When Sandra Verbon returned from travels in Europe and the Caribbean, she often brought home coins and bills in foreign currencies, socking them away in a drawer for use on a future trip.
During a later brunch conversation with friends, she found out many did the same, and research later confirmed that very few travelers take the time to get rid of leftover currency. That’s when the lightbulb went off: while worthless in the U.S., all that money has latent value that could translate into real cash for globally oriented charities.
Through her newly founded nonprofit, International Giving, Ms. Verbon is now developing a kiosk to accept tender that might have otherwise become a forgotten souvenir. The machines act like reverse ATMs, accepting major currencies and distributing the converted dollar proceeds equally among preselected charities advertised on the machine’s video screen. “The charities are just drooling for me to do it, because it’s found money for them,” she says.
Ms. Verbon’s bold long-term vision includes a kiosk in every international airport and cruise-ship terminal, tapping into the more than 130 million international travelers that pass through the U.S. each year.
But she’s already run up against some obstacles in her own backyard. City rules don’t allow the solicitation of donations in Atlanta airport terminals, even electronically, and becoming a bona fide concessionaire would be costly and time-consuming. Airlines like British Airways and American Airlines, along with many airports themselves, have implemented lower-tech versions of the idea, raising millions of dollars by collecting money from passengers on board or in transparent coin boxes situated in the terminals. UNICEF, the beneficiary of the Change for Good program, even accepts coins sent by mail.
Despite the competition and the roadblocks so far, Ms. Verbon believes the convenience of her kiosks (still in prototyping), along with the ability to feature a more diverse array of charities, will set her solution apart.
“I just know it’s going to work,” she says.
For more information, contact Ms. Verbon at email@example.com.