The charity decided to initiate the new approach because existing systems have proved problematic. Until now, charities have had to use a third-party supplier that processes donors' applications, collects the donations and holds donors' details on the charity's behalf. This incurs extra costs and makes it more difficult to keep track of donor records, thus impeding customer service.
The new system, which has been developed in association with the Charity Technology Trust, which aims to increase the efficiency of voluntary organisations by providing and developing new technologies, means that charities can control the entire online direct debit process.
The system, which was developed in six weeks by the Charity Technology Trust's corporate partners RSM and Water Aid, allows charities to treat online direct debits in the same way as paper direct debits, and enables them to easily collate donations with Gift Aid mandates and Data Protection Act tags. It also increases efficiency by checking donors' bank details in real time and reducing the amount of data entry done by the charity.
"It has been a great experience working with CTT and RSM on the development of this new system," said Water Aid's IT and internet manager Sue Fidler.
"They have delivered a great new product for the charity sector in a remarkably short time, on budget, and have constantly had a 'can do' attitude to the whole process."
Water Aid is asking supporters to use the new service as part of an annual appeal that goes out to 24 million households each year with water bills.