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Cathedrals trial contactless giving

19 January 2018

Newcastle Cathedral

CATHEDRALS might enjoy a boost in donations from this year, if a pilot scheme to introduce contactless-card payment-points for visitors pays off.

Cathedrals around the UK began trials of contactless “donation stations” at the end of last year, to make it easier for congregations and visitors to support their upkeep.

The first five terminals, provided by the technology company GoodBox, were installed in Romsey Abbey, and Ely, Guildford, St Edmundsbury, and Newcastle Cathedrals, in November and December.

Three more are due to be installed in Chichester, Liverpool, and St Paul’s Cathedrals during the next ten days.

Besides posting cash into the traditional donation box, visitors to these cathedrals can now select a donation amount on a touch screen on the terminal, before holding their contactless bank card or smart phone (linked with Apple Pay or Android Pay) against the screen, to donate.

The Dean of Newcastle, the Very Revd Christopher Dalliston, was the first to donate £5 to the cathedral via the new terminal, which was installed on 20 December.

“Bearing in mind we have a running cost of over £2000 per day, but don’t charge an entrance fee, we hope that introducing contactless payment will make it easier for people to give in the way that they want,” he said. “We’d like to ensure that everyone can continue to enjoy and appreciate this magnificent building for years to come.”

A spokeswoman from Newcastle Cathedral said on Tuesday that the pilot was already showing signs of success. “We absolutely love it,” she said. “It was an easy process to install, so easy to use, and, though it is too early to see whether donations will increase significantly, we have counted more donations than usual since it was installed.”

The terminal was ideal for retiring collections and visitor donations, she said, and would work well in larger churches that attracted tourists. “We have had positive feedback from the congregation and visitors, who say it is easy to use and not ‘in your face’.

“We have set the limit to £5, but there has been no grumbling from anyone saying that this is too much: and, if it was, this can easily be lowered. We are really pleased with it.”

Gloucester, Bristol, Hereford, Southwell, and Sheffield Cathedrals will take part in the final phase, next month, with a view to offering the model to other cathedrals at the end of March, once the trial period has ended and the figures have been collated.

The national procurement officer for the Church of England, Nicolas Jenni, said on Wednesday that the purpose of the trial period was to ensure that the terminals were cost-effective for cathedrals.

“In an increasingly cashless society, we are keen to ensure that visitors to cathedrals have the opportunity to give in a variety of different ways if they wish to do so,” he said. “Cathedrals are vital to the communities they serve, and this trial is about giving them the tools to do their important work.”

The trial is part of a desire in the C of E to make it easier for congregations and visitors to donate to the upkeep of church buildings. This includes a pilot of handheld contactless payment terminals, which were distributed to 60 churches across the country in July to be handed round when the collection is taken during services (News, 30 June).

The Church Times understands that the parish trial (which, unlike the cathedral trial, was undertaken by three different suppliers) has now been completed. An announcement on the findings is expected next month.

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