Charity Shaming—Maybe Not So Bad After All
Most of us are familiar with “charity shaming” at the checkout. It’s where you’re asked if you’d like to donate to XYZ Charity, as you’re standing there paying for your merchandise with a bunch of other people around. Being put on the spot to make a donation in this way—even a small one—can feel disconcerting.
Whole Foods, in particular, is famous—or infamous—for this practice. If you’ve never seen it, take a minute and watch this classic clip from South Park called Nothing for Hungry Kids that lampoons Whole Foods for this practice.
Nevertheless, it turns out that “checkout charity” has become a big business. According to Engage for Good, in 2016, over $441 million was raised in the U.S. by a group of 73 point-of-sale fundraising campaigns that each raised in excess of $1 million. In total, these programs have raised more than $4.1 billion over three decades, and it’s trending up. Between 2014 and 2016 the dollars raised increased by almost five percent.
Retailers sometimes shy away from participating in checkout charity because they are unsure about how their customers will react to being asked to donate when they are paying for purchases. The last thing they want is to create an experience that will depress sales.
A recent study published in the academic journal Cornell Hospitality Quarterly suggests that retailer’s reluctance to participate may be misplaced. Researchers from Cornell University conducted multiple studies where they surveyed customers at a fast-food chain restaurant immediately after they were asked to donate.
The two main findings were customers had positive feelings as a result of their giving, and running a checkout charity program was good for the restaurant’s bottom-line.
Customers experienced what psychologists call the “warm glow effect,” as a result of making a donation. Researchers believe that consumers associate this positive emotional state with the retailer, making it more likely that they will return in the future and spend more of their dollars there.
Surprisingly, the customers who refused to donate had no negative feelings about the store brand. Being asked to donate and declining had no bearing on their desire to return to the retailer in the future.
Good for the charity and good for the retailer means that checkout charity may be in your future.
Katrina VanHuss and Otis Fulton have written a new book, Dollar Dash, on the psychology of peer-to-peer fundraising. Click here to download the first chapter, courtesy of NonProfit PRO!
Otis Fulton, Ph.D., spent most of his career in the education industry, working at the psychometric research and development firm MetaMetrics Inc., Pearson Education and others. Since 2013, he has focused on the nonprofit sector, applying psychology to fundraising and donor behavior at Turnkey. He is the co-author of the 2017 book, ”Dollar Dash: The Behavioral Economics of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising” and is a frequent speaker at national nonprofit conferences. With Katrina VanHuss, he co-authors a blog at NonProfit PRO, “Peeling the Onion,” on the intersection of psychology and philanthropy.
Otis is a much-sought-after copywriter for nonprofit fundraising messages. He has written campaigns for UNICEF, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, March of Dimes, Susan G. Komen, the USO and dozens of other organizations. He has a Ph.D. in social psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Virginia, where he also played on UVA’s first ACC champion basketball team.
Katrina VanHuss has helped national nonprofits raise funds and friends since 1989 when she founded Turnkey. Her client’s successes and her dedication to research have made her a sought-after speaker, presenting at national conferences for Blackbaud, Peer to Peer Professional Forum, Nonprofit PRO, The Need Help Foundation and her clients’ national meetings. The firm’s work is underpinned by the study and application of behavioral economics and social psychology. Turnkey provides project engagements, coaching, counsel and staffing to nonprofits seeking to improve revenue or create new revenue. Her work extends into organizational alignment efforts and executive coaching.
Katrina also regularly shares her wit and business experiences on her and Otis Fulton's NonProfit PRO blog “Peeling the Onion.” When not writing or researching, Katrina likes to make things — furniture from reclaimed wood, new gardens, food with no recipe. Katrina’s favorite Saturday is spent cleaning out the garage, mowing the grass, making something new, all while listening to loud music by now-deceased black women, throwing in a few sets on the weight bench off and on, then collapsing on the couch with her husband Otis to gang-watch new Netflix series whilst drinking sauvignon blanc.
Katrina grew up on a Virginia beef cattle and tobacco farm with her three brothers. She is accordingly skilled in hand to hand combat and witty repartee — skills gained at the expense of her brothers. Katrina’s claim to fame is having made it to the “American Gladiator” Richmond competition as a finalist in her late 20s, progressing in the competition until a strangely large blonde woman knocked her off a pedestal with an oversized pain-inducing Q-tip. Katrina’s mantra for life is “Be nice. Do good. Embrace embarrassment.” Clearly she’s got No. 3 down.