People don’t write a check to pay for their dinner, movie tickets or groceries, so why are they still writing them for charitable giving?
PYMNTS CEO Karen Webster has volunteered at a few charity fundraisers in her day, and the call to action at the end of the night is still, in 2017, to reach for the checkbook and write out the donation amount on paper.
Doesn’t matter how nice of a ballpoint pen you write it with … that’s some serious payments friction.
It’s hard to say if “passing the plate” is better or worse. While throwing a handful of cash into a bucket is, perhaps, less of a hassle than writing out the amount and signing the check, who carries a handful of cash anymore? For non-profit organizations that rely on cash donations, the well is drying up.
Yet charities rarely have the resources to do anything other than what they’ve always done. Cash and check donations might cause friction for the giver, but to this point, they’ve been the path of least resistance for the charity.
CEO Neil Garner and his team at Thyngs want to change that.
Garner has long evangelized the use of emerging digital payment technologies to power consumer services. In 2005, he founded Glue4 Technologies, which became Proxama in 2008, with the aim of linking people and brands via consumer technology. With the 2008 rebranding came a shift in focus to mobile, smart card and Near Field Communication (NFC) technologies.
Even before that, Neil Garner had a hand in implementing Vodafone’s M-Pesa, Mastercard’s PayPass, Sky and Barclaycard’s Sky Card, and the American Express Blue card.
Now, Garner is once again trying to change the world with the Thyngs mobile hardware and software platform, which is designed to join physical and digital marketing to take proximity marketing to the next level, using smart technologies such as NFC, Bluetooth beacons, QR codes and WiFi.
How? By embedding those smart technologies into physical world objects —thus making them connected devices — such as posters, lanyards, signs, flyers and even (in the case of a recent superhero movie release) temporary tattoos. When moviegoers used their phone to scan the iconic lightning bolt tattoos, it brought them to a world of games and other movie extras to make the experience more exciting.
Thyngs plans to expand more into the entertainment world, but the crux of its business is in the charitable giving sector. The company sees where non-profit organizations are falling short, and it’s doing its best to caulk the gaps.
“Most charitable organizations can’t afford expensive wallets or apps or technology,” Garner said. “Cash is on the decline, but charities aren’t fast enough to adapt.”
Instead of paper volunteer badges, an organization could use Thyngs to print a QR code on the badge or embed a Bluetooth beacon, so that a potential donor could scan it to watch a video about the cause or even simply tap their phone against the badge to make a donation.
At an event, there could be connected devices on the table bearing the organization’s QR code or an NFC tag so that attendees could tap the Thyng to make a digital payment. Even a simple business card could be juiced up to offer an interactive experience, enabling not only donations but connections via email or social networks to drive lasting relationships and, possibly, repeat contributions.
Thyngs announced news on Monday, Aug. 7, that it had integrated with PayPal so that customers can use their PayPal account to respond to a call to action, whether the call is to make a donation, buy a product or something else.
The platform had previously integrated with Skype, Wells Pay and Apple Pay, with hopes to add Android Pay and Google Pay soon and drive people to use their mobile wallets. What PayPal offers that’s different is the possibility of gift aid, a government program in the U.K. (where Thyngs is based) that adds to individuals’ charitable donations when those donations are registered under their home address. A charity could pull that data from a PayPal account in the form of a shipping address in order to maximize the donation without any extra effort or expense on the donor’s part.
In charity, it’s important to enable credit card payments at the time when the donor is ready to give them. Webster said no one ever goes home and mails a check — no matter how good their intentions — because by then, the heart-wrenching effects of the fundraising event have worn off. The opportunity has passed.
“You never want them to leave the room without making a donation,” said Webster.
Garner couldn’t agree more. This solution isn’t for an environment where people have a lot of time. Accepting credit card payments would hardly provide a better outcome. A charitable donation is more of an on-the-go payment — almost like an impulse buy, though hopefully with better intentions than buying a candy bar in the grocery checkout line.
Garner’s ultimate vision is for the Thyngs logo to become as ubiquitous and trusted as the contactless symbol. When customers see the little broadcast lines depicted at a point of sale, they know it means they can use their smartphone or smart card to tap and pay.
One day, perhaps, the Thyngs interlocking squares could have the same effect.