About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

The Lake District

What’s the idea?

The Lake District Foundation is leading a partnership project to look at the future of donating to worthy causes. The project aims to investigate whether new technologies would work in the Lake District National Park, how they would be received, what they should look like and where would they be placed.

The idea is that people who wish to donate money for local projects can do so, even if they don’t have any coins on them. The technology would also allow people to donate without feeling under pressure to do so.

Sarah Swindley, Director of the LDF, says, “We know that people love the Lake District and want to help us look after it. We also know that people are carrying less cash with them and we are keen to understand how new technology can help.”

The first stage of the project is to conduct a major survey to gauge opinion on a charitable donation scheme using contactless debit and credit card technology, in addition to the more traditional coin-slot collection boxes. The second stage will use the findings from the survey, develop messaging and test assumptions.

Who is working on the project?

The project is a partnership between the Lake District Foundation, Cumbria Tourism and the Lake District National Park Authority. The Lake District Foundation is the lead partner and hosts the project. Lake District National Park supports the project with stakeholder engagement and practical deployment at sites across the National Park. Cumbria Tourism is the destination management organisation for the area, Cumbria Tourism’s role includes the provision of expertise and evidence on visitors and visitor engagement and liaison with businesses in the park.


The Lake District is complex; unique but with aspects that are present in many of our public parks. We certainly face the funding challenges felt by all parks and need to work innovatively to mitigate the impacts of tourism and secure sustainable revenue streams. We feel that we have the opportunity to understand the visitor appetite for using contactless donation methods in a variety of locations in order to test responses. This includes testing the best method, location and messaging that would encourage visitors to engage with contactless donations, rather than focusing immediately on deployment.

We have also recognised that a communications strategy and related marketing is key. The Lake District is loved nationally and internationally, has 19 million visitors each year and attracts the attention of the world’s media. Innovation is generally welcomed; however, the messaging of why we want to use technology to generate funds needs careful management.

What has happened so far?

Our challenges to date have been:

  • developing marketing and communication strategies
  • matching test sites and donation platforms
  • developing marketing messaging
  • recruiting volunteers
  • cost of donation platforms to maximise test site opportunities

We have chosen to concentrate on visitor giving, information sharing and linking tourists with projects that contribute to the conservation and sustainable development of the park. With that engagement comes an opportunity to ask for a donation; through the prototyping we want to find the most effective way to do this.

How will other parks learn from your work?

Our evaluation framework includes the dissemination of findings through the National National Parks Partnership and well as to the Nesta Partnership. We have already started to share our early findings with others.