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Charitable donations: the great digital transition

Cash is no longer king, but it remains vital, say Barclays in a new report on charitable giving and the changing face of technology.

front cover Barclays Giving report 2022


Despite the rapid rise of technology in all aspects of society, traditional methods of donating to charity remain popular.

Almost half of consumers prefer to donate using cash (47%), and 65% believe charities should retain traditional donation options.

In today’s digital world, why have cash donations retained their appeal? Some 55% of respondents say they are driven to make cash donations due to ease and convenience: putting spare change in a bucket or purchasing goods in a charity shop offers a simple, one-step route to donation. No registration, account-creation, or passwords are needed.

Possibly, there is also a heightened feeling of altruism tied to the physical nature of handing over a cash donation. A sizeable 38% also suggest that security concerns can incentivise cash donations.

Consumers have been left increasingly wary by the risks of digital scams and financial fraud. By sticking to cash, the perception of these risks is reduced. This is of particular concern among older age groups.

Case study: Islamic Relief Worldwide

Adnan Hafiz looks after the network resource development division of Islamic Relief Worldwide. This faith-based organisation funds charitable projects in countries around the globe.

For Islamic Relief, retaining cash-based donation channels is crucial.

“Maintaining the cash avenue is important, particularly for our supporters in older generations, who typically aren’t as digitally active as the younger generation. But, the space is slowly becoming smaller, in terms of total funds raised and overall engagement," says Adnan.

Charities have noticed a decline in the popularity of some other traditional methods, including ‘on the street donations’ and charity raffle ticket purchases (which are down from 46% in 2017, to 24% in 2022).

However, there are further examples, which demonstrate the lingering importance of traditional channels – such as the revelation that 88% of charities have received donations via cheque over the past 12 months.


A digital rewiring

While cash remains important, digital donation methods have taken the lead across the charity sector, and have overtaken cash in popularity for the first time.

Some 75% of charities have noticed a significant increase in digital donations since before the pandemic, and 33% of consumers say they are more likely to donate if a charity offers a digital method.

According to Mark Handley, Senior Business Development Manager, Barclaycard, there has been a drastic shift towards digital over the past two years.

“In terms of the digital arena, one size doesn’t fit all. It’s a theme we were seeing pre-pandemic, which has definitely accelerated over the past couple of years.

"In one conversation I had with a charity, they stated that two years ago they were seeing a split of around 70% cash and 30% cards; that’s now flipped around.”

Some 43% of consumers also believe that, without digital options, charities may miss out on potential donations. Younger consumers, such as those in the 18-24 bracket, are most likely to opt for digital methods, although overall openness to new digital channels tends to be quite even across age groups.

When comparing the current digital landscape to more traditional methods of donating, there is a far wider breakdown of potential channels to consider. From quick response (QR) codes to SMS messaging, there is a breadth of digital platforms for charities to explore – and master.

Over the last 12 months, 22% of respondents have donated by fundraising websites, such as JustGiving; 16% have used social media platforms; 9% report donating using contactless payments; and 8% have given money via text.

Consumer attitudes to donating channels reflect the digital journey we are on as a society – 44% carry less cash, so find digital donation easier and more convenient.

Overall, there are seeming advantages to both digital and traditional giving. Charities must consider the demographics of their donors when making decisions around technological investment and accessibility. On one hand, it is vital the charity sector embraces modernity, and does not fall behind society’s digital transition. On the other hand, the research clearly indicates the persisting popularity of cash donation options.

As Zoe Amar summarises: “Ultimately, we may end up in a cashless society, but for now there are still concerns about digital inclusion. So, charities need to look at a mixed economy, making it as easy as possible for everyone to give.”


This article has been reproduced with kind permission from our trusted corporate partners, Barclays. The article was first published in their report 'Giving: a new landscape. How technology is changing the charity sector', published in October 2022. Download the publication from Barclay's website.



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