Oxfam Prepares an NFC Trial and Raises Mobile Payment Awareness

April 13, 2015         By: Steven Anderson

It’s not odd to think of a charitable organization like Oxfam wanting to raise awareness of, say, cancer or combating poverty.

However, it might not be so immediately obvious that a charity would launch an awareness effort for mobile payments, which Oxfam is reportedly set to do thanks to a trial of near-field communications (NFC) services to make donations.

While the awareness program isn’t so much about an awareness of NFC and mobile payments in particular so much as it is about Oxfam’s new ability to accept mobile payments as a means to make donations, the concept will actually serve both purposes at once. With the new program, users will be able to start the donation process with Oxfam just by approaching a poster hung in an Oxfam shop window and tapping it with an NFC-enabled device.

The tap isn’t enough to actually make a donation, of course, so there’s no worry about accidentally signing over your life savings to Oxfam because you got your phone too close to a poster. Instead, Oxfam will respond to your tappings with a pre-formatted SMS message that needs to be used to process the actual donation.

Oxfam decided to go this route following a successful trial of NFC tools run by Cancer Research, who put two such posters in London shop windows back in January.

That test was somewhat more extensive, however, and featured contactless debit and credit cards to start a two pound sterling donation at a point of sale terminal directly behind the window glass.

This is a much simpler test from Oxfam, and may well pave the way for larger-scale concepts later. It certainly doesn’t hurt matters that there are two major payment platforms looking to put NFC to work in Apple Pay and Google Wallet. While neither platform is massively¬†mainstream, both are certainly gaining ground; Apple Pay recently added a string of merchants to its roster, and in the future, is set to bring in several more with larger numbers likely to follow.

Though the question of whether or not NFC will prove to be the dominant mobile payment method of the future is a valid one, even if it doesn’t prove to be the conquering method some expect and/or hopee for, there should still be plenty of room for NFC to be used as a payment method.

If it is, then tests like those embarked on by Cancer Research and Oxfam will likely prove valuable, since the infrastructure will be in place to take donations using these technologies. Just about anything that results in more donations is valuable to any charity,¬†and it’s exciting that mobile payments are now viewed as a viable channel.