Shamrock Pinups Bring in the Gold for MDA

I started my fundraising career at the Muscular Dystrophy Association in 1993. In February, I'd load my car up with Shamrock pinups and delivering them to bars, restaurants, department stores and anywhere else that had customers and a cash register. At the end of March, I'd circle back around and collect the money. Even today, when Shamrock season rolls around I see all those pinups hanging in stores and I think: "Boy, lugging those pinups around was a lot of work!"

But they were also lucrative. I remember raising thousands of dollars in restaurants and bars that I never thought would raise a hundred bucks!

Today, Shamrocks are still surprising everyone and raising a lot of money. My jaw dropped last year when Lowe's Home Stores raised $7.6 million selling Shamrock pinups.

I wonder how they'll raise this year?

Shaw's Supermarket in Newtonville, MA always does a great job selling and displaying MDA Shamrocks.

I scanned this QR Code to see where it would take me. Note to MDA: I shouldn't have to guess where it will go!

Good start! The QR Code took me to a mobile page!

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For Menchie's Fundraising for Nonprofits Starts with a Smile


There's so much to learn from Menchie's Frozen Yogurt and their cause marketing fundraiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Association that this will have to be the first of several posts. Their program is so good, so rich, so creamy and so delicious it will require more than one serving for this cause marketer.

But like their frozen yogurt, I promise you'll enjoy it!

Menchie's promise to the planet is We make you smile. And this campaign is no exception. Here's how they put a smile on me and on every man, woman and child that has muscular dystrophy or supports MDA.

Menchie's pledged to make a difference. This was a first year program for the fast growing frozen yogurt chain and they could have easily started small with coin canisters at a few locations. They didn't. They took on the most lucrative type of cause marketing: pinups. With busy stores and 200 U. S. locations participating, it was the best way for Menchie's to raise a lot of money. They didn't disappoint. In four weeks they raised over $234,000.

Menchie's adopted MDA. As someone who tracks and writes about cause marketing programs for a living, I questioned whether MDA was a good choice for Menchie's. Let's be clear: I started my nonprofit career with MDA and admire their work - especially Jerry Lewis' unrecognized contribution to cause marketing.

But MDA is what I call an old world charity that's trying to find its place in a new world order. Perhaps Menchie's realized this as they didn't use MDA's signature Shamrock pinup. Instead, they created their own, which is as unique, colorful and fun as their brand.


"The tagline for the campaign It takes 13 muscles to smile and only one to make a a difference is right in line with the Menchie's promise to deliver a 'smiley experience,' explained Menchie's CEO Amit Kleinberger. "If customers like what we do as a business they'll like the cause we ask them to support."

Menchie's added toppings. Self-serve frozen yogurt chains such as Menchie's promise a delicious frozen yogurt that can be topped with just about anything. Captain Crunch, lychee and popping boba are just three of the dozens of choices Menchie's offers. They know the power of adding something special to their product, and it extended to their fundraiser for MDA.

First, Menchie's rewarded donors with a 15% off coupon for their next visit to the chain.

Second, they made the program fun by hanging the pinups throughout their stores and even used them to spell out words. One Hawaii store spelled out ALOHA! Another spelled out MDA in their front window. The pictures on Menchie's Facebook page feature customers and employees flexing their muscle for MDA and just having fun.

Many businesses see pinups as tacky and kitschy and won't display them in their stores. For Menchie's, the pinups were temporary wallpaper that tell a powerful story of a company that cares.

Menchie's listened to its heart and head.Menchie's pinup program is packed with heart, but Kleinberger used his head when he chose MDA. Menchie's senior management team didn't have a personal connection with muscular dystrophy. No one had a stricken daughter or son, or an ailing spouse or parent with Lou Gehrig's Disease - perhaps the most well known form of muscular dystrophy.

With no clear choice, Kleinberger treated the process like a hiring and interviewed three charities.

"MDA was very professional," he said. "They understood our business and what we were trying to accomplish. After meeting with them, we all believed that MDA had tremendous potential to do good in the world."

The program embodied the Menchie's mantra We make you smile. From choosing a cause that gave them and others joy to picking a tag line that celebrated our most important muscle, this program proves that cause marketing for companies of all sizes can be powerful, effective and fun.

It all starts with a smile.

A big thank you to my Los Angeles friend Filiberto Gonzalez for introducing me to Menchie's. He supplied me with the second picture in this post.

3 Tips to Raise an Extra $300,000 with Pinups


Phillip Haid, founder and CEO of Public Inc., knows how to run a successful pinup program. Case in point: he just raised nearly a million dollars with a pinup program at Canada's Winners and HomeSense stores for the Sunshine Foundation. That's $300,000 more than they raised the year before without his help.

I asked Phillip what made this campaign so successful.

1.  "We tried to take some of the pressure off of the sales associate by prompting the opportunity to Spread a Little Sunshine throughout the store," explained Phillip. "We did stickers on the mirrors in the dressing room, announcements over the PA, buttons on the sales associates and visuals at the register."

Phillip's tactics surprised me as I generally don't recommend signage or buttons. I'd rather focus on motivating the cashier to ask the all-important question: "Would you like to donate a dollar to X?" But Phillip and I agreed that with the ask firmly in place, low-cost forms of visibility can only help the program. I'd start with register signs. But I like Phillip's suggestion of using stickers in strategic locations, such as in dressing rooms.

Screen shot 2012-09-11 at 7.00.21 PM
Screen shot 2012-09-11 at 7.00.21 PM

2.  "We drove online to offline and vice versa," said Phillip. "For every person that shared a sunshine message with a friend, posted via social media or viewed a sunshine video, T. J. Maxx [the parent company of the two chains] donated $5. The goal was to get to 25,000 shares in the month of August to fund a Sunshine Dream Lift - when 80 kids would go to Disney for the day. We then prompted people to visit stores and make a contribution. We hit the 25,000 with a week to spare."

