Shoppers could make donations to charity every time they pay for items by bank card or use a cashpoint under Government plans unveiled today to boost giving to good causes.

People could also be prompted to give money when they fill in tax returns or apply for passports, driving licences and other state services, the Cabinet Office suggested (see the Charity Giving guide).

The initiatives were among a range of measures set out in a consultation paper which ministers hope will make charitable giving – of money and time – a "social norm".

While Britons are generous with their money compared with those in almost all other countries, they rank only 29th for volunteering – spending 17 times more hours watching TV, it noted.

But ministers say there is evidence of a "latent demand to give" that could be tapped into using new technologies such as mobile phones and social networking.

Individuals and businesses need to be reminded of the "warm glow" that resulted from helping others, they concluded, with concerns about red tape and waste addressed to make giving easier.

The consultation document called on UK banks to look at copying a system used in Colombia that allows customers to make a donation each time they withdraw cash.

And it paved the way for a national "round up the pound" scheme which would allow people to give donate "change" when paying by debit or credit card.

The Pennies Foundation charity already operates the idea with retailers such as Domino's Pizza and ministers think it has the potential to generate "significant new funds" nationally.

A working group of businesses is to be set up in the new year to discuss how to expand it.

Taxpayer-funded schemes

Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude says the Government should not try to "compel" people to give but unveiled two taxpayer-funded schemes aimed at encouraging them to get involved.

Local donors' contributions to projects in the most deprived areas will be matched through a £50 million Community First Fund and £10 million match-funding will be available to voluntary projects.

Under-used Government buildings may also be opened up for charities to use with youngsters from one activity project being allowed today to use the historic Admiralty House.

Maude says the consultation – which runs until 9 March and will lead to firm proposals in the spring – is a key element of the Tories' "big society" agenda.

"Giving is too often caricatured as worthy and selfless, a one way street, but there's nothing wrong with doing things for each other and repaying kindnesses," he says.

"If we can agree as a society the values that underpin helping each other we can unlock huge potential for a stronger, bigger society."

'Giving should be easier'

John Low, chief executive of the Charities Aid Foundation, said: "Britain is a generous nation with a long history of supporting those most in need.

"This Green Paper is welcome as it seeks to kickstart some new initiatives which will make it easy to give and to build up existing ones.

"However, there is more that could be done to make it easier to take advantage of tax incentives, including reforming the Gift Aid system, improving access to Give As You Earn and encouraging all types of tax-effective giving.

"Every year around £750 million is lost in unclaimed Gift Aid alone and a third of UK adults don't know that they can give to charity tax-effectively.

"Many countries use Britain as an aspirational role model when developing their charity sectors but there are still lessons our Government can learn from the likes of the US, where tax relief is no more generous than ours but much simpler to understand, resulting in a higher up-take level."

Further reading/Key links

Top-up donations: Charity Giving
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