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Vending Machines and Charity – A Perfect Partnership?

Recently, you might have read about a pop-up T-shirt vending machine in Berlin.

For €2, it offered to sell you a plain white t-shirt. But upon taking your money, rather than dispensing a shirt, the machine would instead display sobering images of the sort of sweatshops that were necessary to make such a “cheap” shirt.

The pop-up vending machine was actually a social experiment, organised as part of Fashion Revolution Day, with the intention of raising awareness of poor working conditions across the world.

Fashion Revolution Day took place on April 24, and it was launched with the slogan “who made my clothes?” This pop-up vending machine provided a shocking answer to that very question, exposing people to a seldom-seen side of the fashion industry.

After seeing footage of exploited workers, shoppers were asked whether they still wanted to buy the t-shirt. They were then presented with two options – buy, or donate.

90% of shoppers chose not to buy the t-shirt, and instead donated their money to the cause – thus proving that vending machines really can serve to make the world a better place.

It made us wonder about the other ways in which charities might make use of vending machines. We soon realised that vending machines and charity make for a perfect partnership.

All charities are either looking to raise funds, or to raise awareness. Vending machines, which are found in buildings of all descriptions all around the world, offer a perfect medium for achieving both.

Fashion Revolution Day provided a good example of how a charity might use a vending machine to raise much needed funds – or, at the very least, awareness of a cause.

There’s no reason why other charities cannot follow suit. Of course, should more and more “social experiments” of this nature take place, eventually the public would grow wise to such practices, and these machines would probably lose their effectiveness.

But even then, there’s no reason why charities cannot use vending machines in a more traditional capacity.

Some charities make use of accessories to raise funds whilst spreading their message. Is there any reason why we haven’t yet seen Poppy Appeal poppies in vending machines? Or Help for Heroes rubber bands? Or Comic Relief Red Noses?

Millions of people across the country visit vending machines every day, which means that charities might be overlooking a major fundraising opportunity.

There could even be an arrangement whereby, for a set period of time, all products in vending machines are a tiny bit more expensive. Not enough to be noticeable, but enough to make a difference.

Were even 1% of the monthly revenue from vending machines donated to charity, very serious money could be raised. Indeed, the UK vending machine annual market turnover is approximately £1.65bn. 

If charities can collect in stores and on high streets, then there’s no reason why they cannot also find a way to collect using vending machines. After all, when people use vending machines, they’re usually treating themselves. Fundraising at this point might prove an opportunity to engage people when they’re at their most generous.