April 5, 2017

Wise Giving Wednesday: Change for Charities – Rounding Up Your Register Bill

On a daily basis, most of us receive charitable appeals of some kind but an increasingly popular one is the request to round up your bill at the supermarket or other store register and agree to donate your change to a specified charity.  A 2015 study completed by Engage for Good (formerly Cause Marketing Forum) shows that checkout charity giving generated $390 million in 2014 by a group of 77 charities.  In turn, a 2015 online study conducted by Catalist showed that 66% of respondents donated at the register within the previous two months.  

But the donation option is expanding far beyond the grocery store. Round-It-Up America offers a platform that enables participating restaurants to offer customers to round up their bill for charity.  As reported in Yahoo! Finance on April 1st, the taxi app Lyft took out a full-page ad in the New York Times to announce its Round Up & Donate program that will enable its customers to contribute to various causes when they pay for their ride.

You are likely to see even more of this change for charities option in the future. In part, this is being fueled by the recent release of various apps that are enabling almost any retailer to offer round up charity giving options when consumers pay for their items or services. Other apps let individuals automatically round up their credit card purchase and contribute the amount to their selected charity without requiring the retailer to be engaged at all.

As the round-up charity options expand, we offer the following tips to help consumers/donors decide whether to participate.

  1. Charity round-up options do not operate in the same way. For example, some of the newer apps only enable selected charities to receive the donation. In other instances, the app may only release funds to a charity when  purchases result in a gift that reaches a certain level, such as $5. And, the app may charge fees for the donation transaction as well.
  2. Remember that charities still need your direct support through other means, this is just one option. In turn, such transactions often don’t result in the charity being able to follow-up with contributors or develop a longer term relationship. For that, they would need your email, phone or address.  On the other hand, some donors appreciate the anonymity of making a gift by contributing their change.
  3. Don’t assume the retailer or the app has vetted the designated charities.  Once again, it is ultimately up to the donor to take the time to verify the trustworthiness of the selected charity.  Visit Give.org to find out if the organization meets the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability.
  4. Be wary of excessive pressure to donate, even at the checkout register. Don’t feel obligated to say yes. If interested, you can always donate on your next visit, after you had a chance to find out more.

As part of our Building Trust Video series, we are pleased to provide a video of Rob Butcher, CEO of Swim Across America (a BBB Accredited Charity) which holds open water, pool, and virtual swims across the US in order to raise money to support cancer research, prevention and treatment. 

Finally, remember to let us know by going to https://www.give.org/ask-us-about-a-charity1/ if you are  interested in seeing a report on a charity not on our website search engine. We will do our best to produce one.  

H. Art Taylor, President & CEO
BBB Wise Giving Alliance