'Change Donations' hoping to provide a fresh blueprint for a scandal-free charity sector

'Change Donations' hoping to provide a fresh blueprint for a scandal-free charity sector

It’s the time of goodwill and the peak season for charities and non-profits, with bucket shakers and clipboard-wielding fundraisers a familiar sight on our streets in the lead-up to Christmas, writes

Ruth Doris.

In a sector hit by a series of scandals, a rise in door- to-door scams, and with the introduction of contactless payments prompting an acceleration towards a cashless society, charities are coming under increased pressure.

Change Donations aims to lighten the load by providing solutions to these problems and giving donors more transparency and convenience. Co-founders Amelia Scivier, Lizzy Hayashida and William Conaghan met on Trinity College’s MBA programme, and the idea for Change Donations came out of the course’s entrepreneurship module.

Having looked at services such as savings app Moneybox in the UK, they decided to adopt the rounding-up model for donations to charities and non-profits. Rounding-up is where donors can allocate their virtual spare change from purchases made by debit or credit card to the charity of their choice.

Change Donations allows users to set monthly limits, choose their preferred charities, and what type of purchases they’d like to round up.

“You link your credit or debit card, and it rounds up all of your purchases to the next euro. You can set rules; for example, it will only round up to a certain limit and you can allocate it to one or several charities that you choose,” Ms Scivier said.

The micro-donations model means that donors “may not feel the impact but can see the impact.”

She said people are wary about donating to large corporations because of recent scandals. The restricted funding element at Change Donations will earn people’s trust by offering complete transparency.

Restricted funding is where the donations are directed to a specific purpose or project so that donors can see exactly where their money is going. She uses the example of a donor to a homeless charity.

“So, if you raise €17 a month from your round-up, we can tell you 40% was spent on their soup kitchen run, 10% on first aid team, and so on. It gives you more transparency, and you can see the impact of your donation.”

While many established charities employ street fundraisers to encourage passers-by to sign up to a direct debit, a 2017 survey found more than one-third of respondents found so-called ‘chuggers’ to be aggressive’ and ‘annoying’.

'Change Donations' hoping to provide a fresh blueprint for a scandal-free charity sector

Ms Scivier says the strike rate is “pretty low” with this fundraising method and the disadvantage of direct debit is if the donor’s circumstances change they can just cancel it. Change Donations offers flexibility, so the donation amount can be changed, paused or increased if the donor has extra cash to spare.

Another way to maximise donations is to avail of tax incentives. Under Ireland’s revenue system, a taxpayer who donates €250 or more to a registered non-profit can allocate the 31% tax relief to the charity by signing a form. Where many donations come in the form of cash and ad hoc donations, Change Donations provides a record making it easier for donors to keep track of their money.

Change Donations charges a monthly administrative fee to the charity, a percentage of the total amount raised through the platform, which Ms Scivier says is significantly lower than that charged by other services and it includes transaction fees. The company’s goal is to give visibility to smaller charities that may not have a marketing department.

The founders took part in Trinity’s student startup accelerator, LaunchBox, last summer, and Change Donations won the top prize which included €3,500 in cash and free office space at Dogpatch Labs in Dublin’s Docklands.

In the middle of its first seed round, Change Donations is launching a pilot in January with two partners — The Hope Foundation and Rehab. It is also speaking to sports organisations and other non-profits and planning a UK launch in March.

The first version is web-based with an app on the way. Ms Scivier says when a donor visits Rehab’s website, he or she will have the option of making a one-off donation, signing up for a direct debit or choosing round-up and Change Donations will be providing the latter service.

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