Digital giving succeeds through communication

The partnership between the Bank of Elk River, Minn., and Interest for Others evolved to rely on marketing. “And what we love about the partnership is truly that 100 percent of the donations go directly to the charities,” said Julia Schreifels, director of marketing and assistant vice president at the bank.

Charitable giving in the United States amounts to about $400 billion each year. Three fourths of it is given in the traditional write-the-check, lick-the-envelope way. 

The consolidation of charitable giving and online banking is similar to what happened with online bill-paying 20 years ago. “People would never have thought, ‘Okay, I’m going to go to my bank and pay my cable bill or my electric or gas bill,’” said John McNeel, co-founder, chairman and CEO of in/PACT, the parent company of GoodCoin, the online giving platform that partners with financial institutions, “But today, it’s second nature.”

 McNeel sees the partnership between online giving and online banking as a way to “grow the world’s heart,” and create a digital environment where every customer can discover a nonprofit of personal interest — in their local communities or otherwise.

In the modern digital age, however, there’s a shift towards digital wallets, PayPal, GoFundMe, Facebook donations and other online ways to give, which paradoxically has made it easier for people to give, but has also made giving more transactional, McNeel said. With a growing number of digital giving options, people have more ways to give; bank-driven philanthropy has more competition.

Similar to Interest for Others, GoodCoin is an integrated giving platform that partners with banks and allows customers to give directly through their online banks to more than a million charities around the world, and in their local communities. 

With such a vast network of charities, however, communication between banks and their charitable partners is key to the platform’s success. 

Harvest Bank, Kimball, Minn., implemented the GoodCoin platform in 2018. Ella Meyerson, the bank’s vice president of marketing, said that although GoodCoin provides a marketing toolkit and resources, the better the communication between the banks and charities, the more successful the giving effort will be. 

McNeel concurred: “It’s not enough for banks to just sign up. Although our platform is almost plug-and-play, so it’s easy to set up and configure, there’s still a marketing and communication task to ensure that people understand why this is a better way to give.”