Better Business Fundraisers with Incentives

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If Share Our Strength's recent pinup program with Shake Shack is proof of anything it's that incentives work in business fundraisers. Thanks in large to part to Shake Shack's generous offer to reward a $2 donation with one of their signatures shakes, valued at $5, the chain raised $135,000 to fight childhood hunger. The amount is impressive considering Shake Shack ran the fundraiser at just ten locations. One store in New York City raised $28,000 - $3,000 more than the original goal for the entire chain.

While I haven't experimented with shakes, I have offered coupons at the register and they worked well with shoppers. Another place I'm convinced where incentives work is with the person behind the register. Bryan Harding, Director of Cause Marketing at The Nature Conservancy, has also seen the power of employee incentives. In an email to me, he wrote: 

I can tell you with absolute certainty training and incentivizing employees for a round-up at the register or pin-ups makes a dramatic difference. Prior to The Nature Conservancy, I ran the cause marketing program at PetSmart Charities and the advertising/cause program at the American Heart Association National Center. At PetSmart, we had an in-store giving program with an at register pin pad – it raised almost $30 million per year. We did test on with and without training and with and without incentives for employees across a network of over 1,000 stores – it worked much better when employees were trained and had incentives.

I've experimented with employee incentives for years and this is what I've learned.

Unmotivated employees stay unmotivated. Even with incentives unmotivated employees won’t push the program. Indeed, their lack of motivation seemed to extend to just about every part of their lives!

Motivated employees don’t need incentives. These employees support the program because they want to. They’re more motivated and disciplined and listen to their hearts, and their manager. However....

Motivated employees can be marginally motivated with incentives. Incentives can give motivated employees an extra boost to push the program. But you don’t need to give them much. A $5 gift card to Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts can do the trick. So does a pizza party for the winning store at the end of the program.

You should also know three more things about incentives:

You don’t need to pay for incentives. Getting incentives donated by various companies is easier than you think. You'll me amazed what you can get when you just ask for it. 

If this is your first program with a business, wait to offer incentives. See what happens. If the program does well, add the incentives to the next program to build on your success.

Sometimes the best incentive for store employees is an easy-to-execute program. Cashiers have enough to do at the register and are already asking customers if they need batteries, want to apply for a credit card, and so on. The last thing they need is a complicated program to push.

Shake Shack made it easy for customers to give. Make sure your program makes it easy for employees to ask.