Usually when consumers donate to their favorite charity or charities, they write a check and put it into a self-addressed stamped envelope and drop it into the nearest mailbox.
It has been that way for as long as many of us can remember, but things are beginning to change thanks to ATMs.
On Monday, charitable donations made through ATMs received a major boost in the United Kingdom when ATM operators and U.K. government officials reached an agreement, enabling consumers to make donations through the country's 63,000 ATMs.
LINK, which represents ATM operators, including banks, building societies, independent ATM deployers (IADs), and government officials agreed to allow cardholders to donate to their favorite charities through ATMs beginning next year.
The ATM operators will place a separate menu option on the ATM screens that facilitate the donations. LINK members will decide which charities to support. Some of LINK members include Barclays Bank, Citibank, Credit Mutuel, Cumberland Building Society, HSBC Bank and independent ATM operators cashzone and bankmachine.
Last December, Francis Maude, minister of the cabinet office, proposed the idea of enabling charitable donations through ATMs in a "Green Paper." A Green Paper is an issue the government attends to address. Maude said his plan" would harness new technology for charitable giving."
U.S. consumers recently witnessed the power ATMs have in raising funds for a charities during an international crisis.
After Japan's March 11 earthquake and tsunami, Wells Fargo & Co., a San Francisco-based bank and the nation's third-largest bank-owner of ATMs, used part of its ATM fleet to raise $1 million in 10 days to aid victims of the tragedy.
Wells Fargo owns more than 12,000 ATMs, but 3,000 of the machines were being converted from Wachovia Bank, and they were not able to accept donations.
After Nicole Sturgill heard about the amount of money Wells Fargo ATMs raised, she said, "wow."
Sturgill, who is research director for Delivery Channels at TowerGroup, a Needham, Mass.-based consultancy, also said, "Accepting donations could be a wave of the future as banks continue to upgrade ATMs with both new software and also bulk note acceptors. "
ATMs have an ever stronger presence in our daily lives.
While many of us may not open our mail for a few days unless we received a pressing bill, we always need cash and ATMs are on almost every corner. The presence of ATMs could facilitate giving.
In the U.K., the idea of donating to a charity through ATMs is a popular idea. A poll of 2,094 adults found that 43 percent of consumers with LINK-enabled cards visit an ATM at least once a fortnight (14 days), and they reported they would sometimes make a charitable donation. More than 25 percent of young people 18 to 24, who visit the ATM at least once a month, said they would always make a donation of at least 10p ($.15 cents).
Enabling ATMs to accept charitable donations could succeed where other service offerings have failed.
"Even though banks have not been very successful in the past introducing new uses for ATMs, this may be an interesting case of trying to use new deposit automation technology to introduce something new," said Gil Luria, senior vice president of Equity Research and Financial Technology at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles. "If it catches on, it could be an opportunity for ATM companies."
Frederick H. Lowe has spent 10 years reporting on the ATM industry. Prior to joining ATMmarketplace.com as editor, Lowe was editor of ATM & Debit News, which is owned by SourceMedia. He also wrote articles about the ATM industry for American Banker and other publications. Prior to writing for trade publications, Lowe was a general assignment reporter and business writer for the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune and the Philadelphia Daily News.