Cashless donations: Back in 2016, Francesca Hodgson and her business partner Andrew O’Brien were concerned by the impact on the charity sector by the reduction in the use of cash and decided to do something about it. Goodbox was the result.

They were right to be concerned as it is now clear that cash is no longer king in its physical form. In a blog article by David Fagelman, Director of Enryo, an independent consultancy supporting the financial services industry, their research suggests that according to UK Finance, cash will account for just 1 in 30 consumer transactions by 2029 (1bn transactions overall compared with 20.4bn transactions in 2010). Displaced by debit and credit cards, the diminishing use of cash could spell disaster for charities who remain heavily reliant on cash.

We hear from Francesca Hodgson as to how her 10 years working in the non-profit sector sparked what could be the biggest digital innovation for charity giving so far. It is a simple solution so it seems incredible that it was not introduced sooner. Travellers are familiar with, and importantly, happy to pay for their commute via tap and pay. People use their credit and debit cards to pay for everything from an expensive luxury car through to a cup of coffee so it seems logical that donating to charity using a similar method would follow.”I launched Goodbox in 2016 with my friend and business partner Andrew O’Brien after seeing how desperately the sector needed digital innovation and a cashless donation solution. There wasn’t ever a cartoon light bulb moment as such, just a concept that evolved through my collaboration with Andrew. I have to pass the credit for the initial concept over to Andrew and through our partnership, a lot of hard work and support of an angel investor we were able to start conceptualising and testing GoodBox back in 2016.

My family life and upbringing were certainly key in developing my passion for innovation and philanthropy. I grew up in a creative environment, surrounded by self-starters and we were continually inspired. That doesn’t mean we always finished the latest and greatest venture, but we are certainly always on the go! One of my father’s most successful ventures was writing a book back at the dawn of the internet called ‘How to Build a PC’ so I have certainly been immersed in the benefits of technology from a very early age!

We have been extremely lucky to build an amazing team at GoodBox who have helped us pioneer some truly innovative digital solutions that make it easy for museums, religious organisations, charities and other good causes to take donations through card payments. Not only do our terminals take the payment, they can also easily switch between campaigns and show multimedia promotions to encourage more people to donate. I question why a simple concept has not not come.

Google’s Female Founder Programme and beating Imposter System
I’d be lying if I said it has been an easy four years. We have had to overcome many hurdles to get to where we are today, and on a personal level, I am always grappling with imposter syndrome! However, I feel incredibly fortunate to be where we are today and I’m thankful to all the women – from the suffragettes to the present day – who fought fiercely for women’s rights and opportunities for future generations. I was recently very fortunate to be selected for the Female Founders programme at Google for Start-Ups which was an incredible honour and gave me an opportunity to meet other inspirational female founders. While I have experienced gender related issues in my working life, I try not to hold on to those memories. I have always tried to focus on the opportunities rather than dwell on any negatives (even if they do make me want to scream sometimes!). The key for me is a balanced representation in business and whilst there are still improvements required, we are certainly making good progress in UK workplaces.

I always knew that starting a business would not be for the faint hearted. But along the way I’ve realised the importance of trying to enjoy the journey even in the tough and frustrating times.

The main thing is that you are prepared to learn from each failure and have the courage to continue to grow and evolve. A Winston Churchill quote that summarises this perfectly is: “Success is not final; failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.”

This quote has continued to inspire me even during difficult times, encouraging me to dust myself off and keep moving.

Inspiring Role Models
I have countless female role models that inspire me, but one who had particular impact is Dame Steve (Stephanie) Shirley. (Listen to KWIB’s interview with Dame Shirley). I would recommend every woman try and find the time to read her amazing book ‘Let It Go’. As a woman now in her 80’s she battled through huge adversity to build the world’s first all-female software business. She even changed her name to Steve as she felt it would help sales if her customers thought she was male! As a child she arrived in the UK on the ‘Kinder Train’ from Germany having escaped the Nazi’s. I have been fortunate enough to meet Steve (I just reached out after reading about her in the British Airways magazine and being truly inspired) and she remains a key role model of mine, having given away most of her considerable fortune to amazing non-profit causes.

A bright future despite the pandemic
The future for GoodBox is certainly bright and we have lots of exciting things happening in 2021 and beyond. Unfortunately, I can’t elaborate on these at the moment, but we look forward to helping and supporting the charity sector as it needs even more support since the pandemic paused or cancelled so many vital fundraising events and campaigns in 2020. We have also recently welcomed an incredible Chief Product Officer into the business mid last year who is going to help us amplify our product offerings and change the future of the business.

It would appear that Francesca’s optimism is not misplaced as a special  Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) report published in October 2020 reveals that in the face of adversity, people do step up. Despite Covid, the overall proportion of people making charitable donations remains broadly the same as in previous years and perhaps even more remarkably given the uncertain financial times people find themselves in, the report also states that in the six month period January – June 2020, the public donated £800 million more than in the same period in 2019 with a total of £5.4 billion raised.

Unsurprisingly the opportunities for face to face fundraising interactions have been severely curtailed by the pandemic which is why developments such as Goodbox are vital to help the many charities continue with their work.