We’ve all adapted to shopping online and picking up our favourite meals from the curbside during the pandemic. As we’ve started to go back to whatever normal is, one thing that’s been left behind is carrying cash and change around with us.

That’s been great for our George Costanza-like wallets and purses, but it also means we don’t have a loonie to give to local charities when we’re at the till.

Solving this problem for charities is the mission of Burlington-based startup tiptap. Their product is a touchless NFC terminal used by transit services, festivals and charities to offer quick transactions. Their terminals can be placed in businesses in place of donation boxes to allow customers to tap a donation using their debit or credit card. The units are completely self-sufficient and the store doesn’t have to do anything more than provide a space for the unit.

Tiptap’s Mark Jordan said their goal is to be more than just another payment solution.

“There’s many payment solutions out there. What really defines us is we’re there to help those helping others. That’s been the core when you see what we’re doing right now – the focus on charities and not-for-profits,” Jordan said.

Jordan is the Managing Director for the tiptap Foundation, a registered charity and the giving arm of tiptap. Beyond its work supporting charities, Jordan said the foundation is focused on one specific macro issue – ending homelessness. 

“It’s one of those causes that literally has been put front and centre, especially over the past two years. We’re seeing more and more people who are experiencing homelessness,” he said.

In 2020, the foundation connected with the late Ron Doyle on the A Better Tent City Project at the former Lot 42 site in Kitchener. Now located at 49 Ardelt Ave. in Kitchener, the project focuses on ensuring people are housed and offering services to help residents find permanent housing, employment or other social needs. 

The conversation led to the tiptap Foundation collecting donations for the project at pop-up events across the community.

“We just felt like it was a perfect opportunity to do something and get engaged with this really progressive, innovative approach to helping end homelessness and help them raise awareness and funds,” Jordan said.

The campaign to support A Better Tent City ran from June 3 to Sept. 6 and raised enough funds for three additional tiny homes.

“It’s generated a ton of awareness and funds. Building on that, we’re expanding the movement to Toronto with the Toronto Alliance to End Homelessness on a campaign called See It. Face It. End It. We’re shining a spotlight on people who are actually making a difference on the frontlines,” Jordan said.

In Waterloo Region, the tiptap Foundation also supports collecting donations for The Food Bank of Waterloo Region and the Toasty Toes Waterloo Region fund. Sharon Gilroy-Dreher, the founder of Toasty Toes, said that tiptap is an excellent way for people to donate quickly and easily when they’re visiting a shop or restaurant. There are currently 25 businesses with tiptap terminals for donating to Toasty Toes, including Four All Ice Cream, Taco Farm and Lady Glaze Doughnuts

Four All Ice Cream in Uptown Waterloo
has a Toasty Toes tiptap terminal.

“There’s no cost to the store, they’re just able to partner with us to say we support Toasty Toes and we’re inviting our customers to join us,” Gilroy-Dreher said.

Toasty Toes began in 2013 out of a social media post to honour what would have been Gilroy-Dreher’s mother’s 80th birthday. That first year, she collected 492 pairs of socks from friends and family for local support agencies. In 2019, over 100 businesses and other organizations donated more than 130,000 pairs of new socks to agencies supporting people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

With the pandemic, Gilroy-Dreher recognized that in-person donations of physical goods would be impossible. She said that the charity would typically collect and donate 30,000 to 40,000 pairs of socks a year for local support organizations.

Gilroy-Dreher contacted some organizations to ask if monetary donations would be acceptable in place of the socks and said that their reaction was positive.

“They said they never wanted to seem ungrateful, but many of them are understaffed and short on space and time. So when I brought in 40,000 pairs of socks in one day, it’s very overwhelming for nonprofits to manage,” she said.

Toasty Toes now partners with the Kitchener Waterloo Community Foundation on a fund to continue supporting local agencies, including Family & Children’s Services of the Waterloo Region Foundation, House of Friendship, oneROOF Youth Services and others.

“The fund supports in a way that meets the needs better for the groups we serve. It gives people a way to donate directly or using tiptap at a local business,” Gilroy-Dreher said.

Being able to tap a donation makes giving much more straightforward, Jordan said.

“Very few people are carrying cash anymore. That trend has been happening for a while and it’s increased, combined with people not wanting to physically handle money. But charities rely tremendously on those types of impulse, in-the-moment donations. We’re helping those charities not only fill that gap, but also move into a new era of where fundraising is going and where transactions are going in the future – we’re helping these organizations with their digital transformations without them having to invest in technology,” Jordan said.