April 1, 2019

The Importance of (no) Connectivity

Two years ago today, GoodBox launched its first donation solution.

Sage advice such as “start small” or “dip your toe” were wholeheartedly ignored. Instead we kicked off at The Royal Albert Hall for the fabulous week-long Teenage Cancer Trust event, featuring the likes of The Who, Ed Sheeran, Paul Weller, Noel Gallagher, Olly Murs and many more. Our hardware solution involved the best combination of products available on the market, all encased within six 3D printed boxes. Onsite to support these units were our founders (Francesca, Tibor and myself) along with three members of our tech team.

At a time when contactless donation solutions were still in proof of concept mode, we were keen to learn as much as possible:

1) would donors embrace contactless as an alternative means of giving?

2) how would our units impact traditional cash bucket fundraising takings?

3) how would our interim solutions hold up in such a fundraising environment?

After seven days, we had our answers. Despite only fundraising for 30 minutes before and after the shows and being positioned behind the cash buckets at entrances, donors flocked to tap their cards. Contactless fundraising ultimately represented 43% of the total cash amount raised by Teenage Cancer Trust. As for impact on cash, Teenage Cancer Trust informed us that cash takings at that year’s concert had exceeded the previous year’s number.

We were pleased with the results, however we also experienced challenges which, if solved, would have significantly increased the contactless donations across the week. The challenges included issues relating to battery life, maintaining a perpetually open contactless field, and achieving a consistent Bluetooth connection between our contactless payment devices and their connectivity apparatus (in this instance mobile phones built into the trial units).

The greatest challenge we faced, however, was the length of time it took to successfully process a donation due to the poor connectivity at the event.

What do I mean by this?

Connectivity to process a transaction will always be a challenge in many fundraising settings, and even where a consistent reliable WiFi connection (less common than you think) is available, quick transaction times are vital. Tapping at London Underground Tube gate is a great example – one second vs five seconds is crucial to accommodate the volume of commuters during peak hours.

At the Royal Albert Hall the connectivity was poor, and further exacerbated by thousands of concert goers gathering in close unison. Here are the stats:

  • Transaction processing times were on average 7 – 9 seconds
  • 1 in 10 transactions failed to process at all
  • 1 in 10 transactions took 15 seconds or more to process or eventually fail. This involved the donor standing awkwardly waiting for a transaction to be confirmed on the screen as being successful. In the meantime, other potential donors simply walked past

Poor connectivity can affect any location, and it is vital to have a contactless fundraising solution that can transcend signal issues, be it at ballroom events, outdoor settings, stadiums, retail counter tops, museums, churches, mosques, temples or any setting where a charity sees an opportunity to inspire individuals to donate.

In late 2017 Visa, MasterCard and the other payment schemes exempted charitable donations from the requirement to process transactions in live time. Other exempted sectors include in flight transactions for airlines, and public transport, such as the London Underground. Exempting donations made good sense. Unlike purchases of goods or services, donations are inherently independent of any economically measurable benefit and therefore a failed donation would not require one to chase down someone who got away with an inadvertent freebie.
The importance of (no) Connectivity case study image

Only by understanding the unique challenges faced by charities could we then set out to fix them. The 2017 Teenage Cancer Trust event inspired us to go back to the drawing board and spend two years designing and building our suite of GBx fundraising products. The GBx Mini, Core and Pro remain the only purpose-built solutions currently available on the market. And the improvements are clear:

  • All of our units can connect via 3G or Wifi, while the GBx Core and GBx Pro can also connect by LAN cable
  • Transaction times = 1.5 – 2 seconds
  • If no connectivity exists at time of donating, our devices will hold onto the transaction and process it when connectivity is re-established

Since the launch of our GBx line of products, many of our charity partners are now achieving upwards of 60% contactless share of total donations, and still with minimal impact on overall cash donation amounts! While there are other drivers behind this uplift (we have built 21 key differentiators into our solutions, some of which will be touched upon in future articles), offline contactless has been one of the most important influences. It is for this reason that the first question put to us by most of charities who enquire about our products is: “Do your units accept offline transactions?”.

Want to learn more? Click here to arrange a conversation with a member of the team. 

We remain very grateful to the forward-thinking team at Teenage Cancer Trust, including Rebecca Dobbie and Dan Papworth-Smith, who placed their confidence in GoodBox, an eight-month-old British startup at the time and we couldn’t be prouder of the even greater successes achieved working together since the 2017 Royal Albert Hall events. From all of the team here at GoodBox, thank you!

whois: Andy White Freelance WordPress Developer London