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ATM giving is far too clunky

Our analysis in Third Sector earlier this year indicated that ATM giving is struggling to get off the ground, not least because people fail to understand that the contribution is coming from them and not the bank. How naïve can you get?

But leaving that aside in the hope that people will wise up, I have been road-testing the system recently and I’m left feeling that the banks have misjudged the psychology and the sequencing of the giving process. The way they’ve done it is very clunky.

At a NatWest ATM, for example, there is a message on the screen when you arrive saying you can donate to charity under the ‘other services’ button. Let’s say you think ‘nice idea, I’ll just do that and then withdraw the cash I need’. You go through and make your donation – but then the machine says goodbye and spits your card out.  So if you want to draw out cash as well, you have to put your card in again – which is irritating and time-consuming. And it doesn’t fit with most people’s habits – they don’t go to a cash machine to give to charity; they go for other reasons, and might just donate as well.

That’s why you are more likely to think ‘nice idea, I’ll just get my cash out and then go through and make a donation.’ But the same thing happens – once you’ve done your transaction, the machine says goodbye and spits your card out. So if you want to donate, you have to go back in again, which is irritating, time-consuming and therefore less likely to happen, especially if you’ve got a queue breathing down your neck.

Surely it’s the second of these two routes that is crucial – people are much more likely to donate after they’ve taken care of their personal needs. Why not set the machine to tell people after their initial transaction that they can also donate, and allow them to stay in the system and do that before their card is returned?

But the first route ought to be amended as well, so that those splendid souls who put donation before their personal needs don’t have to go round the roundabout twice.

Just a thought…at the moment you get the feeling that the banks, having been persuaded to provide the giving option, do it a way that inhibits rather than encourages it.

  • Oliver Benson

    Biggest issue is that who wants to hang around an ATM any longer than they actually have to?
    – If there isn’t a queue forming behind you, you’ve probably had to wait for someone in front of you to use the machine.
    – You’re probably on your way to something, rather than randomly just getting money out for the sake of it.
    – You’re stood with your back to the world feeling vulnerable because you are effectively advertising to the world that you have cash on you.
    – You’re so used to pressing the Cash -> £40 that you don’t change your routine.

    Would make far more sense for banks to build tools to allow charity donations direct from their websites / phone apps.

  • Mark Atkinson

    This was an innovative idea but it was and is fundamentally flawed in 1 respect….people use ATM’s to get money out…not to give money. It’s in complete opposition to the cultural norm and the scheme lacked any real public education.

    The new Barclays pingit app is pretty interesting