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Brief Published: 29 Sep 2020

Alternative Currencies Encourage Local Spend & Charity

US city Tenino has created a new micro-currency printed on sheets of wood

Newly created micro-currencies are circulating in Australia and US city Tenino in a bid to support small businesses and communities affected by the pandemic. We explore how these initiatives reflect the wider context of Covid-inspired localism, and the fundraising sector’s pandemic-accelerated future.

As the world faces an economic crisis (see Financial Wellness for more), the Royal Australian Mint has released the Donation Dollar; an AU$1 coin designed to encourage owners to give it away to charities and individuals in need. Launched this month, the coin is distinguished by a green centre decorated with gold concentric circles – symbolising the ripple effect of the positive impact each donation can make. 

To help remind Australians to donate to worthy causes, 25 million Donation Dollars (which are legal tender) will be produced over the next few years – around one for every Australian. The initiative was inspired by a survey conducted by the Royal Australian Mint, which found that 57% of Australians would be more likely to donate the coin if they found it in their change (Royal Australian Mint, 2020). 

As we explore in Next-Gen Charity and Aspirational Altruists, the charity sector was already in flux pre-pandemic, and emerging initiatives such as Australia’s Donation Dollar indicate that Covid-19 will accelerate this further. For more on Australasian altruism, see Aiding Resilience & Wellbeing: The Australasian Perspective.

To help low-income households and small businesses struggling during the pandemic, US city Tenino has also created a new micro-currency printed on sheets of wood. Launched in June, the bills are only issued to residents who can prove they are facing Covid-caused financial difficulties, allowing them to claim 12 notes ($300) a month. The notes – inscribed with the words “Habemus autem sub potestate”, Latin for “We’ve got this handled” – can only be spent in Tenino.

Brands should expect pandemic-fuelled localist leanings to remain post-Covid. According to a ZypMedia survey, 68% of US consumers who’ve been shopping mostly locally during the crisis say they will continue to do so post-pandemic. For more, see New-Era Living: Local Cocooning & Community.