Years ago, it was common for nonprofit executives I knew to gripe that instead of digging into their own coffers, corporate partners were creating programs that moved customers to make small contributions when checking out.
A first-of-its-kind study reveals why nonprofits have gone from complaining about such alliances to actively seeking them out: they are raising huge amounts of money for charity while casting halos on their business sponsors.
We identified 63 checkout charity programs that had raised more than $1 million each in 2012 and generated a collective $358 million for good causes. Looking back over the last 30 years, those programs have attracted more than $2.3 billion to fight disease, combat hunger and tackle other problems.
Such point-of-sale philanthropy has grown more diverse and sophisticated over the years. Among the leading tactics employed:
At checkout, consumers are asked if they’d like to “purchase” what is typically a paper icon (e.g., a sneaker or pink ribbon) for a set dollar amount (usually $1, $3 or $5) to benefit a designated charity. The icon is then displayed in the store. Partners of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals have raised hundreds of millions through the group’s “Miracle Balloon” pinup program over the years.
Similar to the ‘pinup’ program, consumers are asked to make a flat donation upon checkout, typically in a fixed dollar increment.
A canister, box or other collection device is placed at point of purchase with messaging describing what will be done with a consumer’s spare change. Ronald
McDonald House Charities received $27.9 million in 2012 from coin collection in over 13,000 McDonald’s locations.
Consumers are asked upon checkout if they’d like to round up their purchase to the nearest dollar increment with the overage going to a designated charity. For example, a consumer agrees to round up a $12.47 purchase, $0.53 goes to charity and the consumer pays an even $13.00. JCPenney raised $10.4 million in 2012 over 6 months using this tactic to benefit seven nonprofit organizations.
While most initiatives involve brick-and-mortar retailers the number one consumer donation producing program in 2012 was eBay Giving Works: its US participants generated more than $54 million for thousands of nonprofits. Throughout the year, eBay Giving Works empowers sellers to earmark a percentage of their sales proceeds to charity and also invites buyers to make voluntary contributions. Since 2003, eBay Giving Works has generated over $240 million in charitable contributions in the US alone.
The largest in-store program of 2012, a six-week Miracle Balloon Campaign by Walmart and Sam’s Club, brought in $41.6 million to benefit Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Since 1987, this program has raised more than $556.8 million of CMNH.
The third largest consumer donation campaign was a year-round coin collection effort at 13,000 McDonald’s restaurants that raised $27.9 million in 2012 to benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities. Between 1992 and 2012, the program raised $227.4 million.
Tapping into the power of such initiatives is not limited to titans of industries and mega-charities. We estimate that, for each of these million-dollar-plus campaigns, there are thousands of other programs ranging from hyperlocal single store efforts to national programs raising tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Advice on how to create a successful point of sale fundraising campaign (along with descriptions of America’s largest programs) is available in the free, downloadable report: America’s Checkout Charity Champions.