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Your Take: Charity Solicitations at Stores

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With it being the holidays, a lot of stores have partnered up with local charities to solicit donations from customers. If you donate a dollar, you get your name on a balloon or a star that gets plastered behind the registers of a store. It’s always voluntary and optional and only in a few cases have I ever heard of someone “donating” without their consent (the recent Radio Shack – Livestrong debacle).

I have no qualms with these types of arrangements, as long as the retailer isn’t too pushy about it, but I almost never donate money. I don’t donate for a couple reasons:

  • It wasn’t part of the plan. I don’t have some grandiose philanthropic plan but there are several charities we support and while a dollar or two here or there doesn’t derail anything, part of me feels a bit ambushed when I’m solicited at a grocery store.
  • Donating direct is more efficient. The store gets something for their involvement (at least the charity has to pay for the promotional materials), I’d rather donate via a website or sending a check so that the charity gets 100% of the money.

There are, however, exceptions to my general feeling towards these solicitations. For whatever reason, if it has to do with kids and if the promotional push is one of their “big” ones for the year, we’ll usually buy a balloon or star or whatever. The prime example is Alex’s Lemonade Stand’s partnership with Rita’s Water ice.

What’s your take on this? Hate them? Indifferent?

{ 51 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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51 Responses to “Your Take: Charity Solicitations at Stores”

  1. jsbrendog says:

    i have never nor will i ever donate to any of these things after working at a movkie theater in college and seeing the “Jimmy Fund” cannisters at the concession stand opened and used for change in the registers.

    who knows where it will go. And radio shack sucks and no one shuld shop there to begin with, this livestrong-ing only makes that mroe obvious

    • jsbrendog says:

      edit: not i have never, cause i did pre job at the theater, but i never iwll again. either it goes directly to a known org or no dice

  2. Halfway between indifferent and hate, depending on how pushy they are. The only time I ever donate at a store is to the Salvation Army bell ringers. If you can stand outside in sub zero ringing a bell for your charity, I’ll give. (Unless it’s for the People Fund, George)

    Note that I’m not heartless – I do give to other charities. I simply prefer to do it on my own time and in my own manner.

    For those who are looking for a non-confrontational response to the request, simply say “not today”.

  3. One of the problems I have with this type of solicitation is that it tends to be sudden, public and a bit in your face, if you don’t mind my saying.

    Personally, I don’t believe in the causes behind many charities, and don’t feel an obligation to give to all. Unless I know fully what the charity is about, I don’t want to give to them.

    They may be collecting in the name of children, which sounds noble, but what else are they supporting or how are they doing it? I think we need to know that, and in a store or a mall we have no way to find out.

  4. Paige says:

    The only time I donate to causes like mentioned above are to the Salvation Army Bell Ringers and on occasion St. Jude and Le Bonheur. We live close to both and know a lot of people who have used their services. The times I get aggravated are when it is veterans, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and kids selling candy bars or other misc. crap. They are pushy and bug you on the way in and on the way out of the store. Just to clarify I am always nice, I just say “No, thanks”.

  5. Yana says:

    I don’t like it when I am paying for something at the store, and the clerk asks if I want to add a dollar for charity. That is not what I am at the store for. I don’t like it when I am accosted in front of the grocery store or post office by Salvation Army bell ringers, even though I like the work that the Salvation Army does in helping people. I just don’t like being marketed/solicited when I am taking care of my own business. Target gets big points from me for donating to the Salvation Army, but not allowing bell ringers or any other solicitor annoy me.

    • Seth @ Boy Meets Food says:

      BTW, if you “don’t like being marketed/solicited when I am taking care of my own business” you probably shouldn’t ever go out in public. Do you honestly think it is possible to go to any store (grocery, retail, whatever) where you are not receiving constant marketing???? Everywhere you look in a store, you can see promotions, coupons, or fancy boxes marketing the products. Given the thousands of marketing pushes you receive in every visit to a store, I don’t really think that one request from the cashier of whether you would like to add a dollar to the charity is making much of a difference.

      Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame you for not donating! I typically do not donate, unless I know about the organization. The difference is that I don’t complain about saying 2 words “no thanks”, or that their requests are any different than the other thousands of marketing campaigns you are confronted with when you visit a store.

      • Yana says:

        Seth, the thing that bothers me is that I feel I have to respond to a human being who is soliciting me. It feels like peer pressure, which in turn makes me feel that if I do give, I’ve been manipulated. The presumptuous practice of soliciting (or in religion, evangelizing) exploits the fact that most people want to think of themselves as nice people. Even in the face of privacy invasion, in some cases. If it is true, as the Salvation Army claims, that they raise the most funds through bell-ringing, I believe that is the reason.

        I really want to be self-directed, and pretty much am. I’ve given more to individual beggar types than to anyone part of an organized effort, because I can relate to an individual down on his luck. This doesn’t mean I enjoy coming across them, either. As far as marketing campaigns in a store, they are as easily ignored as TV ads and internet ads that are blocked on my computer.

