Support employees during lockdown with a virtual tip jar

As fallout from COVID-19 continues and service industry businesses are forced to remain closed or limit their hours or capacity, their employees suffer. Many have lost their income and now face the prospects of no insurance coverage and no protection for unpaid rent and utilities. So what can you do to help them? In many places, a virtual tip jar is filling in the gap.

What is a virtual tip jar?

A virtual tip jar is a digital platform that allows people to pay money directly to specific individuals. Virtual tip jars have grown in popularity due to COVID-19. They allow patrons, families, and fans to support employees who face lost or reduced opportunities for work.

Anyone whose income has been directly impacted by a loss of work can benefit from a virtual tip jar, including those who work as

  • Bartenders
  • Restaurant employees (waitstaff, cooks, etc.)
  • Baristas
  • Hair stylists
  • Nail technicians and manicurists
  • Aestheticians
  • Tattoo artists
  • Retail workers
  • Musicians
  • Artists

Basically, anyone who has to interact directly with the public as part of their job could benefit from a tip jar.

How a virtual tip jar works

The beauty of virtual tip jars is their simplicity and ease of use, according to Melissa Corrigan, founder of virtualtipjars.org. What began as Corrigan creating a virtual tip jar for her Hampton Roads, Virginia, area neighbors in the service industry has grown into a nationwide effort. The goal is to make sure those in the service industry can receive tips from their customers, even if they’re not working.

“It takes a lot of time and effort to set up dedicated funds,” Corrigan said. “I know a lot of organizations are working hard and quickly to create financial support systems for others, but dealing with legalities to create funds takes time and can be complicated. The benefit of a virtual tip jar is that it’s a direct transaction — you’re getting money directly to the people who need it.”

Corrigan’s solution is a basic form that provides an avenue for simple one-to-one transactions. Restaurant waitstaff add their names and a direct link to their preferred payment app on the form; patrons can then access the list and click the links to send money directly to individuals. In some cases, virtual tip jars can also help employees avoid “pooled tips.” Virtual tip jars allow a direct cash infusion to one individual.

Virtual tip jars: 3 keys to success

1. Market your virtual tip jar

To get exposure to the largest possible audience, advertise your virtual tip jar the same way you’d market anything for your business. Some options include creating a QR code patrons can scan, posting on social media, and putting up printed materials in store windows. We’ve even seen individual servers tape QR codes on the back of their order-taking notepads — patrons then have a contactless, easy way to tip (if they don’t have cash).

2. Use platforms that don’t charge fees

Encourage your employees to avoid using any virtual platforms that charge recipients a fee to collect the money they’ve been given — some sites charge users to send money, while others don’t.

3. Make your virtual tip jar as simple as possible

No matter what format you use to create your virtual tip jar, it should be as clear and simple as possible.

JotForm provides an easy-to-use, customizable virtual tip jar template you can implement immediately. All you need to do is add your payment account information and share your virtual tip jar with clients. JotForm even enables you to integrate your form with one of 30 payment gateways, including Square and PayPal, to seamlessly accept online payments.

This article is originally published on Sep 23, 2020, and updated on Oct 05, 2020.
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