Calling every Australian to donate a special dollar

Tue, 1 Sep 2020

What happens when two young creatives at one of Australia’s leading advertising companies devise a plan to give life to the old saying: ‘If only everyone gave a dollar…’’?

This week, the plan came together, and Adam Ferrie and his creative partner of more than 10 years Peter Cvetkovski held the proof of their idea in their hand and soon, many more Australians will be able to do the same.

In what is believed to be an international first, the Australian Mint is releasing a dollar coin called the Donation Dollar. It is stamped with a call to action and a unique design that encourages the recipient of the dollar to donate the coin.

It’s a simple premise – don’t spend the coin, donate it. And if every Australian acted on that impulse once a month to give away their Donation Dollar, Australians would raise $300 million for charity every year.

The idea was hatched close to two and a half years ago when Adam and Peter did what creatives do – and flipped conventional thinking.

“It’s one of those things where you do the “What if?’’ – we look at each other and go; “Could it be done? Well, why not? So, we have back and forth where we’re working with each other in breaking down problems,’’ Peter explains.

The pair from advertising and creative agency Saatchi and Saatchi have worked for charities and done their share of probono work, helping with communications or ideas for fundraising. But this plan went to another level.

Adam says: “We just got to this point where we realised that there all these charities out there, they all have a great cause, they’ve all got a great story to tell but they all end up spending time and money on trying to raise awareness and raise funds.’’

“We thought that time and money could be better spent on the issue that they’re there to support…We had this idea to invert the problem, to look at it another way. Instead of it being the responsibility of the charities to go out and ask for donations, we thought we’d explore that decision of putting that in people’s hands and making that daily reminder, when they receive their change.’’

The result is a partnership with the Australian Mint to produce 25 million one-dollar coins – one for each Australian. Each Donation Dollar carries the words Give To Help Others and the standard kangaroos give way on one side to a green middle that hides a rippled tactile centrepiece. The ripple is a deliberate connection to the perceived impact one small donation can have on making a difference. As the dollar continually changes hands through countless transactions, the green colour wears off the coin to reveal the ripple beneath.

Central to the idea was Adam and Pete’s view that a dollar was the ideal currency to use for the greater good.

“There were lots of reasons why we chose the dollar,’’ Adam says. “There were things we’d learned from charities and our own experiences, [that] when you donate digitally, there’s that feeling, it takes away the tangible aspect of it, not the physical thing of putting a coin into a tin or making a donation to a homeless person…. We’re trying to bring that physical thing, the connection to the person you’re helping.’’

The Australian Mint had already shown its willingness to embrace new ideas – there were themed coins, on the ABC children’s program Mr Squiggle, for example, commemorative coins around the Centenary of Anzac and Federation, and issues-based coins, including Landcare. But this initiative represents a first – not just in the call to action but also the green coloured centrepiece.

Of course, the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic and the widespread embrace of card-only transactions would on the face of it suggest the timing could have been better. Far from it, Adam explains.

“There’s been an increase in demand in coins from the banks, which we found really interesting,’’ he says. “Although we may be moving towards cashless transaction, it’s the less disadvantaged among us who rely on coins. The homeless person on the street are the ones who actually need coins, and at this point in time, those charities are really in need, so we still feel that’s it not an ideal situation but it does present another way for those people who don’t have the digital aspects to get hold some form of donation.’’

The Donation Dollar is officially launched on International Charity Day on Saturday (September 5). It is most definitely designed to be given away, not put in a coin album. With 25 million coins coming in circulation in the months ahead, it will not be rare or collectable, which underlines again the value in a large minting, rather than a small batch that could have created demand among collectors.

As Pete explains it: “I know there’s one [coin] out there for me, so when I do receive it “Wow, this is mine’ – you have a personal connection to the coin.’’

And then you should give it away.

The idea’s strength is its simplicity, not just in how it works but also the notion of giving that sits behind it. “I suppose the good thing is that we’re people who try to keep ideas alive, we keep pushing, if we come up against a wall, we try to find a way around it,’’ Adam says.

“One of the great things is that we work for an agency Saatchi and Saatchi their tag line or mantra is that ‘Nothing Is Impossible’, so we were surrounded by a company that believes in what we were doing, and did everything in their power to support it as well.

And once the idea got out there, it took no time at all for its value to be seen.

Pete says: “It’s one of those things where everybody has the same reaction to it – they step back and think about it, ‘And It’s so simple, why hasn’t it been done?’ Or, ‘It’s so simple, can it be done?’ There all these things going through the person’s mind at the time and then the penny drops, ‘Holy, Moley, this is brilliant’…and the realisation that this could be really big. The best ideas are the ones that are really simple. The ones that don’t rely on technology or lots of infrastructure…’’

The pair can feel the energy generated by the successful delivery of a great idea. “It’s exciting to think that an idea can come from a piece of paper, over a chat can result in something that goes beyond Australia and be embraced by the rest of the world,’’ Adam says.

“And this is the first one that has the interactive element, that tells the impact it’s had on the world.’’

Visit the Donation Dollar website

Register for the webinar that explains how you can make the most of the Donation Dollar. Watch Adam Ferrie and Tim Costello introduce the Donation Dollar from 11.30 am AEST, Monday, September 7 (You can also catch it on repeat by signing up)