Checkout Charity: 7 Effective Strategies to Do It Right

Checkout charities have come under fire for pressuring donors into giving without being transparent about how funds will be used. When a cashier asks a customer to give to X charity, the exchange feels short and impersonal, essentially stripping away all the positive feelings that come with donating. 

But checkout charities can be incredibly effective for raising awareness and receiving donations from old and new supporters alike. Customers, after all, already have their wallets out when they reach the register. 

So, how can you launch a profitable checkout charity that doesn't alienate your donors?

With the following proven strategies, you can run a successful checkout charity.

  1. Pick the right retail partner.
  2. Make the donation process simple.
  3. Create effective messaging.
  4. Don’t pressure your donors.
  5. Provide other ways to get involved.
  6. Check in with your retail partner regularly.
  7. Optimize the giving amount.

Get ready to learn how you can raise more money by running checkout charities the right way! 

1. Pick the right retail partner. 

The first step to a successful checkout charity is choosing the right businesses to work with.

Generally, when you raise money for a fundraising event, you'll have a list of corporations you want to ask. These companies either have a history of helping organizations or can offer your nonprofit something useful for your event. 

It's the same for checkout charities; since this partnership will be beneficial for both parties, you need to make sure you're working with companies that align with your values and mission. Not only does this help ensure that everyone in the partnership is on the same page, but it also helps customers see the connection between your partner and your cause.

In other words: donors are more likely to support a charity checkout campaign when retailers are being genuine about their partnership with an organization.

For example, if you run an animal shelter and you partner with a convenience store that has never expressed an interest in supporting animal-related causes, patrons won't understand the relationship between you and the retailer. 

Alternatively, an animal shelter should partner with a pet-friendly business or a company that has publicly supported animal-related causes in the past. 

If you need more help deciding on the right retail partner, why not look to your existing donors for help?

Ask your supporters to: 

  • Vote on your top five choices.
  • Tell you what retailers they'd like you to partner with.
  • Share their favorite places to eat and shop. 

Letting donors express their opinions will excite them and make them feel like part of the process, which may motivate them to donate to your checkout charity. 

Bonus: Get examples of nonprofits that partnered with the right retailers to reach their goals. 

2. Make the donation process simple. 

Two of the biggest motivators to give during checkout are speed and ease of use.  

After waiting in line and going through the checkout process, patrons don't want to enter a long, drawn out procedure to donate a small amount. 

When the process is quick and easy, patrons can act on impulse and feel good about donating. 

Use a process that is straightforward and convenient for your donors and your retail partners. 

Traditionally, charity checkout campaigns accept only cash donations or the donation is integrated into the retailer's checkout process so donors can give as they make their purchases. 

Both options have their challenges as patrons rarely carry cash anymore and retailers don't want to deal with the hassle of implementing an integrated system.

The Salvation Army's Red Kettle campaign is a great example of how your organization can fix this dilemma.


Along with their iconic red kettles, The Salvation Army placed small, portable giving kiosks in a couple of local shops on the West Coast that allowed patrons to give via credit card. 

The process was simple: retailers just needed to plug the device in and place it by their cash registers, and donors just had to dip their cards into the device to make $1 donations. In just a short period, The Salvation Army generated over $1,000 in donations. 

When you limit the amount of time (and steps) it takes to donate, supporters are more likely to contribute because it's easy. 


3. Create effective messaging for your checkout charity. 

During your campaign, you'll deal with a unique type of supporter. Often, supporters of a checkout charity campaign aren't familiar with the organization before they donate. 

Therefore, you need to equip your retail partners with the necessary materials to effectively market your campaign.

This can include signs with information about your organization and postcards that patrons can take with them as well as educating retailers on your nonprofit so they can share your cause with patrons during checkout. 

If your retail partners understand your organization's mission and learn stories about your accomplishments, they can share these facts with patrons to encourage them to donate. 

For your messaging to be effective, it has to be clear, short, and engaging as you only have a few minutes to attract patrons' attention before they complete the checkout process.

Look at how Children's Miracle Network Hospitals decided to incorporate messaging on their DipJars:

This example does a lot of things successfully:

  • First, the message and the giving device is branded to match the nonprofit. Donors are more likely to recognize Children's Miracle Network the next time they encounter it. 
  • Secondly, there is a card that explains how the donations will be used and shows the logos of the partners behind the campaign. 
  • Lastly, the phrase "put your money where your miracles are" is short and punchy and encourages donors to give. 

The messaging in the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals checkout campaign is transparent; there is no confusion about which retailers and organizations are participating in the campaign or who will benefit from the donations. 


4. Don't pressure your donors.

The biggest challenge with asking for donations during a sale? Patrons feel pressured into contributing if they don't support the cause. 

In most campaigns, the cashier directly asks customers to donate, and this can make patrons feel guilty or uncomfortable if they publicly say "no," so a lot of people just say "yes" to avoid the awkwardness of declining. 

This approach might lead to some donations, but making donors feel uncomfortable isn't effective if you want to develop long-lasting relationships with these donors. 

