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To Coin a Phrase: Zero Cost Giving

  • These days there are growing ways to give to charity that needn’t involve sticking your hand in your pocket. Look at it another way: there’s growing number of opportunities for charities to galvanise their supporters and raise cash without actually having to ask individuals for any more of theirs. It’s called ‘Zero Cost Giving’ to coin a phrase. So long as there is no additional cost to the individual - and there’s little effort involved - these are all easy consumer choices to make.

    A great example is For Good Causes which encourages members of the public to donate unspent loyalty rewards – which it has calculated are worth £7 billion – to any of the 12,000 charities signed up to the Charities Trust. Give As You Live is another. It pays a commission from any purchases made among 4,200 participating retailers and claims to have raised nearly £10 million among the 10,000 charities involved. Likewise, Amazon Smile is just getting going in the UK but pledges to donate 0.5% of its transactions and has over 2,000 charities already in line to benefit.

    Registration for these initiatives is free but does require a Charity Commission number and that can put smaller charities at a disadvantage. However, there is an alternative solution for both registered and unregistered charities. And, better still, it allows Joe Public to benefit financially from the choices they’re being encouraged to make - as well as the charity. A ‘Collective Energy Switch’ is unique in that it gives something back to a charity’s supporters (by cutting a fifth off their energy bills) whilst turning the commission - that would normally be pocketed by a price comparison website for doing roughly the same thing - into a donation. It can work for organisations of any size - whether a not-for-profit, charity or Community Amateur Sports Club… indeed having a strong local community presence is often better than having a formal structure.

    If you’ve never heard of them, Collective Energy Switches are a great way to get a group of people onto a cheaper tariff in one go, combining the buying power of the participants without everyone having to shop around themselves. The best known example is probably Martin Lewis’s Cheap Energy Club – the success of which was the main reason behind British Gas having to admit that it lost 650,000 customers in the third quarter of last year alone.

    So now charities - registered or not - can pool willing supporters into a Collective Energy Switch and receive £15 per household who take up the resulting cheap offer. Back of the Sofa does this through a partnership with iChoosr: a well-established collective switch organiser, running three ‘auctions’ a year among energy suppliers. Around 75,000 households take part in each one and - last time round - the winning tariff was £245 cheaper than the average annual ‘Big 6’ standard variable tariff of £1,149. Charities are able to pick and choose how regularly they participate. Offering a Collective Energy Switch opportunity to supporters once yearly, for example, means everyone has the opportunity to move on to another cheap deal as soon as the first one expires, not to mention guaranteeing a regular source of income for the charity.

    All the charity has to do is put a registration page under the noses of its supporters (ie via email or social media) and let common sense prevail. Those wishing to join the next one have until 22th May to apply for a registration page and garner their support.

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