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Would you go contactless for your favourite park?

The Royal Mint did not produce any 1p or 2p coins last year, for the first time in decades. By 2030, it is predicted that only one transaction in ten will be completed with cold hard cash. By contrast, we have seen growth in contactless payments which now represent a third of the UK’s card payments.

In comparison to other countries such as the USA where contactless payments are in their infancy, the consumer behaviours and expectations in the UK have been influenced by large scale infrastructure such as the London Transport system that adopted contactless payment in 2015.

Whilst most shops and institutions are now offering contactless services only four per cent of charities are using contactless systems as a donation mechanism. There have been notable successes in indoor locations for major museums and galleries and contactless donation units have emerged as a beneficial incentive for charities and other organisations. For example, a trial between 11 charities and Barclaycard showed that the average contactless donation for the NSPCC was £3.07 compared to an average of £1 in cash donations.

Through the National Lottery Community Fund and National Lottery Heritage Fund backed programme, Rethinking Parks, Nesta is supporting two parks foundations to test this promising technology with a twist. All the donation units will be located outdoors in public parks which will bring practical challenges and will test public appetite to give to different types of park, from local and urban to national and rural. One of the projects is led by the Lake District Foundation and the other is led by Bournemouth Parks Foundation.

What initiatives have been developed so far?

Some outdoor tap to give programmes have already been trialled including street buskers using 'tap to give' devices. People can support their churches or mosque through tap to give collection baskets. Blue Cross even launched the contactless canines collects with dogs with wearable card readers to grab potential donors' attention.

What are the challenges and opportunities for the parks sector?

park tree

The two projects testing contactless donations will face challenges on several fronts which another of the Rethinking Parks pioneers, Leeds Parks Fund, have researched in detail. Their recent report on charitable giving to parks and greenspaces outlined the culture shift and structural change needed to manage blended finance.

The report mentioned that “Blended models of park funding [are] need[ed] to uphold important public principles of governance, including open and equal access to parks, universal provision of quality parks and strategic oversight of resources.”

Challenges identified for the contactless technology in parks include:

Would the public give contactless donations to further enhance their parks?

In the Leeds Park Fund report, the University of Leeds identified that although parks are highly valued by the community, a survey conducted with local residents and businesses demonstrated that a low percentage of them would actively donate to parks and green spaces. The most popular causes to support continue to be medical research, hospitals and hospices, and children and young people.

Who between the park users and park visitors is more likely to donate, and to what type of park?

Is there a culture of requesting financial help in the parks sector?

What will the impact of the weather be like on the units?

Contactless payment technology is untested outdoors in the long term.

What location is the most suitable for contactless donation units?

In the Museum sector, for example, curators are designing exhibits to encourage visitors to navigate through the venue in a certain way. As a result, fundraisers have clear indications on where to put the donation units based on the flow of visitors and by looking at the revenue collected by the existing coin boxes.

Is the unit alone sufficient to grab people’s attention?

Do parks foundations need to design a user experience to engage with visitors? National Museums Scotland, for example, considers that the “ ‘static’ fundraising model will always lose out compared to an “active” model where staff are playing a dynamic role in promoting and changing the offer”.

Do donations units need to be close to a visitor centre or a landmark in the park?

Can they be left out in the wild in the Lake District, for example?

Is investment in contactless donation worthwhile for parks?

After investment, transaction fees and other costs are taken into account, can parks justify contactless donations?

What messaging works?

Through trialling the technology in different locations and testing messaging, the Lake District Foundation and Bournemouth Parks Foundation are gathering behavioural insights to better understand what prompts people to make outdoor contactless donations. This work will help them better understand how to address the challenges above. They are also interested in finding out the extent to which contactless donations contribute to their wider fundraising exercise, and opening up the national conversation around the future upkeep of parks and green spaces in the UK.

Read more about the Lake District Foundation and Bournemouth Parks Foundation projects. We will share updates on their findings throughout the rest of the programme.


Tiffany Holmgren

Tiffany Holmgren

Tiffany Holmgren

Programme Manager, Data Analytics Practice

Tiffany is a Programme Manager in the Data Analytics Practice.

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