One of my fascinations in life is watching how a small change in convenience for a routine transaction transforms it into something entirely new. Recently I went to my local ATM at Wells Fargo and noticed a prominent new option. I could donate money from my checking account to the American Red Cross for the benefit of Japan’s earthquake victims. All I needed to do was press a button, enter my amount, and done. I was already standing in front of the ATM. I had already entered my PIN number. It couldn’t have been easier. And so I gave.
There are lots of ways to donate money. Texting is easy, but still a level of convenience away from the ATM method. Web sites require wrestling with your credit card. I’ll bet the ATM method succeeds at a higher rate than any charity process every conceived, thanks to its ease of use and the context in which it puts the user.
When you withdraw cash from an ATM, you’re often thinking of some frivolous use for your money. Your serious expenses are generally paid by checks, electronic transfers, and credit cards. It’s hard to withdraw your drinking money while ignoring the call to feed a starving Japanese family.
The transformative part of this ATM-giving concept goes beyond its persuasiveness. I actually came away from it with a positive feeling for my bank. The cynic in me knows that corporations do this sort of thing to improve their image. But they nailed the interface so well that I actually enjoyed giving my money to the cause. My bank literally turned a small sacrifice into a small pleasure. Nicely done.
(Disclosure: I indirectly own some Wells Fargo stock.)