Would you like to be able to support your favorite charities at no cost to you*?
Then you should be using these “passive fundraising” options!
For each one, you just take an easy extra step or two, then when you spend money that you would be spending anyway (at places like Albertson’s, Amazon, AMC Theatres, American Airlines, Apple iTunes, Applebees, or AutoZone), then 0.5 – 7% of what you spend will be given to the charity of your choice. At no extra cost to you!
If you’re NOT doing this, then you are throwing away money that could benefit organizations you believe in.
Here are details on some programs… learn about Amazon, eScrip and Benefit mobile app, grocery store rewards cards and Shoparoo, restaurant fundraisers, box tops, and more.
Amazon Smile, Amazon Associate
Your favorite organization may participate in Amazon Smile – it’s easy to find out. Just go to smile.amazon.com. Log-in and search for a charity. There’s over a million to choose from. They offer some spotlight choices (Susan G. Komen, St. Jude’s, etc.) and that’s what MOST people choose. But your small contributions from this program might be more meaningful to a small local charity than to this multi-million dollar organizations. (See more below about how to choose a charity.)
Once you’ve chosen a charity, then in the future whenever you start your Amazon shopping by going to smile.amazon.com, then your charity automatically gets 0.5% of the money you spend, at no extra cost to you. So, if you spend $20, they get a dime. Not big money by any means, but every little bit helps, right? But you have to be on smile.amazon.com, not amazon.com for it to work.
If your favorite organization participates in the Amazon Associates program, it is MUCH better to use that than Amazon Smile. (And if they don’t participate, tell them this!) With this program, they simply put a special Amazon logo / link somewhere on their own website. When you’re ready to shop on Amazon, you first to to their website and click on that link to get to Amazon. Then shop from there like you always would and check out just like normal. Your organization will magically receive up to 10% of what you spend (percentage depends on the category of item you buy).
If you’re shopping on Amazon, and realize you forgot to start by clicking on that link, or if you’re shopping on the mobile app and you’ve already got your cart all loaded up, don’t worry about it. Just close the browser window or your app, go to your organization’s website, click the Amazon icon – it will take you straight back to that full cart. Check out, and they’ll get their cut.
eScrip, eDining, and Benefit app
When you dine out, or shop at Target, Starbucks, Safeway, Petco, CVS, and MANY more places, a portion of the money you were planning to spend anyway will go straight to the organization of your choice!
First, go to http://www.escrip.com/ to sign up. Choose your organization. (They have 1000’s to choose from.) Once you’re registered:
- Partner stores – check their list of affiliated merchants. Follow their steps to use the program. For example, in Washington state, you go to Bartell Drug, ask for a B-Caring Card, and register it. 4% of your purchases go to your charity.
- eScrip Dining – register the credit card(s) you use when you dine out. If you use the card at one of their participating restaurants, your organization automatically gets 2.5%. There are 1000’s of restaurants nationwide. Search for local restaurants.
- Benefit App (an eScrip partner) – download the Benefit mobile app. This allows you to purchase gift cards on your mobile device. (For LOTS of places like the stores listed above, plus things like Safeway, Sephora, Shutterfly, Southwest Air, Staples, Starbucks and Stubhub). You could email a gift card to a friend, family member or co-worker. OR… let’s think about “gift cards” in a whole new way: you can use the gift card yourself for something you were already planning to buy! Imagine: while you’re waiting in line at Panera, you buy a $10 gift card. When you place your order, you use it – your organization gets 40 cents. Or you’re shopping online at LL Bean for a new coat for your kid and some pants for you – total will be over $100. Buy a $100 gift card. Check out. They get $7.00. Instead of buying a Starbucks card and reloading it, buy a Starbucks card on the Benefit app to use – it’s just as easy, and they get 2.5%. Buying movie tickets on Fandango – 2.5%. Ready to book your Princess Cruise? Buy a gift card on Benefit app, and your charity will get 6% of whatever you spend on your cruise!! (Pro Tip: In testing a variety of opportunities – sadly not for a cruise – it has almost always worked instantly, there was only one online order where it took a few hours for the gift card to get activated before it would work to check out online. So, if you hit a rare case where it doesn’t work right away, test it later.)
Grocery Store Rewards Programs and Shoparoo
Lots of chains offer loyalty cards where you earn rewards as you spend there. Some of those allow you to donate rewards to local schools or to non-profits. These can be some of the easiest and most beneficial rewards to do. You just have to register once, and then every week when you buy groceries, the rewards build up for your organization. Check this list of Grocery Store Fundraising Programs, or ask your local grocer.
