Providence officials reveal costs, fees for new giving meters

Photo: Dan McGowan | WPRI 12

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – When Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza used his debit card to make the first donation to the city’s giving meters earlier this month, not all of his $100 contribution was earmarked for charity.

What city officials didn’t disclose until this week was that any use of a debit or credit card at the new donation stations or on the PVDGives website will come with several fees that will be paid out of the donation account, according to Victor Morente, a spokesperson for Elorza.

For the 10 orange giving meters installed in high-traffic areas throughout the city, that means 0.75% of any donation plus a flat fee of 25 cents, as well as any processing fees associated with the use of a card. Another 10 cents for each transaction will go to MacKay Meters, the company that provides single-space meters to the city.

In Elorza’s case, that means at least $1.05 of his donation will not go to charity. For someone who donates just $1, at least 35% of the contribution will be used on fees.

“These are typical fees,” Morente said, noting that any coins inserted into the giving meters are not subject to transaction fees.

The city spent approximately $1,000 per meter for installation costs, according to the mayor’s office. MacKay Meters is also paid $5.50 per month for each parking or giving meter in Providence, according to a contract reviewed by Eyewitness News.

But while parking meters generate thousands of dollars each month to offset any monthly fees, it is unclear how much revenue the giving meters will generate. Elorza has said he has set no expectations for the amount the city will receive in donations.

When it comes to online donations, Morente said the city must pay 2.85% for any contributions using a debit or credit card or 95 cents for someone who chooses to use an electronic check. Those fees go to Invoice Cloud, the company that provides the online donation platform.

At a press conference to unveil the giving meters, Elorza told reporters 100% of the donations would go to charity. But when Eyewitness News raised questions about transaction fees this week, Morente said the mayor meant that the entire donation would go to charity, after the fees. No one in city government is being paid solely to oversee the PVDGives program.

Morente said the city now plans to add a fee breakdown to the PVDGives website.

CharityWatch, an organization that grades nonprofits based on their spending, has said its top-rated charities spend at 75% of their budget on programming and spend no more than $25 to raise $100.

In Providence’s case, organizations that assist “individuals experiencing homelessness” will be eligible to apply for donations from PVDGives, according to the website. A five-member commission will decide which organizations receive the funds twice per year.

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Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan