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Mission Matters Insights

Should I Donate to Checkout Charities?

May 01, 2015

Advantages and Disadvantages your nonprofit should consider before soliciting checkout donations from customers.

Micro-donations, or very small amounts of money donated by millions of people, are more than just donation jars at checkout stations nowadays. “Would you like to round up to the next dollar to benefit this charity?” is a question you’ve probably heard countless times in your retail experience. Rounding up to the nearest dollar could only tack another $0.25 on to your bill, leading to the probable favorable answer from a lot of people when prompted with this question.

The Upside of Checkout Charity

Donating to charity takes work and consideration, but checkout charity provides a sense of ease in supporting charitable efforts. Other benefits include:

  • Simplicity - It is hard to ignore how simple it is to donate to a meaningful cause when you’re at the checkout counter of any retail store and already have your wallet open.
  • Companies and Retail Stores can build up image - By supporting charities through these simple donations, companies can easily create a positive reputation for themselves.
  • Inexpensive - Through checkout charity, the company or retail store supporting the donation efforts is merely the vehicle through which customers donate to the charity, essentially not costing the company anything at all.
  • Donor Impact - Checkout charity attracts “feel good” donors who are motivated by the impulse to feel like they are benefiting society through their micro-donation.

The Downside of Checkout Donation Efforts

Many feel bombarded when prompted with the question, “Are you willing to round your purchase up to support this cause?” Many people are firm in their reasoning that donating to charity should take more time and effort, rather than checkout charity which:

  • Catches customers off-guard - Many customers have expressed concern that checkout charity makes them feel pressured to donate. Waiting in line in front of a dozen customers heightens the pressure to blindly agree to round up your purchase.
  • Inadequate information- The busy, fast paced nature of a retail environment does not leave room for much explanation about the charity that your donation is benefiting.
  • Is not relevant to the company /retail store - Customers are more likely to be willing to give up an extra dollar to a charity that relates to the store they are shopping at. It makes sense for a grocery store to support a charity that is working to combat hunger, for example, not a children’s clothing store nudging for donations to an Alzheimer’s Research foundation.

Despite the negative feedback checkout charity in recent years, it has proven to be a very successful venture for many nonprofits. An important part of nonprofit success is demonstrating strong corporate social responsibility, something that checkout charity does with great ease. Even if customers decline the offer to donate, the nonprofit’s name is still being spread. It is important to be aware of and consider the potential customer discomfort with checkout charity efforts before you partnering with a company or retail store.

Questions? Contact any member of our Not-for-Profit Services Team.

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