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A new take on donations

05 September 2012, 07:27
I've been spending a bit of time thinking about a recent story posted on here by a woman who would pay for poor people's groceries in the queue at the shops, and I think I've come up with a more wide-ranging proposal to donate money for groceries to needy people, beggars, car guards and even you - should you be convincing enough.

The biggest problem with beggars and car guards is that 90% of the time when they approach you, even should you feel like giving them something the chances are you don't have cash on you, right?

Particularly for car guards, I've thought that it'd be useful if they carried card swipers, and motorists could register for cards to swipe which would debit money directly from a linked account they could transfer into - that would go some way to eliminating card fraud concerns. In practice though, the cost is obviously too high to equip all car guards with those swipers and wireless access points.

You really need some means to identify the person you want to give money to, limit the possibility of theft through fraud, and preferably have the whole system electronic, right?

Thanks to the barcode recognition technology being increasingly utilised by cellphone applications, a workable solution popped into my head which I'd like to bounce off you sage commentators.

The process would work something like this:

1: Private people (anybody wishing to donate) would transfer funds into an account overseen by this project, and their personal balance and transaction history would be made available through a website.

2: People in need would be encouraged to register for Pick n Pay smart shopper cards (hear me out here). I've seen Pick n Pay treating their smart shopper cards as vouchers for prizes already, so that part is workable. The mechanics over how to get needy people registered and make it simpler for them is something which could be overcome (heck, even NGOs could help sign people up).

3: Along with their sign up, needy people would get a barcode printed out (I'm thinking about the square ones you see in magazines which link to websites). Again, the mechanics are a bit vague here, but preferably it would be laminated. Bear with me.

4: The real transaction happens whenever a person who is registered to donate with the programme passes or is approached by a needy person for a donation: they can whip out their cellphone, photograph the barcode through a dedicated mobile application, and be presented with the option of transferring an amount of money they nominate from their linked account (not their personal bank account - the scheme savings account created above), and that balance would then be transferred into the needy person's smart shopper card account electronically.

5: Said needy person, whether a beggar, a car guard or you, would be able to then go to Pick n Pay and buy their groceries with whatever balance they have on their smart shopper card.

The benefits of this system are:

1: It doesn't rely on cash, so it doesn't place needy people at risk of mugging (they don't need to carry their smart shopper cards on them)

2: It requires the needy person to buy only whatever is available from Pick n Pay. These days that includes everything from food to clothes to ... yes ... liquor. You're not going to control people to buy specific items any more than you can force them to spend your donated cash in a specific way, but at least you know that money is not going towards booze in a corner tavern.

3: It presents the ability to repeat donations electronically without having to see the needy person in question physically. Isn't that useful? The cellphone app could store a register of previous donations, and you could probably save the barcode to a text tag for the needy person in question to help you recall them. If you feel particularly sorry for a crippled beggar, let's say, you'll be able to remotely donate money for food to them without having to find out which street corner they're begging on and give them some cash.

Ok, there are a couple of other benefits but I think you get the picture. On the one hand, this system doesn't require anything too far fetched, but on the other hand it is going to require the buy-in of either Pick n Pay or a similar scheme (and I can't think of one now), a helpful web and mobile application development team, and the marketing effort to spread the word (although a feel-good system like this would attract a lot of free publicity in the media and word-of-mouth). 
Once it becomes the defacto system of donating, there'll be no looking back though. What do you think?
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