Family Video Sets the Bar High for Charity Fundraising

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Not all retail-driven fundraising ideas are created equally. And none of them do it the way Family Video does it.

In Louisiana last week, a gas station convenience store had a plastic donation bucket on its counter, intended to accept coins and cash for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Instead, a thief took off with it. Though this is unfortunate, I can't think of a worse way to donate to a charity than to put your money into one of these buckets.

Now, I do appreciate the fundraising effort currently underway by Quiznos, the fast-food sub sandwich restaurant based in Colorado, to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. With more than 4,000 locations in the United States, Canada and all over the world, Quiznos should be able to do some good.

What I don't appreciate is how the company is doing it.

Quiznos customers are asked if they want to donate $1 or $5 to the LLS as they pay for their sandwich. Quiznos hopes to raise $100,000 this way by the end of October.

I speak for customers everywhere when I say that these campaigns feel obligatory, and they promote guilt and discomfort.

Doing It Right

A great model for point-of-sale campaigns has got to be that of Family Video, a so-called "rentailer" of movies and video games. The company has 780 retail locations in the United States.

In March of 2012, Family Video launched "Round It Up for Lymphoma", a fundraiser wherein customers were asked at the point-of-sale if they would like to round up the amount they owe – say $17.43 to $18 – and donate the rounded-up portion to the Lymphoma Research Foundation.

It took Family Video just 17 days to hit the $1 million mark.

The company did it again in the spring of 2013, this time raising $1,135,000 in 16 days.

Granted, Family Video's point-of-sale campaign was not the company's only fundraising method. Stores also took part in bake sales, raffles featuring prizes donated by businesses near Family Video locations, and a number of other events and activities, including making a donation in order to throw a pie in the face of a Family Video store manager.

Keeping It Positive

Family Video isn't the first or the only company to raise money by rounding up purchases at the point-of-sale, but it is very likely the best at it. Why?

I think it's like one of the Transcendentalists used to say: It's not what you do but the spirit in which you do it that matters.

Family Video stores compete against one another, they directly involve their own employees as well as local businesses, and they all take their lead from enthusiastic company president Keith Hoogland.

Planting a donation bucket near a cash register is lazy. Hoping your otherwise largely indifferent employees will ask for donations is only marginally less lazy (but significantly safer).

To turn the campaign into an annual company-wide event that raises money and awareness, and allows people to have fun and win prizes all at the same time?

That's the spirit.

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