Checkout Charity


Why does anyone give time or money to charities? Easy – it’s awesome to help support people in need and worthy causes. It also makes you feel good and is actually good for you. Pretty simple stuff.

I am a picky person when it comes to the causes I support. After all, you only have so much to give and just like anything in life you want your giving to yield great results and be put to good use. So, a small problem arises when you shop at a store with a policy of supporting a charity by requesting donations in addition to your purchase total.

“Would you like to round up your change or donate a dollar to support ________?”

Why Do Companies Do This?

To show they care: This is a terrible reason. If they really cared so much, they would donate their own money – not only mine.

To help worthy causes: If you want to have a social benefit aspect to your company, a better long-term solution could be to 1) have a great business and 2) formalize and integrate a giving plan into your business model. The best example I can think of is the Newman’s Own Foundation, which turns all profits from the sale of Newman’s Own products into charitable donations. Don’t talk about it. Be about it.

Dont Talk

“That’s where the money is.” –Willie Sutton (Bank Robber): Companies ask the question at checkout when customers are most vulnerable to persuasion – you can’t say you don’t have your wallet on you! Ultimately, while no doubt heavy-handed, these campaigns are effective and contribute at least marginally to the over $300 billion that is donated in the US to charities each year.

What If I Don’t Want To?

Employee: “Would you like to round up your change or donate a dollar to support ________?”

Me: No thank you.

Result: I just had a great experience making a purchase in your store and the last interaction I have with anyone makes me feel like a cheapskate jerk for not wanting to donate $1 to some cause. That isn’t a good feeling to give a customer as they walk away.

Help Me Help You Help Them

Assuming companies aren’t going to give their own money to charities (over 90% of donations come from individuals), there has to be a better way to raise money than blurting out that you’d like me to donate a dollar from behind the cash register.

A few thoughts:

  • Give me a card with the URL to a donation page (branded for your business of course) or print the URL on my receipt
  • Match my donation
  • Give me a partial discount on my purchase corresponding to the donation size


If companies were serious about social responsibility they would put their money where their mouths are. If not, don’t try to make me feel like a bad person because I won’t donate to a random charity when and in the amount you say.

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