As society reopens and UK businesses shift to ‘post-pandemic’ payments, there is a huge opportunity for the micro-donation movement says Pennies CEO, Alison Hutchinson CBE.

With UK lockdown restrictions easing, transactions in hospitality and retail are beginning to increase again. The majority of these transactions will of course be cashless.

Customer makes a micro-donation on an in-app payment with Screwfix

The pandemic has accelerated merchant’s moves to offering alternative payment options; from digital wallets and mobile payments, to order-and-pay in app, click and collect, and click and deliver. We have seen the latter mobile technologies really take off in the last year through the necessity of social distancing and heightened sanitation challenges.

Pennies has been working hard behind the scenes with our partners during these months of lockdowns to respond to the changes to the way we are now starting to pay, and to ensure in as many instances as possible that customers have the option to donate their digital Pennies.


Supporting long-term Pennies partners with new solutions

One exciting new channel is Pennies in the Azzurri Group’s order at table app, developed with support from digital tech company AND Digital.

Azzurri IT and Tech Director Joel Robinson:
“We have intentionally built a digital experience with ASK and Zizzi that matches the casual dining journey that customers would be used to and expect, which is effectively the ability to order whenever they want, to add items and to pay whenever they want to as well.”

The option to donate with Pennies is also available. With no requirement to interact with a traditional payment device – where Pennies sat in the original transaction – this new model is being embraced exceptionally well by customers, with significant uplift in conversations from sales to donation.

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A post shared by Zizzi | Italian Restaurant (@wearezizzi)

Zizzi customers can scan the QR code on the table to order, pay, and donate to charity with Pennies via the new Order at Table app.


Zizzi was the second merchant to partner with Pennies a decade ago, with ASK Italian following a few years later. Ensuring their recent in-app payments innovations also included a micro-donation option was critical for Azzurri, as they look to protect and grow the vital charity funds they’ve been raising with Pennies for more than 10 years.

And these pennies add up. For example, at the current rate of giving, just 10 minutes of micro-donations at Zizzi branches could help The Mental Health Foundation develop straightforward information and tools that help people look after their mental health every day. Isn’t that wonderful?


Micro-donations in the food service sector

Another new environment for Pennies is in onsite facilities for colleague purchases, for example lunch and snack options – and this is newly developed with mobile tech firm Systopia.

As workplaces start to see colleagues return to the office, the ubiquity of smartphone devices, and our increased confidence and ease in using them to make payments, lends itself comfortably to more speed and convenience; using time saving options such as pre-order and pay.

Mobile payments app mySystopia shown on mobile phone screen, phone is being held to the camera by a woman

Systopia’s solution – the mySYSTOPIA app – is already deployed at one London city financial firm and includes Pennies. This means colleagues may now choose to support their employer’s nominated charity and give a little back simply and seamlessly as they take a break. It’s early days, particularly as we look towards July 19 and the coming months for colleagues to return to full and hybrid working – but the evidence is clear that where the option to donate a few digital pennies is present, people give.

Chris Lyons, Group Managing Director at Systopia;
“Activating Pennies onto our systems is simple – meaning businesses can easily offer their people the opportunity to donate to the chosen charities effortlessly; without having to implement any new system, hire new staff or incur additional cost. We have already installed Pennies at one of our large bank clients in London, and many more are interested.”


New SME and contactless opportunities

A third example would be the imminent and exciting release of a micro-merchant Pennies solution, whereby sole traders and small businesses, for example plumbers, florists, pop-up coffee and cafes and one-off shops, can raise money for selected charities by aggregating their customers’ donations using Pennies in their payment devices. This Pennies solution launches in the summer, and I can’t wait to share it with you, as it represents a new first for Pennies outside of the large business model.

In addition, we have made great strides in contactless, and where we have developed Pennies in the contactless journey across sectors we have seen significant donations from consumers; in some cases tripling traditional Chip and PIN giving.

Customer pays bill using contactless payment with NFC enabled mobile phone

These are but a few of many new innovations that the team has been developing with our wonderful partners, harnessing this “new digital ease” and consumers’ comfort in pivoting to in-app, mobile, pre-orders and contactless.

Pennies is always evolving; over our decade of operating we have never stopped. We have now raised over £30 million for the UK charity sector, from over 120 million consumer donations. Alongside our partners we are driven by further accelerating the micro-donation movement, by ensuring we support changes in payments and consumer behaviour. If you want to know more – and join – please get in touch.

Alison Hutchinson CBE, CEO


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