt-in donations at points of purchase. Just over a year ago The Telegraph reported how The Pennies Foundation would implement chip and pin to act as an “electronic money box”, allowing buyers to round up their payment to the nearest pound. The excess of which would go to charity, of course.

I’ve not seen this in use anywhere. Large retailers could argue the confusion or “extra time spent at the till” is a greater negative that this philanthropic decision could induce. Or really, it could deter upselling on chewing gum and Tic Tacs, resulting in bad breath in the UK to rocket well above international averages!

My eyes are also poised at Amazon. A simple tick box to round up your payment or add a percent as a donation would be little work for huge gain. Why are there so little innovators backing The Pennies Foundation’s efforts? An estimated £89million a year would be generated through ecommerce and chip and pin donations. What is everyone waiting for?


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