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Unlocking consumer-giving in the UK to help Ukraine

Special Interest Programme / Partner story

Photo credit: Dmytro Minyailo/DEC

When the war began in Ukraine in spring 2022, local people in some Ukrainian cities were forced to spend weeks in basements and bomb shelters to avoid the shelling. In addition, they struggled to find enough food for their families. In March 2022, Pennies, a UK-based charity working to grow micro-donations by partnering with retailers to support charities in need, wanted to respond to this growing humanitarian crisis.

The way it works is that customers in retail stores are prompted by the card machine or at an online checkout to donate a few pence, if they choose, while paying for goods. This is an affordable way for people to give on their own terms, without sharing any personal data. Pennies then collects the digital donations and distributes them to charities nominated by each retailer. Pennies makes sure that those pennies count for registered charities across the UK and Ireland.

Within days, and even hours in some cases, a roster of Pennies partners had moved to offer customers the chance to donate to Ukraine-supporting funds. This included Domino’s, Whitbread, Holland & Barrett, Sofology, Outdoor & Cycle Concepts, ASK Italian, Papa John’s, Planet Organic, Adnams, Avicenna Pharmacy, and Rontec roadside retail outlets around the UK. Consumers responded in record numbers, and ultimately over GBP 340,000 was donated through more than 1.1 million individual micro-donations from customers by late June 2022.

As a result of this generosity, the following charities were supported: the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal, Choose Love’s Ukraine Crisis Fundraiser, UK for UNHCR‘s Ukraine Emergency Appeal, and Oxfam Ireland’s Ukraine Crisis Appeal. In addition, in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, charities such as Depaul Ukraine worked in partnership to bring food baskets to those most in need, delivered by volunteer cyclists in the city.

“Micro-donations have been dramatically accelerating over the last two years,” says Alison Hutchinson, CEO of Pennies. “And now, even as we are starting to see the impact of war, and a perfect storm of economic conditions hit household budgets, the UK public continues to demonstrate its unwavering generosity.”

This grant falls under Oak Foundation’s Special Interest Programme (SIP), which reflects the Trustees’ interests in making dynamic, diverse, large, innovative, and challenging grants. You can read more about the programme by clicking here. You can learn more about Pennies on its website here.