3 Pinup Programs that Have Raised Nonprofits Millions

Today, over at the Razoo blog, Inspiring Generosity, I wrote a post on a successful pinup program between Shake Shack and Share Our Strength that raised $135,000 at just ten store. It's definitely worth a deeper dive if you're interested in pinups as a fundraiser for your business partners. You might not have heard of pinups, but I bet you've bought one. Pinups - sometimes called scannables, paper icons, mobiles, pinups, register programs - are sold by cashiers for a buck or two and then displayed in the store for all to see. 

Pinups can raise a lot of money. Here are two million dollar programs and another program that could one day be a seven-figure success.


MDA Shamrocks

I started my career with the Muscular Dystrophy Association in the early 1990's and remember all too well delivering Shamrock pinups to Boston businesses. Even then Shamrocks were a classic fundraising practice. Today, Shamrocks are still going strong and raising millions of dollars annually. Just this past March Lowe's home stores teamed up with MDA to raise over $7 million. 

OSJL Pinup 263x300

Ocean State Job Lot Gift Box

I ran this program at my last job. On average, we raised several hundred thousand dollars in just a few weeks in December. The last time I checked this local pinup program at 100 Ocean State Job Lot stores had raised $1.6 million since 2004. This program is a great example of how pinups can raise any nonprofit - local or national - a lot of money.

KFC, Taco Bell & DQ Dishing Out Meals to End Hunger

Maggie Keenan, a branding and cause marketing consultant in Savannah, Georgia, is a graduate of my Six Figure Cause Marketing course, a program that shows nonprofits and businesses how to develop and execute an effective and lucrative pinup program. Maggie was always a top student, and gets an A+ for this pinup program that teamed the Chatham-Savannah Authority for the KFCMAGGIE1  1Homeless, Inc. and Hodges Management Company, which owns the local KFCs, Taco Bells and DQ Grill & ChillsDishing Out Meals: Fighting to End Hunger & Homelessness in Our Community raised over $33,000 in its first year.

Next week, I'm teaming up with CharityHowTo.com to offer Six Figure Cause Marketing - The Power of Pinups in a special two-part course, which also includes a copy of my book Cause Marketing for Dummies. If you're interested in raising an extra $100,000, $300,000 or even $500,000 for your nonprofit, this is the program for you!

Sign-up Here

Cause Marketing Success Story: Jake's Ride


Back in September, I introduced you to my friend Beth Pfiel (@readerbean) and her nonprofit The Bachmann-Strauss Dystonia & Parkinson Foundation.

Beth had asked for my help creating their first cause marketing campaign, a pinup program with Garden of Eden, a grocer and specialty food store with five locations in New York and one in New Jersey .

Beth had a busy fourth quarter, but we recently had a chance to catch up about the results of the program.

  • With just six small grocery stores participating Beth raised over $6,000. Her best store raised $1,700.
  • In addition to being the top pinup seller, the South Orange, NJ store did a great job promoting Jake's Ride, which raised $204,000.

Overall, Beth felt that pinups were a great way to raise additional revenue and to educate Garden of Eden employees and shoppers about Bachmann-Strauss.

Beth stressed that it's important to get store managers committed to the cause as they are the ones who ensure employees are selling the pinups at the register.

Beth's already looking forward to next year's event! She's hoping to raise more money with her friends at Garden of Eden. But she's not stopping there. She wants to build on her success and recruit other retailers to support Jake's Ride and take advantage of the busy cross-promotion a grocer partner offers.

Beth realizes that successful cause marketing is largely a numbers game. If she raised $6,000 with six stores, she could raise more money with 20 stores, 50 stores, 150, etc.

Good luck, Beth!

Are you planning a pinup program for your nonprofit? My work with Bachmann-Strauss and Beth became the basis for my Six Figure Cause Marketing program. I hope you’ll check it out!

Active vs. Passive Cause Marketing


As a fan of pinup programs, especially for small nonprofits, I'm frequently asked how important the "ask" is at the register. The ask happens when you're checking out and and cashier says, "Would you like to donate a dollar to help _________?" To understand why the ask is so important to the success of a pinup program, you needn't look any further than the stores you visit everyday.

"Do you need batteries for that?"

"Would you like to try Via, our new instant coffee?"

"Would you like to supersize your meal?"

They ask because when they do you usually say yes and buy more. A lot more.

The same is true of pinups. The more you ask people to give a buck or two the more people will. I call this active cause marketing (ACM).

But ACM isn't for everyone. Some retailers see it as pestering the customer. An example here in eastern Massachusetts, and I limit it to my area because I really don't know what they do in other parts of the country, is Whole Foods. They practice what I call passive cause marketing (PCM). And for all the shortcomings of PCM, Whole Food does it pretty darn well.