If your grocery store or drug store doesn’t participate, consider Shoparoo. I have not used it, but apparently it’s a free smartphone app where you upload a photo of your grocery shopping receipts (from stores like Safeway, Costco, Walmart, CVS, and many more), then they send donations to the school of your choice.
Goodsearch, Goodshop, Gumdrop
Go to www.goodsearch.org to sign up. When asked “who do you want to help?” choose your organization.
- goodsearch – Instead of using Google or Bing as your search engine, just go to www.goodsearch.org It works just like any search engine (it’s powered by Yahoo), but the charity gets one cent for every search.
- goodshop – When you’re shopping online, before checking out, check goodshop to see if they have coupons to your favorite retailers. Recent deals include hp, vistaprint, macy’s, Walmart, JoAnn, Harry & David, Target, Bed, Bath & Beyond, and many more. You then use that coupon when you check out. You’ll save money, and your organization will a portion of the proceeds on what you spend.
- gumdrop – Install the gumdrop app, and it will put a gumdrop icon in the task bar at the top of your browser. If you’re shopping at a site they have coupons for, the icon turns pink – click there to activate the app and use the coupon, and your group will get a portion of the proceeds.
Collect your Box Tops
I’m sure you’ve seen a “box top for education” label on some box of cereal, yogurt, Ziplocks, ballpoint pens, or mac and cheese. (See all the participating products.) It takes you a few seconds to tear these off and toss them in a drawer before you recycle the box. Then if you give them to a participating school, they can get 10 cents for every label! If you don’t have kids in school, just ask someone who does, and they can connect you to someone who’d happily take your labels. Don’t throw away this opportunity!
You can also give with Coke Rewards.
Lots of restaurants have lots of ways that they partner with organizations to fundraise. The most common are through
- donating food (like donuts or pizza) for school events, and then the school sells that food to support their programs
- rewards cards where the organization gets a percentage of what you spend
- events in the restaurant, where the organization recruits as many people as possible to come eat there at a specific time and the organization gets a cut of the night’s income
Look for these opportunities and if it’s food you like and would buy anyway, go for it!
Office Depot, Office Max
When you buy qualifying school supplies, your local school can get 5% of the purchase price credited to them for their school supply needs. Learn more.
Shutterfly / Lifetouch
When you design Christmas cards, calendars, and other photo gifts, they will donate 8% of purchase to schools that have set up the program.
Choosing a Charity
Whether for these programs, or for cash donations, or volunteering, how do you choose between a million charities???
Investopedia, Town and Country, and GuideStar offer advice:
- Choose a cause you feel strongly about.
- Decide if you want to focus on a small, local group or a national organization. Decide between broad focus (e.g. cancer) or specific (e.g. pediatric brain tumors).
- Search for charities that match your priorities. Then, learn more:
- Are they legitimate? It’s easy for someone to whip up a website or brochure or giving fund with a good story to inspire you to hand them money. Make sure they’re a real charity – are they a registered 501c non-profit?
- Do they do good work? You can learn more about many large charities at Great Non-Profits, Charity Navigator, and GuideStar.
- Are they transparent? Do they clearly tell your their goals, their programs, their results, and how your money is used? If not, don’t trust them.
- Research what each charity actually does, who they actually serve, and whether they do research or evaluations to make sure their efforts are effective.
- Look at their expenses and overhead (some organizations give huge CEO salaries and spend more on internal projects than on things that benefit the cause – look for one where 75% or more of the money goes to programs to benefit the cause, and 25% or less to running the organization)
How do these passive fundraising programs work??
* When anyone on the Internet promises that you’ll get something you want “at no cost to you”, that should always raise your suspicions! There’s rarely something for nothing, so you may want to understand how these programs work. Basically, the companies involved (Amazon, Old Navy, Starbucks, whatever) are paying a “referral fee.” They figure that if you see that buying a shirt at Old Navy means your favorite charity will get a 3% kickback, then you may be more likely to choose Old Navy than another store. So, they’re basically giving Benefit/eScrip at referral bonus for sending you to them, and then Benefit gives money to your charity.
And for restaurant fundraisers, you’re providing free advertising, and bringing people in to their restaurant on a night when business would otherwise be slow.
Don’t Stop Donating
While it is fabulous to participate in these programs (after all, you’re making sure your favorite organization gets money at no cost to you), they do not replace charitable giving. You’d have to spend $4000 on Amazon Smile to be the equivalent of dropping a $20 bill in the organization’s collection box! So, be sure to keep on donating hard cold cash.