NFC for charity collection – enabling London to donate

Lonely charity collector on Old Street, Shoreditch

Working in central London is fantastic – quirky startups, extravagant multinational headquarters and fancy lunches. But every now and then you catch a small glimpse of the real-world, and your hands-in-the-air moment about the 6 minute wait for the next tube is suddenly put into perspective. Charity collections and homelessness are, at least for me, very harsh and very real reminders that not everyone is as privileged or as lucky as the hundreds of thousands of us commuters angrily rushing to work every day.

Sorry, I don’t have any change.

A very honest commuter

It hits a nerve when I see a hopeful, smiling person with nothing but a bucket and a good cause be completely ignored, bashed and even tutted at by a swarm of commuters just landed at their tube stop.

Now, we all have our own opinions and reservations about different charities, but there’s always going to be at least one that any individual can relate to and would choose to support. So why is it, then, that I so rarely see anyone give? Why is it, then, that I don’t give?

London doesn’t carry change.

Londoners simply don’t carry change around. Contactless is in nearly every corner shop, cafe, bar or restaurant you go to – so cash is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. I think I can honestly say I’ve withdrawn cash fewer than 10 times in 2015 so far. In fact, since Apple Pay launched over here, I sometimes go weeks at a time without even needing my wallet.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, London has been at the centre of contactless payment’s unstoppable march into the UK market.

So when someone asks, Any spare change, sir?, and I say, Sorry, I don’t have any…what I really mean is, Yes I do, but I can’t give it to you. Why? My ‘spare change’ is in my bank. It’s simply a number somewhere in Santander’s database.

What’s so frustrating is that it should be so easy. I want to see the problem solved through the use of custom, 4G enabled NFC terminals that look and work a little something like this…

NFC charity collection device concept

NFC charity device concept - 4 buttons to select an amount, and an NFC tap-to-pay area

Step 1: Select donation amount

Large, easy-to-tap buttons with variable donation amounts are clearly displayed on the handheld device. A donator can quickly select an amount by tapping the button. There should be some indication of the amount they’ve selected once tapped – perhaps the button lights up. The payment terminal then prepares the chosen amount as a charge and awaits contactless payment.

Step 2: Tap to donate

The donator can then simply tap their NFC enabled bank card, iPhone, Apple Watch or other device to donate the amount they’ve selected. A brief thank you message should show so the user knows they’ve donated before the machine resets ready for the next donator.

And that’s it. It should be as easy as that.

The whole process should take only a few seconds – even less with Apple Pay, as chances are the donator already has their phone in their hand or watch on their wrist.

London Waterloo rush hour

NFC payments increased 255% last year, with significant growth expected for several years to come. Providing the public with this increasingly popular way of donating to these worthy causes would, I think, massively increase the success of charity collections. And looking beyond the donations, it would lead to better lives for millions of people across the globe. It’s so damn simple, it’s got to be worth a shot.

Everywhere is accepting NFC payments in London. So should charities. Someone, please make this happen.