They put the gift request in a can't-miss spot near the register where customers can decide for themselves if they want to contribute.

I ran across the Autism Special Education Center pinup program at my local Whole Foods in West Newton, Massachusetts. The pitch was in a great location. Right in my line of sight on the credit card machine where I swiped my card. All I had to do was pick the card for either the $2 or $5 donation and give it to the cashier who scanned it just like any other item.

While this approach won't raise as much money as an active pinup program, it's a hundred times better than most passive cause marketing programs I see. Usually the donation request is far beyond passive; it's hidden behind the gum in aisle three, or worse.

But let's not forget how much the type of customer that shops at Whole Foods contributes to the success of this PCM program. Their average shopper is affluent, educated and sophisticated (so far it hasn't rubbed off on me), which makes them more open and progressive about supporting causes they care about.

While this program was for autism, other PCM programs I've seen at the register are for food pantries, homeless shelters and especially "green" causes. Again, right in line with the interests and concerns of their yuppie shoppers.

I've never had success with passive cause marketing programs, but that's not because they didn't work. I didn't set realistic expectations for myself and was disappointed when they didn't raise as much money as ACMs. Now I know better.

To date, I also haven't worked with retailers with the kind of customers that are more responsive to PCM programs. I'll have to keep looking because Whole Foods in Massachusetts has already said no to doing a PCM for my cause.

Fortunately for me, there are a lot of other places to shop.

Countdown to Halloween Town: Charity Pinups to the People


This pinup is our fifth and has been a close companion of the Halloween Town event since it began in 2005. Single handedly the charity pinup has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for my nonprofit! I've written before on the merits of pinup programs in general and Halloween Town's in particular. 

Before I give you some additional reading, I want to admit that I'm guilty of one heinous crime: not using one consistent name for charity pinup programs. I've called them point-of-sale, paper icons, mobiles, paper plaques and probably several other names. I'm trying to stick to "pinups" from now on, but you'll see these other names in the titles and posts I'll suggest to you. Forgive me.

For a primer on charity pinup programs read:

Never Heard of Paper Icons? Listen Up (Also includes a link to an excellent post on "paper icons" by Paul Jones over at the Cause-Related Marketing)

To read about the development of our Halloween Town pinup program the past few years, check out:

Countdown to Halloween Town: The Power of Pinups (2008 Program)

Countdown to Halloween Town: Mobile Madness (2007 Program)

Secrets of a Mobile Master (2006 Program)

We just don't do pinup programs in October. We do them throughout the year. Read about our most recent program here:

Phantom Gourmet Cooks-Up Cause Marketing Success

From reading these posts I think you'll agree that our Halloween Town pinup program has a lot of great advantages.

It's lucrative. This year we should top $800,000 raised since the program began in 2005 (at an expense of about 12 cents on the dollar).

Prospects can't say no to it. Because unlike other kinds of marketing they pay for, this one is free. They only need to give us access to their stores and to motivate their register clerks to ask the all-important question: "Would you like to donate a dollar to help a sick child?"

Partners love the added benefits. Our pinup programs aren't just glorified customer loyalty programs. We build them around multiple retailers--that offer valuable cross-promotion--and events, like Halloween Town that in 2008 had 15,000 guests. Retailers that sell pinups in their stores get a free sponsorship spot at Halloween Town that markets their product or service outside the "choir" to new converts.

It's powerful advertising. We've never spent much money advertising Halloween Town. We don't have to because the pinup does most of the promoting for us. Surveys collected at the event show that in some years as many as 1 in 5 attendees said they heard about Halloween Town from the pinup.

This doesn't mean that pinup programs are easy to sell and are always home runs. They're not. But over the past five years, my team and I have learned from trial and error what works and what doesn't. We've boiled down all of our experiences, expertise and insights into a program that we hope to share with you just as soon as Halloween Town is over.

We've been successful AND lucky: six figure cause marketing has been a reality for us every year since 2005. And we're convinced it's not something unique to our nonprofit. Any nonprofit can do it if they are motivated, educated and in tune to the assets around them.

You can learn more about Six Figure Cause Marketing here.

Phantom Gourmet Cooks-Up Cause Marketing Success


I'm not much of a foodie, but I love to listen to the three Andelman brothers of Phantom Gourmet banter on their weekly radio show here in Boston. My friend and colleague Joanna MacDonald is an even bigger fan and shares my wife's love for their weekly food and dining show on TV38.

The show is really a riot and, of course, they review some great places to eat in Greater Boston. Another pot simmering on the Phantom Gourmet stove of success is their annual BBQ Beach Party. While we have our hands full with our own events during the year, we're always looking for other venues we can tap to sell through to cause marketing partners and Phantom's BBQ Beach Party is a great opportunity. 

