Checkout donations – are we missing an opportunity to build a relationship? | npENGAGE

Checkout donations – are we missing an opportunity to build a relationship?

By on Apr 2, 2010


I have enjoyed pouring over “The Next Generation of American Giving” research to learn more about how the different generations respond to the multiple channels available to engage with charity and how they can all work together to make fundraisers more successful.

One of the data points that real struck me was that “Checkout Donation” was the most common channel across all generations for giving – overall 52% of the donors reported giving that way (48% of GenY, 57% of GenX, 52% of Boomers, and 48% of Matures)

I have always been aware of the practice and often participate adding on to my grocery, restaurant or other bill at checkout to support a cause.  Since our research came out, I’ve started paying more attention rather than “just donating.”  My gut tells me that while nonprofits are getting a decent junk of change using this channel, we’re not doing all we could to turn that small, spontaneous gift into a   relationship?

There have been a number of examples that I could use, but here are couple of examples of “checkout” donation opportunities that I’ll use to ask the questions and pontificate.

The first comes from the grocery store checkout line and seems to be the most popular method/channel, I see.  The skew slip below delivers a nice message, but to be honest, two days later I cannot recall the name of the charity I supported.  The point of sale (POS) display was beautiful and well done (read expensive) and compelling. I saw 2 out of 3 people in front of me donate. Some of the questions I have are:

– What if we could put the URL of the organization on the slip and make sure the donor took it home?
– Would that spontaneous action lead to them going to the website later to learn more and maybe even give more?
– Is the cost of adding the URL that much given the obvious investment in the POS display?

Personally, I think this is a lost opportunity to start a relationship. Many people would not go home then follow through with a visit to the website and an additional gift. BUT, and it is a big but – given the number of people who participate in checkout giving, should we not add the URL? If we could convert just a small percentage of checkout donors to an ongoing relationship of volunteering and/or giving that would be some serious change.

For some reason I am reminded of something my mom once said – “Could’ve, would’ve, should’ve, but didn’t.”

I’d love to hear from someone who did and what results you saw. Or maybe you’re the org that is going to do it and see what happens. We’d love to hear how it did or does turn out. If you’re already participating in checkout programs just add the URL and do your best to make sure the slip goes home with the donor.

(The other thing about the grocery checkout is that I use my “member card” when I checkout to get that added discount. [A practice I personally detest, yet as a marketer admire, but that is another story – just give me the best price.] But to finish the multichannel opportunity, could the grocer work with the charity to send me a follow-up email thanking me for the support and inviting me to do more? They have all my information and send me email coupons that I have opted for. Seems like a “pretty easy” next step to add that customization along with the other conditional content I receive – apparently we spend a lot of money on dog and cat food based on the conditional content i recieve…hmm, I see another opportunity for the local animal shelter…)

The second example comes from a local restaurant where I had breakfast – amazing French toast, I might add. When we ordered, and again when we got the check we were reminded of the unicef Tap Project. With our check we received a reminder to text a donation and we had the handy reminder above on our table as we dined.  (Text “TAP” to UNICEF (864233))

What was neat about this was, yes they received the spontaneous $5 text donation and an additional $3 that I added to the bill, but they gave me an opportunity to engage further on my own time. Having worked in the world of water management, conservation and delivery, I was interested. To be honest, even though I had a personal interest in the issue had they not provided the materials, I might not have remembered the organization or cause by the time I returned home nine hours later. I have visited the site and learned about the issue. Now the organization has a better chance of converting my one-time text and “tip” into an on-going relationship. Pretty cool campaign.

To be fair, I am not sure what the return on investment might be. Does the cost of adding a URL to the skew slip and “training” the store staff to give the slip to the customer make economic sense? Does the cost of adding a URL to the store receipt still allow for a return? If the grocer executed a chaperoned email to customers, would that be seen as a negative and impact people’s future giving to other organizations or the one in the email? Does the marketing expense for campaigns like the Tap Project support new donor acquisition at a return that is better than traditional direct mail?

I don’t know. But I do know, that given the results of the Next Generation of America Giving research, asking and answering these questions for your organization could very well be lucrative.  Let’s skip the “could, would, should” and just do it.

If you are already down this path, please let me know what you are seeing. We would love to work with you on telling the story.


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