        • Mrs. Micah says:

          Very true. When you’re being asked to do something, when the person asking & the people around you are potentially judging, it feels a lot worse to say no. I know I’m being marketed to a lot of the time, but I dislike being personally solicited for a whole ‘nother set of reasons.

  6. Chris says:

    I totally agree. We solicit this type of charitable giving at my place of work, not only from the customers but from staff. They even set high unatainable goals or to have the entire staff contribute for an end of season pizza party. Then, those who do not have their names up on the wall are easily picked out and probably feel horrible although noone knows that they either can’t afford it or are already donating elsewhere. When all is said and done, I am sure that pennies on the dollar end up where they are supposed to be going.

    • Kay says:

      I totally hated it when places I worked did this. While the cause might be a great one, too often it gets caught up in office politics. We had department head putting pressure on their staff to “beat” the other divisions. Charity should come from the heart, not some childish competition.

      • Chris says:

        Here is a breakdown of what our contributions could provide:
        $30.00 Flu Shot
        $850.00 One minute of research
        $100.00 One support group session
        $150.00 One physical, occupational or respiratory therapy consultation
        $500.00 Assists one person with repairs to any type of durable medical equipment
        $800.00 Sends one child to MDA Summer Camp

        • Chris says:

          $850 for 1 minute of research. I guess this org. is probably not doing a lot of research then.

  7. Foo Finance says:

    I never donate money. I will donate time or food or things such as clothes, books, or furniture since I know how they will be used (for the most part).

    Money is too easy to take and use for other purposes especially cash. Too many dishonest folks out there!

    If my time and stuff are not good enough then they are in it for the wrong reasons.

    – Foo

    • Chris says:

      Well said…on a similar not, I will buy a hungry man or woman a meal before I will give them a dollar.

  8. Anonymous says:

    personally i wouldn’t donate to this because when i give i prefer my name not plastered everywhere. Even the bible says that when you give you must not shout it from the rooftops but do so secretly and God will reward what only He has seen

  9. Emily says:

    I work at a place where we ask customers to purchase an additional book to donate to a local charity, but I don’t see it as too “in your face.” Part of retail is selling things to the customer and that’s especially necessary in this economic downturn – maximize every dollar that the customer spends.

    Also, if you don’t like having people ask you, a kind “no, thank you” will suffice. People don’t have to explain WHY they won’t donate or be rude. It’s my job to ask!

  10. Shirley says:

    Salvation Army bell ringers are OK once or twice, then it’s “Sorry, not today.”

    We budget $100+ for a charitable contribution for someone or something that we know about personally, and we choose a new one every year. If it is to a person, it is cash in an envelope with an explanation of why they were chosen and the request that it not be opened until we are no longer there.

    These are things we really believe can help.

  11. RJ Weiss says:

    Really indifferent about them. I tend to just say no politely and it’s over with.

    It very annoying however when a cashier asks you 5 X if you want a store credit card when you’re checking out.

  12. ziglet19 says:

    I don’t mind them, although I don’t often donate either, because it’s not in my plan. I do, of course, prefer those kind of solitications to the guy standing outside the front door asking for donations from some charity I’ve never heard of.

  13. freeby50 says:

    I have no problem with any sort of charity solicitation at a store. I usually don’t give but its easy to simply say ‘no thanks’. I’ve alwyas felt the Salvation Army bell ringers are a good idea, but nowadays I have no spare change since I use credit cards to pay for everything.

  14. Seth @ Boy Meets Food says:

    I have several comments on this:
    1. For Jim, your point that donating direct is more efficient… I disagree. If they are doing this type of collection, any advertising money spent is going to be spent regardless. That is a “sunk cost” and has no effect on the amount you donate. So, 100% of the funds can still be collected.
    2. Yes, there is a concern about the honesty of those doing the collecting. But, can you say with 100% certainty that there are no dishonest people working for any organization to whom you give money? I consider this argument negated, because money can always be skimmed or stolen at some point of the process.
    3. While the Salvation Army, scouts, etc. seem a little out of scope of Jim’s post, several brought them up, so I will comment on that as well. I’m sorry, but most of those comments I read are really pathetic and make you sound miserly and cheap. I have no problem with people electing not to give to a charity! That is each person’s prerogative, but to claim that the Salvation Army bell ringers or the boy scouts are “accosting you”, c’mon. Sure, the boy/girl scouts might ask you if you would like to buy a box of cookies/popcorn, but usually the salvation army people do not even speak. If someone standing in the corner, ringing a bell, is your definition of accosting, then you must have some serious interpersonal issues. If you do not want to give, just keep walking. Do not make comments that those people should not be allowed to ask for donations just because of your personal insecurities.

  15. Seth @ Boy Meets Food says:

    I’m sorry you had a negative experience with a charity collection. I agree, there is little protection against theft with a collection jar set up next to a cash register, as in your example. However, most charities are run in a way that instills much more confidence. The balloons Jim mentioned are actually purchased, and a record of the transaction is kept, so the money cannot be stolen by clerks. Even with the Salvation Army bell ringers… the canisters are locked to the stands. Sure, someone could steal the entire stand, but that’s unlikely to go unnoticed, especially with video cameras. I just wanted to point out that in most cases today, the collections are handled in a more trust-envoking manner than a simple jar next to a register.