  • The Andelmans run a well established, successful event with a huge crowd.
  • The BBQ Beach Party is large enough to sustain a month-long cause marketing campaign.
  • Phantom Gourmet had several great promotional vehicles, including popular TV and radio shows and web site.

Dave Andelman, Founder of Phantom Gourmet, was very receptive when we met with him, and even accepted an invite from Sal Perisano, the President of iParty, to join him for a tour of the hospital. Dave liked the idea of helping a great cause--in this case the food pantry at BMC--while retail partners help him promote his BBQ event at the register with pinups that offer 50% off one ticket to the BBQ.

On our end, we took the exposure Phantom could offer partners on their radio and TV shows and web site and recruited these partners for the program, which will run May 23rd to June 27th.

iParty. iParty already does a late spring pinup program for us so we rolled their annual effort into the Phantom campaign so the party retailer would benefit from the extra promotion from the event and cross-promotion from other retailers.

Total stores involved: 50. Foot traffic: Good. Here's an interesting factoid: after Halloween, graduation season is their second busiest time of year.

Ocean State Job Lots. Up to this year, Ocean State always did one pinup program for us in December, but being fans of both the hospital and Phantom Gourmet they agreed to a second pinup program!

Total stores involved: 89. Foot traffic: Good. Not as busy as December when they do their main pinup program for us, but with consumers looking for savings, a discount retailer like OSJL right now is a very popular destination.

The Upper Crust. A longtime partner of Phantom Gourmet, the Andelmans recruited them to sell the pinup.

Total locations involved: 15. Foot traffic: Fair. They do a lot of takeout and it's unclear if takeout patrons will be asked to buy a mobile.

Tedeschi Food Shops. There's a great story behind Tedeschi coming aboard as a sponsor! We've been working on them as a prospect for five years, and finally, thanks to the help of a board member, and a great offering from Phantom Gourmet, we'll do our first cause marketing program with them this month.

Total stores involved: 188. Foot traffic: Good. Convenience stores are busy places so the quick turnaround at the register doesn't give the register clerk a lot time to interact with customers. In short, pinups can be a harder sell. But all those locations!

That brings the total number of retail locations participating in our latest cause marketing program to 342!  If the key to cause marketing point-of-sale success really is lots of locations and foot traffic, this program should be a winner!

Countdown to Halloween Town: The Power of Pin-Ups

The 2008 version of the Halloween Town pin-up will hit some stores as early as next week.  Some retailers like iParty prefer to get a jump start on selling them in September because October is so busy .

Selling these pin-ups prior to Halloween Town will achieves two important goals.  First, they help us raise hundreds of thousands of dollars before a ticket is ever sold at the gate at Halloween Town.  It's a good feeling to open the event with the wind at our backs and money in our pockets.  Even if Boston were struck by a hurricane on Halloween Town weekend--we survived a strong nor'easter in '06--the event would make money.  How many events can say that?  All the other for-profit Halloween events in and around Boston have just one way to make money: tickets.  Being a nonprofit has certain advantages and the ability to sell pin-ups prior to the event and raise money is a big one.

A second important goal from the the pin-ups is promotion.  Getting them into the hands of consumers is a great opportunity to publicize Halloween Town.  In the past, as many as 1in 5 attendees have said they learned of the event from the pin-up they bought.

This year we're taking pin-up promotion seriously.  We've cut back on the number of coupons on the pin-up--easy with fewer retail partners--and doubled the amount of space for promotion.  We've included a plug for our main musical act, Disney and Noggin's crazy music man Dan Zanes.  We've also included a special incentive: a coupon for a free child admission when you purchase an adult ticket. 

Special promotions like this have been a hit in a bad economy at other New England attractions, according to the Boston Globe.  The "everyone pays the kid price" promotion has been working well all summer for Six Flags.  We also share their focus on catering to young families.  In short, discounting, incentives and family entertainment are working in this challenging economy.  You'll see all three at Halloween Town.

Your big takeaway from Halloween Town is that pin-up programs are a great event enhancer.  They can draw bigger crowds and boost the bottom-line.

How would this work for your event?  Say that you have a cause walk every year to benefit your organization. But this year you recruit a local supermarket chain to sell a pin-up to support the walk.  In addition to raising more money, you'll also recruit more walkers, because each pin-up has info on how shoppers can join the walk.  The pin-ups are better advertising than any of those free ads in newspapers you get that nobody reads or television PSA's that people aren't up to see in the middle of the night.

Plus, here's a pin-up bonus: they are a great way to recruit and thank sponsors.  If your walk sponsor knows they'll get extra exposure for a few weeks via a busy retailer, or can include a coupon on the pin-up, that can be a great selling point for them.  I know it is for the for sponsors we recruit.

So don't forget the power of pin-ups when you're planning your next event.  Special events are too much work and too expensive to run to just leave money in the checkout line at the supermarket down the street.