5 Things You Should Know Before You Give at the Register

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06.04.2013By

Last week at the Cause Marketing Forum’s annual conference in Chicago, David Hessekiel and his team released: 2012’s Top Point of Sale Donation Programs: A Cause Marketing Forum Report. The report features an incredible number: $358 million. That’s how much “checkout” programs raised in 2012.

We’ve all been asked – or accosted, depending on how you view it – at the register and asked to donate a dollar or two to a cause. The bottom-line is that while these programs aren’t universally admired, they can raise a ton of dough. Earlier this year, the Muscular Dystrophy Association and Lowe’s Home Stores raised a whopping $8.8 million dollars with Shamrock pinups. Checkout programs can’t be that unpopular.

Checkout programs are lucrative, but consumers aren’t giving blindly. They’re asking good questions, such as:

“What exactly am I giving to?”

“What will it accomplish?”

“Will the charity receive my entire donation, or just a portion?”

Here are five things you should know before you donate at the register.

The program should clearly state which charity will receive your gift. You shouldn’t accept ambiguous language such as “Proceeds will benefit nonprofits in you area.” It should state which organization(s). The cashier, promotional materials such as pinups or register signs, or your receipt should include this information.

The program should state what the money will be used for, or if there are any restrictions on the use of funds. It’s not good enough to know that the money will go to an anti-hunger organization such as Feeding America. You should know what your gift will accomplish. Who will it feed? For how long? Sure, a buck won’t feed a family of four, but maybe the benefits kick-in for every ten dollars raised. Donors should insist on knowing the impact, regardless of the amount.

The program should state how much of your gift will go to the charity. Is it 100%, or is there some kind of transaction fee that will reduce it? Businesses should be proud to tell donors that 100% of their gift goes to charity.

The program should tell donors where they can learn more about the program. A web address is a good idea, but you can also use a QR Code that when scanned opens a web page or video.

The program should give your gift the care and protection it deserves. When I first started my nonprofit career cashiers tucked away all those dollars donated in an envelope under the register. They were using the best, most secure option they had but it wasn’t the ideal way handle and track donations. Fortunatley, times have changed. Register programs with pinups include barcodes that can be scanned and recorded like any other item in the store. Some programs use credit card machines to process and track the donation. If your donation wasn’t handled with the protection it deserves, wait to give somewhere else, or have a conversation with the manager about the store’s procedures.

Giving at the register is a good idea. It’s easy, free and the money can really add up. But just as it’s a good idea to check your receipt to make sure you’re not overcharged, knowing what your donation supports, how it will make a difference and insisting it’s handled appropriately will ensure you don’t lose your money for good.