"Penny-On" began one night six years ago when Martin Dewhurst dreamt of a brand as recognisable as Coca-Cola but with the global impact of Unicef.

Dedicated to the goal of eliminating extreme poverty worldwide, his idea is simple yet effective.

Customers at the check-out of participating shops and businesses will be asked if they want to add 1p on to the price of their purchase, which will then be electronically transferred directly to the charity.

Antony Vernon-Riley, a Penny-On trustee, said: "If a penny went on every item that was purchased in the UK, the figure is almost too big to believe. It would turn out something like £80 million a week. That’s a huge number!"
 
The campaign aims to move fundraising away from the traditional model in which donations stuttering in only during well-publicised wars or natural disasters. Penny-On would instead provide a constant, sustainable flow of funds to make "giving part of the social fabric", Dewhurst said.

Charity of charities

The Penny-On Trust will act as "the charity of charities", channelling funds to established relief organisations with an emphasis on sustainable projects. All funds will be split between local causes – improving the community of the shoppers – and international causes.

The group has already chosen the Sahrawi refugee camps in Algeria – which Dewhurst and Vernon-Riley first visited in 2002 with an aid convoy - as their first international cause.

Five camps, now holding around 160,000 refugees, are home to those Sahrawi and their descendants who fled Western Sahara when Morocco annexed the former Spanish colony in 1975.

The campaign is still several months away from operating, but with another launch scheduled for London soon it is rapidly winning support from management consultants, international entrepreneurs and even the Jordanian royal family.

Outlets poised to join the campaign include retailers and airports, which have suggested donating 1p for every item of baggage checked in.

Julia Hausermann, campaign supporter and founder of human rights advocate group Rights and Humanity, said: "The Penny-On campaign provides a simple way in which all of us can play our part".