Do­nat­ing At Check­out Re­mains High Amidst Re­tail Slump


Ever been to a re­tail check­out counter and been asked to do­nate a dol­lar to a good cause? It ap­pears that con­sumers like you con­tinue to give—and give gen­er­ously—even against the re­cent back­drop of store clos­ings and pre­cip­i­tous sales de­creases at many depart­ment stores, cloth­ing re­tail­ers and big box chains.

Ev­ery other year we take a look at the largest of these cam­paigns—those rais­ing over $1 million—to gleans trends and in­sights about how re­tail brands choose to part­ner with con­sumers to sup­port good causes. We com­pile this data in a free re­port and in­fo­graphic called Amer­ica’s Char­ity Check­out Cham­pi­ons.

This time around, we found 73 such “char­ity check­out” cam­paigns that brought in $441.63 million in 2016, an in­crease of 4.5% over 2014 giv­ing.

In to­tal, these pro­grams have raised more than $4.1 bil­lion over three decades. While on­line re­tail­ers’ share of shop­ping dol­lars in­crease, our re­search has not found a cor­re­spond­ing in­crease in their de­vel­op­ment of check­out char­ity ini­tia­tives.

Point Of Sale Pow­er­houses

While brick-and-mor­tar still reigns supreme in point-of-sale fundrais­ing, there is huge po­ten­tial to part­ner with con­sumers for good causes on­line as ev­i­denced by eBay for Char­ity, which has held the top spot on this list since it was first com­piled in 2012. In 2016, the year-round pro­gram raised $56.5 million in the United States by al­low­ing sellers to con­trib­ute a por­tion of their sales to char­ity and invit­ing buy­ers to make a vol­un­tary do­na­tion to one of over 34,000 char­i­ties. The pro­gram was down by 9% from 2014 but 2016 to­tals brought the cu­mu­la­tive do­na­tion amount to a whop­ping $725 million since 2003.

The Mir­a­cle Balloon pro­gram at Sam’s Clubs and Wal­mart stores, num­ber two on the list, re­tained its stand­ing as the largest brick-and-mor­tar re­tail pro­gram. Over just seven weeks, the cam­paign raised $37 million for Chil­dren’s Mir­a­cle Net­work Hos­pi­tals in 2016, a 7.5% de­crease from its 2014 to­tal, by ask­ing con­sumers to do­nate at check­out to help sick and injured chil­dren at their lo­cal chil­dren’s hos­pi­tal. Since

1987, the part­ner­ship has raised $935 million for the net­work of chil­dren’s hos­pi­tals.

Petco earned the num­ber three slot this year by rais­ing $28.3 million, bump­ing the RMHC Coin Col­lec­tion Pro­gram at McDon­ald’s down to num­ber four by a mar­gin of just $231,922. The pet re­tailer col­lects year-round do­na­tions at the regis­ter for its Petco Foun­da­tion, which funds an­i­mal wel­fare and adop­tion or­ga­ni­za­tions and has raised $185 million since 1999. This year’s to­tal rep­re­sented a 21.7% in­crease over funds raised in 2014.

Fo­cused as we are on pro­grams that have raised $1 million+, this study does not cap­ture all of the point-of-sale fundrais­ing oc­cur­ring in the United States. Tens of thou­sands of busi­nesses from sin­gle lo­ca­tion restau­rants to ma­jor chains en­gage their cus­tomers and staff in such pro­grams each year and there is no cen­tral repos­i­tory for their data.

Best Buy Boosts Giv­ing

The largest ab­so­lute dol­lar in­crease be­tween 2014 and 2016 was $8.5 million post by Best Buy ben­e­fit­ting St Jude Chil­dren’s Re­search Hos­pi­tal.

When asked about this mas­sive gain, Best Buy’s chief cor­po­rate re­spon­si­bil­ity and sus­tain­abil­ity of­fi­cer Laura Bishop said, “Our em­ploy­ees un­der­stand the life-sav­ing work of St. Jude, so our teams have re­ally been mo­ti­vated to raise money for this or­ga­ni­za­tion, and we’ve worked hard to make it easy for cus­tomers to con­trib­ute in a va­ri­ety of ways.”

Over the past two years, the com­pany im­ple­mented an op­tion to do­nate di­rectly to the char­ity via the Best Buy mo­bile app, in ad­di­tion to the on­line do­na­tion op­tion at BestBuy. com that gen­er­ated about $500,000 this past year. Ad­di­tion­ally, the 2016 point of sale cam­paign ran for twelve weeks – two weeks longer than pre­vi­ous years.

“We also made sure we cel­e­brated re­sults with cus­tomers through a big thank-you cam­paign,” added Bishop.

Best Buy takes its com­mit­ment to St. Jude se­ri­ously and works to en­sure the cause is vis­i­ble at ev­ery level of the or­ga­ni­za­tion. At the store level, St. Jude pa­tients and fam­i­lies are in­vited to share their sto­ries dur­ing em­ployee meet­ings to help per­son­al­ize the im­por­tance of their ef­forts. At cor­po­rate head­quar­ters, the en­trance to a re­cently-ded­i­cated “St. Jude Theater” is adorned with pho­tos of a re­cent visit to St. Jude by Best Buy store man­agers and em­ploy­ees.

“Walk­ing by that theater and see­ing how en­gaged our em­ploy­ees are brings Best Buy’s sup­port for this or­ga­ni­za­tion full cir­cle and helps peo­ple fully ap­pre­ci­ate the im­pact they’re mak­ing on chil­dren’s lives,” adds Bishop.

Lead­ing Point Of Sale In­dus­tries

Mass mer­chan­dis­ers and ware­house clubs such as Wal­mart and Costco rang up $80.5 million for good causes, rep­re­sent­ing 18% of this year’s sur­vey to­tal. Spe­cialty re­tail­ers in­clud­ing Best Buy, Petco and GameS­top were next, rais­ing $79.2 million for char­i­ties, an­other 18% of the to­tal. The on­line sec­tor led by eBay and Hum­ble Bun­dle made up 16% of the to­tal with $69 million gen­er­ated, fol­lowed by QSR/Fast Ca­sual (16%) at $71.4 million and Gro­cery (15%) at $67.7 million.

A Win-Win-Win For Re­tail­ers, Con­sumers And Causes

Re­tail­ers with the best pro­grams ap­proach giv­ing at point-of-sale as they would other busi­ness pri­or­i­ties: with cre­ativ­ity, ex­per­i­men­ta­tion, lead­er­ship sup­port and pas­sion. While it’s true that a hand­ful of cam­paigns showed de­clines over 2014 dol­lars raised, the fact is that far more showed strong growth. These pro­grams pro­duce mil­lions of dol­lars for good causes and serve as an im­por­tant high­light around which an en­tire com­pany—from front line to Csuite—can rally.

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