The Checkout Charity Trap

Jonathan Offt - Checkout Charity TrapAsking for donations at retail checkout counters is becoming an increasingly common trend, particularly during this time of the year. Research indicates that such drives, although not a major contributor to driving up sales for a retailer, is not altogether a wasted effort. Most of it depends on the category of the donation and also on the execution strategies employed.

Perry Yeatman, in his article for, says that generally, charity at checkout does not tend to increase spending more or enable the customer to warm up to the retailer. Sometimes, quite the opposite may happen when people feel somewhat ambushed by the expected pitch when they have their wallets already open. Most people feel guilty and awkward with people standing in line behind them within hearing range and end up donating to something they probably weren’t even listening about until the registrar asked for money. A little resentment towards the retailer after this socially-awkward interaction is therefore, warranted.

Nowadays, people are more deeply involved in charitable givings than ever before. People tend to research thoroughly about the cause and the organization before fully committing and such surprise petty pitches on something they may not even be interested in is rarely welcomed. Besides, as more retailers adopt this method, making it a regular check-out custom, people will eventually learn to be indifferent and simply say no without second thoughts.

Nonprofits need to focus on demonstrating value to attract a well-informed and motivated donor base to ensure recurring or at least, heavy donations. The ‘Impact per dollar’ knowledge helps the donor understand how their money will be used and makes them more inclined to whip out their wallets.

Short-term techniques like checkout charity will only create short-term donors. Economist James Andreoni, explains that people do not only donate to affect change, but also to feel positive about themselves afterwards. Impulse charity like checkout charity leaves the donor feeling confused, which is not exactly a desirable first impression on the people you want to keep dedicated to your cause.

Nonetheless, checkout charity is gaining popularity because of how simple it is to implement. The retailers appear generous to the customers without having to invest anything in the charitable cause. For retailers who choose to host checkout charity, the least they can do is make sure it is a charity that resonates with the customer on some level, even if it is something as simple as asking donations for underprivileged children in a toy store checkout instead of asking donations for cancer research. Relevancy is the key.

Helping others can benefit your career

I came across a great article that talks about three ways in which helping others will benefit your own career.

The first talks about how helping others will make you a team leader. True leaders are those that are willing to go out of their way to help others get better or learn more about what they do. If you are a CEO, your job is to inspire and get those working in your company to be the best they can be. If you aren’t willing to help others understand or learn than your company could collapse right beneath you. You need to be willing to teach others so they will advance within the company, and in turn people will feel more comfortable and happy in their position. Apple’s past CEO Steve Jobs might have seemed like a very hard person to work for, but he cared so much, especially about the people who worked for his company. He was a true leader, which helped the company grow to be the biggest company in the world.

Helping someone also increases your network and provides a moment of connection between individuals. You are making a difference in others. If you were to help someone, you figure that person would be willing to help you in return too. “What comes around, goes around.”

Helping others also makes you a team player. Most companies are looking for employees who are true team players. People who are looking to learn and teach others without being asked to. By being a team player you are willing to be open to new ideas and work with others for the betterment of the company.