Posted by Allison on 5 April 2009, 11:06
Most of us give at least some money to charity every now and again, whether it's in the form of a regular direct debit going straight out of our bank account, or a few coins from our spare change dropped into a collecting tin held by someone that we see while we are out shopping.
Charities have to be quite creative in promoting their cause to us while making sure they don't spend vast amounts of the money we give them in gaining our attention in the first place. That's one of the reasons why one of the most high profile ways to get through to us is by enlisting people to visit high traffic places in public with collection tins, so that we can see them and donate some money while we are out and about. There is also the idea that if we are leaving a shop we are much more likely to have some change in our hand, and the urge is stronger to drop some of those coins into the collecting tin.
Charity tins aren't unique to Britain, but because it is our currency that we are dropping into these tins it is interesting to see why they are still used in this era of paying for things with anything other than hard cash.
We tend to see charity collecting tins in two places. Firstly there are the people who carry them in the street and raise awareness for a particular charity, asking people to drop in some spare change to go to a good cause. The other most popular place that you'll regularly see them is on the counters of shops, right near the till. Again the idea is that you will have your purse or wallet out and be sorting through your change when you see the tin. Therefore you are more likely to drop some coins into it, whatever value they might be.
But do the charities make any real money from these tins?
The answer is yes. It might be hard to believe at first, since most of us usually only donate a few low value coins in them. In fact some people see them as an ideal way to get rid of all those horrible coppers that clog up your pockets, weigh them down and never get used in any other way.
But in fact all those small denominations of our currency do add up, and more people give to charity through these collection boxes and tins placed in prominent places than by many other means. It's thought that in America, charities would lose millions of dollars every year in donations if the government stopped making the hated penny coin. Most people drop these in a jar when they get some since they don't like them, and then give them to charity to make use of them when they have too many to keep.
There is of course the possibility that the next smallest denomination of coin, the five cent piece, could take the place of the penny and that would be dropped into the charity tins instead, possibly expanding the amount of money that the charities are receiving by this method by as much as five times. That would be a great victory for them indeed.
But with the advent of another type of street collection that is becoming more and more prevalent today, it could be that the collecting tins that we hear jangling won't be the most popular form of collecting any more.
If you live in any town or city where you have a shopping precinct nearby, you will no doubt have come across people with clipboards wearing t-shirts which promote a particular charity.
If you have ever been stopped by someone like this you will know what they do. They tell you all about a particular charity and then try to sign you up to donate a monthly amount to that charity via direct debit.
The jury is still out on this method of collecting, since many people do not like to be stopped in the street. Clipboards can be most off putting and when you are out and about it doesn't always feel safe putting down your details – including full bank account details – to someone on the street.
That's not to say these people aren't genuine, but many people do prefer to put money into collection tins of their own volition, rather than being asked to donate every month. The idea is that you choose whether you want to donate or not, rather than having someone approach you and ask for money, which can make some people feel uncomfortable.
So will we see an end to collection tins and more and more of these t-shirted people wandering our streets in the future? It seems unlikely, since there are so many places and occasions where charity boxes receive the odd donation here and there which those charities wouldn't receive otherwise. Some people prefer to give on a semi regular basis to all kinds of charities in this way, instead of signing up to donate to a specific one every month.
Of course different methods of donating suit different people, and that goes for anyone in any country, no matter what currency and how much they might be donating. Some people give to charity by going on sponsored events once or twice a year and raising far more than they would give by donating a small amount every month. There are lots of different ways to donate money to worthy causes, and everyone tends to use the method they prefer.
Perhaps that is the point. The more types of collections the charities can think of which raise valuable funds for them, the more money they will have to do their essential work. By keeping as many avenues of collecting open as possible they will appeal to far more people and attain the best result possible in the long run.