Spare-Change Shortage Creates Cause-Marketing Opportunity

Quarters, nickels, dimes and pennies may not be the COVID-19 victims most people are thinking about. But for retailers around the country, coin shortages are a very real byproduct of a time when customers are not only shopping less in-store, but have been encouraged to pay electronically when there. 

For charities -- many of them facing desperate circumstances -- that’s an opportunity, says David Hessekiel, president and founder for Engage For Good, which focuses on cause-related marketing. He tells Marketing Daily how marketers and causes are trying to chase those coins.

Marketing Daily: So more brands and causes are using these “round up at the register” type of campaigns?

David Hessekiel: Yes. It’s one of the few silver linings of this whole COVID crisis. Because of the Federal Reserve’s coin shortage, retailers are hard-pressed to give consumers their 37 cents in change. So they are asking people to donate that to a charity they are supporting. 



And research from organizations like the Children’s Miracle Network, one of the most successful in this arena, has found that consumers don’t mind being asked to give. Convenience stores and mass merchants are especially likely to do this. Brands include companies like Walmart, Ace Hardware, Taco Bell and DQ. 

By the end of this year, I think we’ll have seen an increase of between 10% and 20% for this type of giving.

Marketing Daily: Besides Children’s Miracle Network, what are some of the biggest causes?

Hessekiel: St. Jude’s Hospital, Muscular Dystrophy Association, Boys and Girls Club, Share Our Strength. And some companies, like like Taco Bell’s Live Más Scholarship program, focus on their own initiatives. 

Marketing Daily: I saw a report recently that 83% of nonprofits have seen a decline in revenues since COVID struck, and that 71% have had to limit services.

Hessekiel: It’s an extremely trying time. For those aligned with the most pressing issues, like Feeding America and Share Our Strength, phones are ringing off the hook. And many health causes, like some cancer groups, are doing their best to point out how COVID makes their mission more urgent. But for those working on behalf of, let’s say, a rare orphan disease? It’s very tough.

Marketing Daily: Why is rounding up so easy for consumers to get behind?

Hessekiel: One reason is that it’s easy. By definition, you’re never giving away more than a dollar. It lets people get the good feeling of giving without feeling pinched. 

The Children’s Miracle Network study back in May finds that 63% of consumers have donated at checkout since the onset of COVID-19, and 60% of consumers prefer rounding up at over purchasing an icon -- like a paper shamrock -- for an additional dollar amount.

Marketing Daily: Are companies accelerating plans because of the coin shortage?

Hessekiel: Yes. Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores, which has raised $31 million for Children’s Miracle Network over the years and $4 million last year, started its annual effort a month earlier, and first-week donations are well ahead of last year. 

The Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Murphy USA, a gas and convenience store chain, also pushed their effort up a month.

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