358 Million Reasons to Love Checkout Programs

358 million. That's how many dollars were collected with checkout programs in 2012.

Checkout programs are what I call point-of-sale programs, but I kind of like David Hessekiel's term better. As founder and president of Cause Marketing Forum, he's the one who released a study on these programs at last week's Cause Marketing Forum's conference in Chicago.

These programs are so successful, David only focused on programs that raised a million dollars or more. He found 63 of them. You can read the full report here, and it really is worth the read.

Here's what businesses and nonprofits need to know about checkout programs.

These programs really work. And when I mean work they can raise a lot of money. The proof is in these 63 programs. But think of all the programs that raise less than a million. As a local cause marketer here in Boston, I never raised more than $300,000 with a checkout program. Add these smaller programs in and you're talking tens of millions of dollars more raised with checkout programs.

Emotion wins at the register. Maybe that's why 47 percent of the dollars raised went to children's causes, such as Children's Miracle Network and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. You only have a second or two to win over customers with your ask, lead with a strong emotional message.

Businesses with lots of foot traffic, locations do best. Most of the dollars raised from checkout programs come from chains of department stores, restaurants and supermarkets. David's report features big companies like Walmart and Sam's Club, but chains of any size are good candidates. You just need to be realistic on how much you will raise when a chain has six or sixty locations instead of 600 or 6,000!

Checkout programs can take several forms. Pinups, register programs, donation boxes and round-up programs. You can find examples of all of these on this blog and on my Pinterest boards.

Incentives work at checkout. Coupons, discounts and free items are always popular with consumers. But don't forget incentives for employees. Small thank yous from t-shirts to pizza parties to gift cards will keep employees asking that all-important question: "Would you like to donate a dollar to ___________?".

Checkout programs need company. I've concluded after many years of running checkout programs that businesses asking consumers for money at checkout isn't enough. I've made the argument elsewhere that it is, but ultimately it doesn't pass the smell test with consumers. Companies need to combine asking with giving. That means dipping into their own pockets to support their favorite causes AND tapping their customer base for gifts.

What are your favorite checkout programs? I'm always looking for good local programs to write about!

Photo: Walmart Corporate via Flickr

A Better Way to Raise Money at the Register

With a new dog in the house, I've been shopping for a few items at my local Petco, which is just a couple miles from where I live. After I swiped my credit card in the terminal, I got the below message from the Petco Foundation.

Now, I've seen many requests for a donation on credit card terminals, but I haven't seen one yet that makes me choose YES or NO like this one does.


The ask is very clear and you have to choose a response to continue with checkout.

I love the idea of using credit card terminals to process donations. I hate all the clutter and paper waste from pinups. But there's one problem. The credit card terminal gives the cashier a reason NOT to ask the shopper to donate. They figure the terminal will do the work. But it doesn't. Without a direct ask, the shopper can quickly bypass the donation request and move on with their transaction.

But at Petco the first thing they ask you after you swipe your card is if you want to give. They force you to choose, which makes it more difficult to say no. Maybe that's why the Petco Foundation gave away $15 million last year.

Whether it's a pinup or a credit card machine, the bottom-line is that the best register programs involve an ask from the cashier. It's harder to say no to a human being. It's easier to say no to a screen, but at least this screen makes you say it to its face.

What do you think about requests for donations on a credit card terminal? Yes or no?

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 CharityHowTo.com webinar on September 17th.

Share Our Strength, Shake Shack Team Up for Pinup Program


If I'm The Pinup King, this program between Share Our Strength and Shake Shack is fit for one!

The two have teamed up for a cause marketing pinup program called the Great American Shake Sale at ten Shake Shack locations on the East coast. This modern roadside burger stand is committed to raising at least $25,000.

I love the pinup SOS and Shake Shack created for this program. (If you are unfamiliar with pinups, read this post.)

  • It's a simple, attractive design
  • It sells for just $2
  • All the money raised goes to SOS's No Kid Hungry
  • It's a good example of a nonprofit targeting a mid-size company (where there's more opportunity for the average nonprofit than with the big companies well known charity's target)
  • The best part: you donate $2 and you get a free shake worth $5

People give a buck or two because they want to and don't need a shake to motivate them. But it sure does make a great thank you!

Share Our Strength is a national charity, but there's no reason your local nonprofit can't identify a company and run a successful pinup program. You could raise $25,000 like SOS will, or even more (Muscular Dystrophy and Lowe's Home improvement raised $7.6 million earlier this year).

Thanks to my Friend Emily Kokernak in New York City for discovering and sharing this program with me!

"I went in to buy a shake, and of course for $2 I did it - the shake alone is $5 there!", said Emily. "It's a GREAT deal! Free shake - without having to buy anything. And - the people working there were really nice and tried to sell it - explaining the cause, etc. They had banners strung across the ceiling and it was really tasteful in keeping with their clean decor."

Thanks, Emily. That's what good cause marketing is all about!


Anatomy of a Cause Marketing Pinup

Anatomy of a Cause Marketing Pinup

Point-of-sale programs are the backbone of cause marketing, raising the majority of consumer donations each year. The dominating point-of-sale tactic is pinups.

One question I get all the time after I present on the different types of cause marketing tactics is “What’s a pinup? And where do I get them?”

The second question always cracks me up because I envision people searching for pinups in the aisles of Target or Walmart. I can hear them saying, “Where can I buy those darn things?!”

You can stop your search. You don’t buy pinups at a store. A printer makes them for you. Here are a few other things you should know about pinups....

Read More

Nonprofit Uses QR Code, Quora to Make Cause Marketing More Transparent

Back in January I talked about Quora and how it could be a resource to consumers who had questions about a cause marketing promotions, and an asset to causes that wanted to be more transparent about their programs.

This month my fellow Dummies writer Joanna MacDonald and I are putting Quora to the test with a QR code on our latest pinup that will be sold at iParty and Fuddruckers locations throughout New England.

When consumers scan the code with their smartphones (try it yourself!) it takes them to this Quora page where they can comment or ask a question about the campaign.

We plan to monitor the page regularly so we can answer questions quickly and accurately.

To answer common questions about the program we also included a link to a  frequently asked questions page on Quora.

How many people will scan the QR code? I'm not sure. A small percentage of shoppers most likely. But they may represent regular givers that want more information about the programs they're supporting at the register.

Will Quora be confusing to shoppers that don't know what the heck it is? That's a good question. Probably like 99% of the people out there have no clue what Quora is. But if they view Quora as it tool that gets them the answers they want it might not matter what the name is.

What else can we do to make our Quora page more effective? I think we could include a link to a video on the SPARK Center, the program at my hospital that will benefit from the program.

To make our program easier to find, I also added some tags to the top of the entry, although I really don't expect people to find our page by searching Quora. Most will go to the page directly from the QR code.

Or they may find the page via search engines.

A Google search on "spark center bmc" lists our Quora page as sixth on search results. Queries on other words and terms associated with the promotion also showed up in the top results.  If consumers are searching online for information on this cause marketing program, they'll most likely find it via their favorite search engine thanks to Quora.

That's another good reason to give Quora a try.

I'm interested to hear what you think about this experiment!