Checkout Charities – To Donate or Not To Donate?

TJ Maxx Home Goods Cashier: OK. So total today comes to $86.43.
Me: OK. I’ll put it on my credit card.
TJ Maxx Home Goods Cashier: Would you like to donate to Save the Children Foundation today?
Me: No thanks.
TJ Maxx Home Goods Cashier: Are you sure?
Me: *awkwardly* …Yes.
TJ Maxx Home Goods Cashier: [in a condescending voice] Okay. (Shoves me my bags of pillows and other decorative items clearly necessary for daily survival.)

It’s not that I don’t care for children despite my article of potentially never wanting to have children of my own. The same interaction generally happens at Petsmart, except there is no human asking you if you would like to donate, it’s on the credit card screen as:

Would you like to donate to your local humane society?
No Thanks   $1   $2   $3   Other

That is smart. Automated computers never get tired or forget to ask the question. The man in front of me donated, and as the cashier handed him his receipt, he announced, “Thank you for your generous donation today.” Then it was my turn to be rung up. *Gulp*. Now that my wallet is out and it’s clear I have $60 to spend on Kang Kang’s grooming, I should donate at least a dollar to a poor homeless dog, shouldn’t I? I’m sure the woman behind me heard the other man’s donation. Will she judge me and think I am a selfish, awful human being with no heart if I click that ‘No Thanks’ button? Will the cashier smile at me the same way he smiled at the donating man?

That is the problem I have with Checkout Charities. It has capitalized on human psychology and was invented to make a consumer feel trapped, guilted, and selfish if they decline on donating. I once asked a cashier at Albertson’s, “Can you tell me more about this charity? What percentage of the donations go to the actual charity? How much of it goes towards their cause?” She didn’t know how to answer a single question, not even the mission. Well, that is just fantastic.

It really is astounding. According to Cause Marketing Forum’s report, retailers raised $358.4 million in 2012 through this method. Its great for retailers because it makes them look like they actually care about non-profits and great for non-profits because they can profit. All the meanwhile the donations come from the consumer who really has no idea where the money is flowing to.

An article came out in the NY Times recently, titled ‘4 Cancer Charities Are Accused of Fraud‘. Everyone can relate to knowing someone who has been affected by cancer, right? Its devastating and we all want to find a cure or at least make the cancer patients remaining life better. So we slap pink ribbons on everything and hundred of millions of donation dollars later, there goes the executives taking a trip to Disneyworld… without the cancer patients. Only 3% of proceeds actually went to cancer patients?  This is ludicrous.

Not to be confused with Ludacris, a rapper.

Going back to human psychology, I find it really interesting that many stores now ask, “Would you like to round up your change to the next dollar?” I almost always say yes on this one. I don’t know what it is about nice whole round numbers. And for some reason knowing you are donating less than a dollar almost makes it feel like 0. What? My total is $3.01? Sure, let’s round that to $4. Add 99 cents …pfft that’s not even enough to buy a junior cheeseburger post tax.

Anyways, my point is, don’t get scammed into donating. Donate to causes you care about and donate anonymously. Unless you’re in the PAC party, there’s no need to share with the public who you support unless your end goal is to get others to donate to your cause you’ve researched and feel passionate about. Look at every charity as if they are a homeless drunk man asking you for a dollar. Would you trust this person?

Let’s discuss! To donate or not to donate?

– Emily


  1. I’ve learned that the best response you can say, without feeling bad or them making you feel bad, is: “maybe next time”. It implies that you will one day “return” to make another purchase from their store and donate then, when you are able. Which, for me, is usually when they are no longer doing the “donate a dollar” to charity. So, win-win lol 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I see what you just did there…

      Ha ha yeah I usually have a good answer I was just really taken aback when she double questioned me. My first thought was, “this lady is on a mission she must be making commission!” Most other cashiers are not as persistent.

      I can’t wait until one of those credit card things read from left to right
      I’m a POS – sure I will donate a dollar – I’m awesome!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I completely agree! I obviously feel very passionately about the two organizations that I donate time and/or money to because I am personally affected by them each in very different ways. But, even though I share those passions on social media in the hopes that people will help me reach my donating goals – I also don’t expect them to feel obligated into donating or even caring about the same causes as I do.

    I can’t stand the Checkout Charities for the reasons you mentioned above–if the person asking me about cannot tell me anything about it, why should I donate? How do I know it’s not a scam?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is an excellent post that brings up a legitimate point. I ONLY donate to two “checkout” charities and only because I have done my research and I know exactly how the money is collected and spent. One of the charities is MDA, which I happened to work with personally. The other is the Children’s Miracle Network, which played a huge role in saving my preemie baby brother’s life.

    Apart from those two, I usually just volunteer because I have more time to give than I do extra money.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for commenting!

      That’s a great points you bring up. Volunteer hours are just as impactful as donating money for a cause, if not more. That’s great your brother is okay and thanks for sharing your positive experiences with these organizations! I really appreciate your input!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Emily
    I agree with picking when, how much and to which charity – avoiding being guilted into a contribution on line
    Great that you point out the need to know how much of what you contribute goes to the cause, vs. how much goes to people employed to raise funds for that cause. I encountered this when i researched the police or firemen funds for which I received phone calls. I found that over half of anything you choose to give may go to the fund raisers
    In contrast, there are groups like the Pan Mass Challenge where 100% goes to fighting cancer (I am riding for the first time this year)
    Anyway, enjoyed reading – keep it up

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Steven,

      Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. I can’t wait to read your blog as my other passion is savings and investing!

      Good for you on doing your research and participating in raising money.

      You’re right it is so important to research what goes to the charity and if it’s tax deductible too! Then you will know if they are a true non profit.

      Looking forward to following you back. Thanks for the insights!



    1. Hi Jess!!

      Haha thanks for reading and yes – remember that time we volunteered for that mom shelter? I don’t know if our time was more valuable than giving them money but that was a strange opportunity in itself. Lol!


  5. I absolutely agree. There are few non-profits that I will donate to, and I usually donate from home – not from a cashier. Call me heartless, but I have no problem saying no to the cashiers when they ask. Next time, though, I think I am going to just start asking all of those questions. I might actually encourage my friends to do the same. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Our family plans our contributes to organizations and charities so no check-out contributions for us. I just say, “No thank you” but if pressed I say, “We contribute to our charities of choice.” Works every time 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I stopped donating at checkouts recently when I was (rightly/wrongly) informed that a lot of these companies get HUGE tax kickbacks on what looks to be their charitable donations.

    Why not save up all your little donations and make one big monthly/yearly one and at least get the same tax deduction for it? Not saying that’s why I donate (cancer and animals are my causes) but I’m not going to let a company benefit from my donations.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hear you! It’s interesting because the other side of the argument is even if the money raised is 3%, it’s better than 0, right? A director of a non profit spoke on Ted and said they need to treat the non profit like a business. By dumping in more money on marketing and advertising, they can raise a lot more funds. The return is greater. I can see both sides of the argument but for some reason it just doesn’t sit well with me.


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