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Pros And Cons Of Checkout Line Donations

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Pros And Cons Of Checkout Line Donations


Pros And Cons Of Checkout Line Donations

Pros And Cons Of Checkout Line Donations

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Charities are turning to the digital key pads at retailers' checkout lanes to help fundraise. Customers are especially happy to give if the charity is related to the business. For example, a pet rescue group raising money at a high-end dog food store. But charities might be losing out on the bigger dollars that come from actually knowing who's giving.


More and more retailers are soliciting charitable donations at the checkout line. Some are even using the digital keypad at the register to help raise money. But charities might be losing out on the bigger dollars that come from knowing who is giving. Amanda Dyer has this report.

(Soundbite of dogs barking)

AMANDA DYER: Healthy Spot Pet Store sells organic dog food and high end accessories in Santa Monica, California. Customers can also treat their pups to a massage or enroll them in doggy daycare.

Unidentified Woman #1: Your total is $49.61. Would you like to round up 39 cents for the Best Friend Animal Rescue?

Unidentified Woman #2: Of course.

Unidentified Woman #1: Thank you very much.

DYER: Needless to say, Healthy Spot customers care about their dogs, so co-owners Andrew Kim and Mark Boonnark didn't think it was too far of a stretch to ask them to donate to dogs a little less fortunate than their own. The store opened just over a year ago and since then Kim's sales clerks have asked customers to round up their purchases to the nearest dollar for a different charity each month.

Mr. ANDREW KIM (Co-owner, Health Spot Pet Store): We've raised $6,500, I believe, since the day we've opened. And, you know, the first couple months it was $30, $100. And now we're doing quite well. I think we're reaching upwards to $1,000 a month in change.

DYER: Health Spot customer Christine Erinson(ph) says she always rounds up and remembers the night when she actually saw her donations put to work.

Ms. CHRISTINE ERINSON: I was sitting in a veterinary clinic a couple doors down one night and someone came in a rescued a dog that had been run over by a truck. It was about 8:00 at night. They were going to euthanize this dog, because no one knew who its owners were. And I called over to Andrew and Mark and they actually took the money from their rescue contributions and they saved that dog right on the spot.

Ms. LUCY BERNHOLZ (President, Blueprint Research & Design, Inc.): It's a very visible way for a company to say to its customers, Hey, we care about this issue.

DYER: Lucy Bernholz runs a philanthropy consulting firm in San Francisco.

Ms. BERNHOLZ: And it's generally such a small amount of money that's being asked for that the hope is that the customer will get a feel good moment, make a contribution, and not feel a big impact on their pocketbook.

DYER: However, experts say, without getting the names and addresses, the nonprofit misses the opportunity to connect with donors again and potentially raise larger sums.

National companies like Safeway and PetSmart have turned to embedded giving. They've programmed the PIN pads at their checkout lanes to prompt customers to add on a dollar for charity. At PetSmart it's been so successful, the company added options for people to give even larger amounts.

Safeway started its program last April. The company isn't saying how much money the campaign has raised, because it's still in the testing phase. Customers outside a Safeway-owned Vons grocery store in west Los Angeles have mixed reactions to the prompts.

Mr. MATTHEW LYNCH: I don't mind it.

DYER: Matthew Lynch says he's donated to Safeway's campaign multiple times.

Mr. LYNCH: I understand that some of the customers, my neighbors, find it annoying, but they just go past it and say, No, thank you. I'll do it later on.

Ms. RUTH ANAYA(ph): Well, I feel that I've given already six times. The seventh time is enough.

DYER: However, other customers, like Ruth Anaya, say they get tired of being asked for money over and over.

Ms. ANAYA: And so they don't know if I've given, so they do ask. They don't have to ask again and again and again.

DYER: Even if embedded giving isn't the best way for charities to raise money, at least it gets people thinking about giving. And that's a start.

For NPR News, I'm Amanda Dyer.

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