I love the digital component of this program, and it doesn't require a lot of work or money.

3.  "We used star power to drive media buzz and get people into the stores," said Phillip. "Naya Rivera (Santana on Glee) came to Toronto to perform with the Sunshine Choir and to launch the campaign. We assembled a choir from a school of the performing arts and had them perform sunshine songs as a pop-up choir on the subway throughout the city on the day of the launch. It generated a huge amount of coverage that in turn drove people into the stores and online."

sunshine 2
sunshine 2

I loved Phillip's perspective on the celebrity connection with cause marketing. "Starpower is great, but it can be a distraction if you spend too much time chasing stars, or think a celebrity is all you need to be successful, said Phillip." He agreed with my comparison that celebrities were the cherry on the sundae. It looks great and completes the dish, but it's just one, small ingredient that people can live without.

Still, a celebrity can give a pinup program a boost, and Phillip expertly used his star power. It topped a successful and lucrative program. Congrats to Phillip and the team at Public, Inc.

Check out Phillip's guest post in HuffPost Impact: Charity Pin Ups: A Love Hate Relationship.

Learn more about pinups as a fundraising tactic in this webinar on September 17th.

Raise More Money from Businesses with Shopping Days

Success Story Downtown Business Plan.jpeg
Success Story Downtown Business Plan.jpeg

Are you a local nonprofit that has a downtown business district of mom and pop stores? Shopping days may be the fundraiser for you. Generally, there are three components to a shopping day program.

Here's how they all work together.

Working with these small businesses you pick a day or weekend to have a shopping day event. Prior to the event, downtown businesses agree to sell pinups or donate a percentage or portion of sales from a product or service (or they could do both!). The goal is help raise money for your organization and to promote the shopping day.

To make this program work you'll need to secure one more thing from your business partners: a discount for shoppers that participate in the shopping day.

While your business partners are busy planning their fundraiser for you, you'll be busy recruiting walk participants. In a shop walk I did many years ago, we asked participants to raise a minimum of $250 to participate in the event. In exchange they got a pink canvas bag with the shop walk logo on it, which was all they needed to get discounts at participating stores.

Everyone wins with a shopping day. Your nonprofit raises money. The business owner gets new customers. Participants have a great time raising money for your organization and saving money on their purchases.

A good example of a shopping day fundraiser in action is a Shop Local for a Cause from the National Association of Local Advertisers (NALA) that will benefit The Greatest Generation Foundation. NALA is giving small businesses all the tools they need to host a shopping day event on August 18, 2012. Below is an example of a participating store from their website.


The only piece missing from NALA's Shop Local for a Cause is the walk fundraiser. This is one area where local nonprofits have an advantage as they have boots on the ground - staff and supporters - in the community who can execute an event fundraiser.

Shopping days are fun and perfect for a downtown business district. Have you done a shopping day in your community? I would love to hear about it!

Paper Pinups vs Credit Card Machines: Which One Raises More Money?


People always ask me if there's a good alternative to traditional paper pinups. The answer is maybe.

My friend and fellow cause marketer Scott Henderson sent me this picture of a register program at Radio Shack that prompts shoppers to support LIVESTRONG after they've swiped their credit card. I prefer the credit card machine because there is no paper waste from the pinups, which will all end up in the trash after the program is done.

There's one problem: promotions involving credit card machines may not be as effective and lucrative as paper pinups.

My former colleague Holt Murray and I discussed this on Twitter.

First, if there is no activation from the cashier (i.e. "Would you like to donate a dollar to fight cancer?") nothing will happen. But this is true with paper pinups as well. No ask, no gift.


Second, the credit card machine is not a place where shoppers want to linger. As Holt points out, he just wants to get through the transaction as quickly as possible.

Third, the credit card machine just seems a lot easier to opt-out of. One thing that's great about pinups is people have to acknowledge to the cashier - and everyone around them - that "Yes, I will donate a dollar." That's not the case with the credit card machine. It's interesting what people do when no one is looking.

However, there are almost as many good reasons to use the credit card machine. You'll save money not printing pinups. Ann Taylor, CVS, Auto Zone and Williams-Sonoma raise millions for charities with credit card machine programs. But these programs happen at thousands of stores and the volume of foot traffic work in the charity's favor. Credit card machines are also great for businesses that don't want to display pinups in the store.

But if you're doing a local program with a retailer you may want to test to see which one performs better. Half the stores could do pinups, the other half credit card machines.

It's definitely easier to swipe and donate, but it may be even easier to swipe and NOT donate. That's one sale you don't want to miss.

Have you used paper pinups and credit card machines? Which one has worked better for you?

Looking for an Alternative to Pinups? Try Coupon Books

Screen shot 2012-07-24 at 7.57.52 PM
Screen shot 2012-07-24 at 7.57.52 PM

A good alternative to pinups is a coupon book. The book pictured comes from Massachusetts-based pizza chain Papa Gino's and benefits The Jimmy Fund, the fundraising arm of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Last year this coupon book raised $90,000 for The Jimmy Fund. This year's program began July 1st and runs through the end of the month. The book sells for a buck and offers $100 in savings.

Here's some more info on coupon books. You should also read this post to fully understand why you should use coupons for cause marketing in the first place. As this coupon book does, you can even put other businesses' coupons in your book. We used to charge companies to include a coupon in our book. Another option was for them to sell the coupon book in their stores. Businesses loved the co-marketing.

While more expensive to produce than pinups, coupon books have an almost instant appeal with shoppers. Looking for a different kind of cause marketing program for at the register? Try coupon books!

photo (10)
photo (10)