  16. lostAnnfound says:

    If I have some change in my pocket, I will put it in the Salvation Army bucket. Otherwise, we have chosen charities that we give during the year. Usually it just take “not today” or “already gave” to those doing the collecting.

  17. zapeta says:

    I will drop change in to a Salvation Army bucket but I say no to anything at the point of sale. Why give some corporation my hard earned money for them to donate on my behalf and get a tax deduction for their trouble?

  18. wil says:

    I actually look forward to the red bucket of the Salvation army this time of year. I try to have something available to put in every time I walk by one. It gives me an opportunity to reflect on how blessed I am…..

    • Chris says:

      I hear that they will be seting up card scanners now at some loactions.

      • lostAnnfound says:

        I read about the scanners in the local paper a week or two. It may be understandable why they are doing this as more people are carrying less cash and using plastic more (debit or credit), but it still seems weird.

  19. Liz Kay says:

    I usually don’t contribute to the various store-sponsored campaigns, but never really considered why not until reading this blog post. Really, these days there’s tons of factors to weigh before I can decide whether to support a charity, so it’s not a choice I’m willing to make while checking out.

    But I really prefer to buy a candy bar or cookies from kids raising money over kids just holding out a bucket and asking me to contribute cash to their field trip, etc. Isn’t holding a car wash, etc. a learning experience, and the field trip the reward?

    • Yana says:

      Liz, I love those fundraising car washes and am glad to run across them.

      I don’t like that schools make solicitors out of students for trips, especially since I see school as a place for learning such things as reading, writing and math – not going on trips from California to Washington DC. When I think of schools and money, I think of mismanaged funds freely given by voters who always say yes to the schools.

      I like Girl Scouts and their cookies, and thought that selling See’s candy bars for a swim team was a good idea. I do have a certain vulnerability where food is involved, especially the latter 😉

      • lostAnnfound says:

        As a former Girl Scout leader and the mother of two teens, fundraising has become a fact of life. Girl Scouts in our area do not allow any fundraising (selling of merchandise) other than GS cookies. If we wanted to raise some cash, we did can/bottle drives, yearly park clean up (city donated money to GS, Boy Scouts, etc., who participated).

        For school, it has just become ridiculous. So far this year my 10th grader has had one fundraiser (to raise money toward senior dues…$290.00) and my 8th grader has had two (for Washington DC trip). We have been doing fundraisers since the older one was in 1st grade for this activity or that field trip. We’ve also bought more things (candy, gift wrap, gift cards, pies, raffles tickets, Entertainment book, frozen cookie dough, etc.) from friends’ kids and nieces and nephews. I sometimes think it would have been better for each parent just to give the money they would have spent buying something to their own kids for whatever trip/function they were doing and one less thing to have to deal with.

    • Jim says:

      Yeah, I think fundraising on that scale, candy bars and whatnot, is something totally different… and I do prefer buying something over straight up asking for money.

  20. Christine says:

    My biggest problem with this is the loss of a tax deduction, cash donation with no receipt = no tax deduction! Those few dollars here and there can add up quickly.

  21. Mrs. Micah says:

    What I find the MOST annoying is all the solicitation I receive by working in DC & commuting from a metro stop near the White House. We get people handing out political fliers, people selling products like donuts, trying to get you to sponsor a child or make a donation, people pushing all kinds of stuff in your face. It’s kind of cyclical, based on permits I think. So at least you know you won’t get one set of ppl for 2 weeks or so.

    I find that very annoying because in the morning I’m heading to work & just want to get there. And at night, I’m tired & just want to go home. But like most DCers, I can turn a blind eye pretty well & just keep walking. Only people that I don’t mind are the homeless (especially the ones selling Street Sense) and the musicians.

  22. Kay says:

    I don’t like it. Giving to charity is a personal choice, one my husband and I make at at home. I used to feel bad when I said no, but then I realized as many other readers have noted, we do a decent job with our own giving, so no more guilt when I just say, “no thanks.”

  23. daenyll says:

    I will not give to the buy a sticker for a dollar type things in store, nor the bake sale/ solicitors outside of a store. I always hate the fact that they send the littlest kid out with the puppy dog eyes to beg for the donation when I just want to get in and out of the store. I live a tight student budget and can’t really afford anything much extra, though I will occasionally drop some change in the salvation army or a pet shelter collection.

  24. saladdin says:

    Everyone has a charity they favor. I never give to republican politicians or religious ones. What I do is when I read a story in the local paper about a family losing a house in a fire or something like that I send them money.


  25. hoht says:

    volunteering for charity organizations, I can understand why they have to be pushy at times. It’s tough for people to run the organizations on near empty, so they have to find ways to keep the their programs afloat. Although there is state and federal funding, its usually never enough. So instead of giving money, I personally like to give my time, it means a whole lot more.

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