To avoid pressuring donors to contribute, some organizations opt for a passive cause marketing approach, which means they let their signage do all the talking. 

By placing a sign and a bucket or giving kiosk in a visible spot near the register, retail partners let the customers decide if they want to contribute. 

Passive cause marketing can work, but it requires an eye-catching message and a prominent location to grab attention. 

Another effective approach is to offer patrons incentives. Discounts and other perks can be the extra push that people need to make a donation. 

The National Children's Health Charity partnered with stores that offered a 20% discount to patrons who made a $20 donation. This short-run campaign was able to generate $600 per location.

When it comes to asking for donations, the trick is to make donating feel like an option rather than an obligation. That way, the donors that contribute give because they're passionate about the cause or feeling generous rather than feeling guilty. 

5. Provide other ways to get involved. 

Since many of the donors in a checkout charity will be first-time supporters, you should provide them with other ways to get involved and stay in touch with your organization

Not only will this help you initiate the stewardship process, but it also shows donors that you appreciate support in all different forms, not just monetary donations.

Give donors other ways to stay involved by:

  • Including your social media accounts so donors can engage with you online.
  • Adding your website's URL to your checkout charity messaging so that donors can learn more about your cause when they have spare time. 
  • Adding an optional step (if you have a short donation process) that asks donors for their contact information or to sign up for your newsletter. 

Requesting their contact information is a great way to follow up with donors after the campaign to thank them for their support and provide them with more information about your organization. 

Your organization has obviously made an impact on donors since they were willing to give based on impulse.

Keep in touch with these supporters and suggest other ways they can help your cause like volunteering, giving their feedback, or sharing the campaign with their friends and family. 

Interaction with donors after their initial donation will ensure that these don't just become one-off gifts but long-term support for your cause. 

6. Check in with your retail partner regularly.

A common mistake that nonprofits make is that they don't ever check in with their retail partners to see what strategies are working or what needs improvement. 

Since your retail partners will be on the front lines directly asking patrons to contribute and engaging with them about your cause, they will have great insight into your donors' thoughts and how excited the public is about your checkout charity. 

Not only should you speak to your retail partners to get their opinion on the success of your campaign but also:

  • Visit the stores to see how cashiers ask for donations.  
  • Check the placement of your signs or other marketing materials. 
  • Track the donations received and the time gifts were made from each retailer.

Using a giving kiosk like DipJar is a valuable asset when it comes to analyzing data because you can remotely track information from each individual device. With that information, your nonprofit can work with retail partners to optimize their kiosks based on factors that contribute to more donations.

For instance, a nonprofit may analyze giving data and discover that they raise the most funds from the cash register that's farthest from the door. There are many reasons why this may be the case (i.e. donors who are closer to the door are in a bigger hurry or maybe the messaging is easier to see).

Nonprofits, however, won't know what the real reason is without consulting with the retail partner to gain more insight. The retailer may reveal that the cashier for that register is just really bubbly and talks more openly about the checkout charity. As such, it's important to supplement data with regular check-ins so that you can build the most effective strategy going forward (or in this case, encourage all cashiers to promote the checkout charity). 

The more you work with your retail partner and track data, the easier it will be to spot challenges and devise solutions. 

7. Optimize the giving amount.

During the checkout process, asking for an exact amount is not only more direct but it also saves the donor time deciding how much to give. Plus, direct asks tend to get more positive responses from patrons.  

Asking for a specific amount is critical, and you should spend time researching the best gift size so that you don't ask customers to donate an amount that's too high (or too low). 

To find the ideal gift size, look at your retail partners and the type of purchases that customers make.

Let's say you're partnering with local convenience stores for your checkout charity. As most customers are probably coming to the store to purchase a few items, it wouldn't make sense to ask for a $25 donation; instead, you might ask for a $1-$3 gift. 

You can also run tests to find the perfect giving amount. Switch the gift amount from $1 to $2 at different times or retail locations to see how much donors are willing to give. 

While you may have a lot of donors that are comfortable giving $1, without the option to give more, you'll never know if these donors would give $2 or $5 if you don't test different donation amounts.

Use the data from your tests to determine a gift size that donors are comfortable giving and that maximizes your fundraising. And remember, the optimized amount doesn't have to be universal. 

If you have a way of accepting donations that can easily be adjusted, you can optimize the gift amount for different times or locations. 

With the right strategies, checkout charities have the potential to reach new donors, generate awareness, and raise money for your nonprofit. 

Use these 7 tips to help you run your charity checkout and have fun fundraising!

Additional resources: 

  1. 6 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Use Square. Square for nonprofits is a way to accept credit card donations at events, but it isn't an ideal option for organizations. Learn why in this article.
  2. The Recognition Effect. Did you know that donors are more likely to make a contribution if they see others doing the same? Learn how you can implement this strategy into your checkout charity.
  3. HOW TO RECIEVE MORE CREDIT CARD DONATIONS AT EVENTS. Now that you've implemented kiosks into your checkout charities, see how these devices can maximize your fundraising during events.