Loose change has been a mainstay of charity impulse giving
for years - everything from the Red Kettle campaign to the airport collection
pots where departing visitors drop the last of their foreign currency. Now
there's a virtual equivalent: rounding up debit card purchases to create
"virtual change," then allocating it to charities through ChangeIt
It's easy for charities, especially those who are used to
working with online gift facilitators like CanadaHelps
After submitting their banking information and being approved, they can start
communicating to donors about giving frequently and painlessly with every
For donors too, it's simple. They register their debit cards
with ChangeIt, set up their favourite charities and begin using their cards as
usual, provided they are clients of a participating financial institution.
For now, the fledgling but fast-growing program is working
only with credit unions. "They tend to
be able to make decisions faster and have an organizational mandate to be
community-focused," explains Ingrid Schiller of Formulating Change,
Inc., the organization behind the program.
"Our plan is to grow
the program across Canada with credit unions in various provinces to build up a
national footprint of charities from coast to coast," she continues. "At that
point we plan on approaching the big banks as well as credit card issuers, with
the foundation now laid for their required national market base."
has shaken hands with credit unions in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, southern
Ontario and Nova Scotia so far.
Program is promising, popular with customers
Early adopters are
more than pleased with ChangeIt's results and potential. For the Children's
Hospital Foundation of Saskatchewan, it offers a communications solution as
well as a fundraising opportunity. Construction on the hospital won't begin
until next fall. But rolling out the ChangeIt program in branches of Affinity
Credit Union around Saskatchewan is helping right now to raise awareness
that the hospital will serve all of the province's children, says foundation
finance and administration director Geri Meyer.
"Our resources are
limited," she explains. "The province is quite big, and it would be hard for us
to reach out to everyone ourselves. This is a provincial hospital, and we
really want to pull the whole province in. We need the whole province - just like
the Rough Riders!"
Meyer says the program's financial benefits are secondary to
awareness building. A typical monthly report from ChangeIt contains 40 to 50
consistent donors plus others giving one-time gifts. The gifts themselves
aren't huge - Meyer says the average monthly take so far is between $30 and
$50. But with an eye to the lifetime value of those donors, she's grateful for
the chance to build relationships that will lead to a healthy database and
greater support in the future.
"The potential is there for more money," she states. "But
awareness is happening now, and that's very important for us."
Community support and
ChangeIt's financial partners are equally positive about the
program. Affinity Credit Union's Marianne Jurzyniec says her Saskatchewan company
found it a good fit with its corporate values of community engagement and
"We chose ChangeIt because it offered a different and more
convenient way for our members and staff to donate to their chosen charities,"
she explains. "It's yet another way we can support community partners, and it's
Affinity made sure all their staff members were well-trained
in both managing the program and understanding the work of participating
charities. The credit union's customers have given over $4,000 to community
charities through ChangeIt since Affinity launched it in February.
Jurzyniec highlights the awareness-building opportunities of
the ChangeIt program as well. Donors' gifts aren't buried in a line item on
their monthly statement. Rather, they're highlighted in a separate monthly
email to each giver.
"That reminds them of their charity each month." she points
out. "Getting people to make those regular donations leads to ongoing support,
not just one-time, annual giving." And the ChangeIt posters in every Affinity
branch remind clients to consider their charitable support.
There's a potential business advantage too. Any charity can
join and promote giving via ChangeIt, but supporters need a bank account and
debit card from a participating financial institution. Though Affinity hasn't yet tracked new
accounts from that source, Jurzyniec says it may have attracted some new
customers intrigued by a convenient and painless way to give regularly to their
There's no cost for charities to join. When donations begin
to flow, ChangeIt levies a 6.9% administrative fee on revenue. COO Jim
Stirtzinger explains that's only a small contribution towards the cost of
what ChangeIt provides - things like print and digital marketing assets,
monthly donor reports and live support during regional business hours. Most of
ChangeIt's costs are covered through a licensing fee that financial
institutions pay when they join the program.
For credit unions and banks, Stirtzinger says, ChangeIt demonstrates
their corporate social responsibility commitment. ChangeIt isn't looking for profile, so financial partners can market it as their own program.
That, he believes, encourages consumers to prefer the bank cards of participating financial institutions.
"Our end goal," he concludes, "is to assist charities to
raise new, recurring revenue in a cost-efficient way. Our administrative fee
compares very favourably to the costs of developing recurring donors through