As a business proposition, this partnership has everything to commend it - minimal or non-existent set-up and running costs for both partners and a guaranteed income stream. And the concept is simple. It takes the direct route to where the money is: cash machines.
The idea of giving bank customers the option of donating to charity when they use an HSBC ATM machine was first explored in Mexico in 2002. The trial there was successful, so the UK arm of the bank decided to replicate the experiment here. After confirming the logistics with its IT team, the facility was launched in November 2005. When customers at HSBC's 3,000 cash machines in the UK inserted their cards, they were presented with the usual menu of options, with one addition - the option to donate to charity.
But the bank also had to determine which charities would benefit. According to Peter Bull, manager of HSBC in the Community, it did not want to impose its own corporate inclinations about charitable giving on a scheme designed to encourage its customers to give their own money. So HSBC employees were polled about the causes and charities they would like to see benefit.
The nature of the facility meant that only well-known, nationwide charities could be involved. "The names must be easily recognisable," says Bull. "You can't have much detail on the ATM screen, so the names need to speak for themselves." Cancer Research UK, Mencap, the British Heart Foundation, ChildLine, Help the Aged and WWF emerged as the favourites from the staff vote. A seventh charity, BBC Children in Need, occupies the last space. This space can also be given to one-off, temporary appeals, such as the BBC's Saving Planet Earth campaign.
The scheme has so far raised £190,000 for the charities involved. "We haven't got anything against which to benchmark it, and I'd like the figure to be higher, but it's about gradual awareness-raising," says Bull. "We've seen the number creeping up on a monthly basis."
Cancer Research UK has received £50,000 from the scheme so far. Paul Farthing, director of corporate partnerships at the charity, says it represents a departure from traditional methods of charity fundraising. "This is changing the ways in which people give money," he says. "Historically, charities have relied on sending potential donors something or phoning them, then they decide whether to respond. That's the push approach. This is about pull - getting people to give as and when they feel motivated to do so."
According to HSBC, more than 8,600 donations have been made by ATM in the past 18 months. The current income from the scheme might be small when judged in terms of the hundreds of thousands of people who use HSBC machines every day, but Farthing says ATM giving could build over time into something much more significant.