Check-Out-Line Charity a Perfect Fit for New Balance, Komen

New Balance and Komen already have a great partnership. But Chris Mann (@chrisrmann), Associate Manager, Brand Marketing for New Balance, wanted to make it even better by involving New Balance's 134 stores.

But how? 

That's how our conversation began a year ago when Chris asked my advice on creating a pinup program for New Balance's stores. It was a lot of fun working with Chris, and he knew a lot already thanks to his fundraising work at The Jimmy Fund, his job before New Balance.

Chris obviously wanted to raise more money for Komen. But he also had some other good goals, which he wisely knew could be accomplished through pinups.

To further educate customers about New Balance's support for breast cancer awareness. The pinup was a starting point to talk to customers about New Balance's ongoing support for Komen. If they didn't know about the partnership and Komen's great work already, they would now.

To educate sales associates. Let's face it, sometimes directives from the corporate mothership don't always trickle down to frontline workers. A pinup program was a great way to reinforce New Balance's commitment to Komen on every level, and to get employees talking (and learning) about the partnership.

While New Balance has 134 stores, the foot traffic is modest compared to other types of retailers. It's not like selling pinups at a busy supermarket or restaurant chain.  With a daily average of just 35 transactions, New Balance had to make the most of every single customer.

I told Chris that I faced a similar challenge with Valvoline Instant Oil Change, which averages  50 customers per store each day. In VIOC's case, we sold the pinup for $3 and added coupons to incentivize customers. Chris did just that. He sold the pinup for $5 and offered shoppers $10 off their next purchase.

The October pinup program for Komen raised $29,000.

A few things Chris learned from his program.

The ask is all. If you politely ask shoppers to buy a pinup at the register, not all of them will say yes. But a lot will. But if you don't ask, no one will buy a pinup. Period. It's that simple.

Take a top-down approach. Communicating effectively with store managers is key and will drive the success of the program.

Incentives work. I've had mixed results with incentives, but Chris reminded me of an incentive that always works: recognition. He created a friendly competition among stores with bragging rights in company communications.

Chris plans to repeat the October pinup program for Komen. He also plans to do another pinup program for Girls on the Run in May.

6 Ways to Succeed with Check-Out-Line Charity

Two articles last week, one in America Public Media the other in the WSJ, bemoaned the incessant requests at store registers for a dollar or two for causes. You should read them. It's a real bitchfest. I'm not saying they're wrong. These constant requests can be annoying. Although what they think is kind of immaterial considering that supermarket giant Safeway alone last year raised $50 million for breast cancer charities and the Special Olympics with register programs.

But I get tired of these charity requests too. Not so much because they happen so often, but because they're executed so poorly.

But it doesn't have to be that way. Check-out-line charity programs (or pinup programs as I like to call them) can be a positive experience for the consumer and retailer. (I do many such programs during the year. Just search "pinup" in the upper right and you'll bring up a bunch of posts.)

Here are six ways to make sure shoppers aren't put-off by your next checkout program.

Walk the walk. Consumers can sniff out insincerity and disinterest a mile away. We've all been at checkouts and seen the signage from corporate, the unsold pile of pinups next to the register, the listless cashier with her half-hearted request. Do you hear the air hissing out of the balloon? If you're really committed to supporting a charity with a checkout program, don't just go through the motions. Involve your whole team from managers to cashiers, and instill them with a passion for the cause their efforts will support. And don't treat your cause campaign like a stray dog you plan to care for one day and then drop off at the pound the next day. This cause belongs to you now. Treat it accordingly.

Keep it simple - for everyone. Don't make the ask complicated. Just one sentence. "Would you like to donate a dollar to Komen for a Cure?" "Would you like to donate a dollar to help feed a poor family on Thanksgiving." Also, make it easy for consumers to support the cause and cashiers to process it. Either have a special button on the register to easily record the transaction, or include a UPC code on the pinups so they can be scanned just like any other product in the store. Finally, bite the bullet and put the charity first. Reduce the number of asks cashiers are responsible for (e.g. "Have you signed up for our credit card?", "Do you need batteries for that?") so they can focus on asking shoppers to support the cause.

Avoid pinup fatigue. A simple fact. If you deluge shoppers with requests to support a different cause every month they will HATE YOU. A supermarket chain I work with that did five pinup programs a year for different charities recently eliminated all of them citing shopper complaints. There's a shocker. They asked too often and shoppers grew to hate them, regardless of the cause. Every business is different, but I think one or two well run pinup programs a year is plenty.

Add perks for shoppers. In our pinup programs we include coupons that add value for consumers. Here's the pitch. "Would you like to donate a dollar to help a sick child? To thank you we'll include $175 in savings, including 10% off your next purchase here." Some retailers will even offer an immediate discount at the register if you buy a pinup.

Incentivize cashiers. I''ve explored whether or not incentives really work or not. When they are appropriate, it doesn't take much to incentives employees. A gift card to their favorite coffee house, a pizza party for the top performing store, etc. will often do the trick. And don't forget recognition incentives, which I'll be talking about in my next post. Bottom-line: incentives can make the difference between a good program and great one.

Try a passive program. If you think asking shoppers at the register to support a cause is too intrusive, try a passive program instead. Whole Foods is a leader in these programs. While you won't raise as much money as with traditional "active" programs, they can definitely be more popular with shoppers.

But I'm not the only who's done checkout charity. What tips would you add? Or just share how you feel about checkout programs in general. While it's hard to argue against their lucrativeness, the pros and cons of pinups always seem to incite a lot of debate!