Magazine

Parking Meters Put to Work Collecting Donations for Charity

Melissa Bean Sterzick

In economically challenging times, it’s wise to give the public an easy and expedient way to make charitable donations. When every cent counts, the time spent writing and mailing a check or going online to make a donation can be a stumbling block for even the most altruistic individual.

Cities have employed outdated parking meters to collect money for charities and other causes for many years. It’s a simple fundraiser to administer and puts to use infrastructure already in place that would otherwise have to be removed and discarded. The meters don’t collect much – older models take only coins and those add up slowly when offered as donations.

A new strategy makes parking meters set up for donation even more effective. Using credit- and debit card-enabled meters gives contributors the option to use their card to give in larger quantities.

The program has been successful in generating money for specific charities, including the Downtown San Diego Partnership’s Movin’ Home campaign. Last year, IPS Group donated $25,000 in credit card-enabled solar-powered meters to the downtown San Diego area. Called Donation Stations, they are painted bright red for better visibility.

“By using a credit card-enabled parking meter to accept charitable donations, cities are able to maximize giving, while providing a very convenient means to donate,” said IPS Group Chief Operating Officer Chad Randall.

The city of Athens, GA, has been using four of its retired parking meters to collect donations for the homeless since 2003. They are the spin-dial variety and don’t take cards. Athens will soon install credit card-capable meters to replace the existing meters used for its humanitarian efforts. City officials said the replacement meters should go a long way to helping their homeless population.

“Athens has many homeless, and a lot of the local community members wanted to figure out a way to better help these people, and so a concerted effort to coordinate donations was established,” said Athens Parking Director Laura Miller.

“The existing equipment accepts only coins, but the new meters will allow people to make a bigger donation than just a handful of change,” Miller said. “The ability to donate greater sums is going to have a huge impact.”

Miller’s department collects the change from the meters, and after it is deposited, the bank sends a check to the Northeast Georgia Homeless and Poverty Coalition.

Shea Post, the coalition’s Executive Committee Chair, and Executive Director of Athens Area Homeless Shelters, said the existing meters gather around $400 every six months. While that is not a lot of money, it is used well, Post said.

“We purchase bus passes for clients, for example,” she said. “One of the biggest barriers to finding employment for the homeless is the ability to transport themselves around town.”

In San Diego, all revenue from the Donation Stations has been given to the Downtown San Diego Partnership Foundation’s Movin’ Home campaign. It provides homeless individuals with supplies and services, including move-in and hygiene kits, and preparation for job interviews.

“We have been pleased with the results thus far, and the data demonstrate that larger donations are happening via credit card,” IPS Group’s Randall said. “We are looking forward to expanding this program both locally and on a national basis.

“Using traditional parking meters for donations is not exactly new, but using single-space meters that also accept credit cards is a first,” he said. “Our hope is that this additional payment flexibility will lead to more frequent and larger individual donations for these humanitarian programs.”

Bahija Hamraz, District Director at Downtown San Diego Partnership, said the meters collect donations, but also create interest that draws donations in larger amounts from other sources.

“We are very grateful for these stations,” Hamraz said. “We do want to work on enhancing the marketing around the campaign. It’s the promotion that we do that is attracting donations from organizations when they see what we are doing. Obviously, the visibility is key in getting the message out.”

The parking industry serves millions upon millions every day. All of the infrastructure, technology and manpower behind it have untapped potential – potential to do more for the world than park cars.

“The parking industry has clearly demonstrated a willingness to use our technology in a very positive, selfless way,” Randall said. “It also demonstrates that no matter who you are or what you do, you can always find a way to give back.”



For more information about the Donation Stations campaign or IPS Group itself, visit http://www.ipsgroupinc.com. Melissa Bean Sterzick can be reached at Melissa@parkingtoday.com.

Article Abstract from January, 2013




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