Shoppers Determine Grocers’ Charitable Giving

Discussion
Sep 05, 2008

By George Anderson

Consumers who shop at Waitrose grocery stores in the U.K. and at Whole Foods in the U.S. have a direct hand in deciding where the chains spend their charitable dollars.

According to a piece on the Springwise website, shoppers at Waitrose are offered a token each time they shop at one of the company’s stores. They then decide which of three local charities should get Waitrose’s pounds by placing the token in a designated Perspex tube. At the end of each month, the chain counts the tokens in the tubes and gives a corresponding amount to the charities.

In the U.S., shoppers who bring their own bags to Whole Foods are given wooden nickels that they can deposit in boxes assigned to local charities. Whole Foods then donates a percentage of its community giving dollars based on the charities chosen by its shoppers.

Discussion Questions: What do you think of the process at Waitrose and Whole Foods where shoppers get to play a role in directing the chains’ community giving? Have you seen any other examples of charitable efforts that positively influence shoppers’ relationships with the chains?

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17 Comments on "Shoppers Determine Grocers’ Charitable Giving"

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Odonna Mathews
Guest
Odonna Mathews
9 years 3 months ago

The key is to choose appropriate local or national charities that customers appreciate and find worthwhile. The approach of Waitrose and Whole Foods provides clear choices for consumers as well as visibility of the retailer’s charitable programs. Tokens in the store may have advantages over donations tied to loyalty cards in that consumers can actually see where the total dollars are going.

Susan Rider
Guest
Susan Rider
9 years 3 months ago

Fabulous idea! Instead of the corporation giving to a charity that is a pet project of their executives, they are letting their customers (from whom they make the money) decide. Out of the box thinking! Gotta love it!

Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
9 years 3 months ago

Most chains pick a charity and ‘sell’ it to the customer at the cash register. I like the idea of giving the customer choice. There are customers out there that will not donate because of the charity sponsored, so giving them a choice seems like a logical idea. Ultimately, customers enjoy the feeling of controlling their money so they may be more apt to donate if given a choice.

Anne Howe
Guest
9 years 3 months ago

The wooden nickels program at Whole Foods is a very powerful and tangible way for consumers to not only vote, but have a memorable experience that reinforces all the right connection points.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
9 years 3 months ago

I find this idea interesting. It certainly enhances the connection of the retailer, the shoppers and the community. It is almost like a frequent shopper program. Basically, the shopper does little different from what they would normally do and yet they get a psychic benefit for their shopping trip.

D’Agostino’s in NYC has charitable drives several times a year, all geared to the community needs. However, the ones they run, apparently successfully, all require a monetary donation from the shopper to be able to participate.

David Livingston
Guest
9 years 3 months ago

Most chains and a lot of independents already have this tied with with their frequent shopper card. Generally, 1% of sales is given to the charity designated by the shopper.

Tokens and wooden nickles seem kind of outdated, but never look a gift horse in the mouth. When done electronically using the loyalty card, donations can add up fast.

David Biernbaum
Guest
9 years 3 months ago

Shoppers getting to play a role in directing the chains’ community giving is not really unique to the retail chains in the U.K. For example, in St. Louis a couple of the supermarket chains have allowed consumers to purchase valuable certificates from their own churches, temples, schools, and other charitable institutions to redeem at the check stand for groceries.

John Crossman
Guest
John Crossman
9 years 3 months ago

I love this idea. Sometimes if feels like a retailer is forcing a charity and while the charity may be a good one, it does not necessarily connect with the needs of the local community.

This is a wonderful way to build community.

Joanna Kennedy
Guest
Joanna Kennedy
9 years 3 months ago

Agreed, it is a good idea. In the case of Whole Foods–it promotes the “Buy Local” marketing push with the complementary “Support Local” movement. It also provides a sense of empowerment to the consumer: although the charities presented might not be the #1 choice for the consumer, they are making the decision.

However, I cannot help thinking it’s a Band-Aid for sufficiently researching the consumer’s charitable preferences. Shouldn’t you know what charities your consumers want to support? In addition, are these sorts of efforts (i.e., I will give $1 for every wooden token) as effective as an organized and integrated philanthropic strategy that involves both business and community accountability?

Michael Murphy, Ph.D.
Guest
Michael Murphy, Ph.D.
9 years 3 months ago

Great idea! I love giving the consumer the ability to choose where the retailer’s charitable dollars are spent! Brilliant! And the actual act of putting the token in the preferred slot provides a salience to the activity that reinforces the retailer as a good community citizen.

Liz Crawford
Guest
9 years 3 months ago

Letting the consumer stay in control helps ensure that the brand fan base gets what they want, and in turn are more likely to remain loyal.

Further, consumers are more in control than ever before. Whether it’s site-to-store shopping or bartering on social networks or customizing ringtones. Collecting their input is a part of doing business now.

Justin O
Guest
Justin O
9 years 3 months ago

Allowing charitable giving at retailers to be “designated” is just great engagement of the customer and fills the role of goodwill. Target has seen great demand for its sponsorship of field trips at schools. It seems to have struck a chord with teachers and moms who have seen the lack of support and funding for education in general in their communities. I love what Toys “R” Us has done with its support of autism and the awareness they’ve brought to the cause. This also fits in well with their core demographic and retailing strategy.

I’m not so enamored by retailers such as Safeway that ask for donations at checkout since it seems that they should be taking a portion of THEIR profits to philanthropically use to benefit the community. Although, I do respect their latest store iteration and genuine customer service.

Phil Rubin
Guest
9 years 3 months ago

This is a reasonable strategy to build closer customer relationships, though it is not new. Publix has been doing this for years, focused on schools in each community they serve.

There does seem to be a trend with more brands, not just retailers, smartly aligning their philanthropic activities with those of their customers. Some good examples are:

— Kimpton Hotels (Dress for Success, Red Ribbon, Trust for Public Land).

— SunTrust Bank here in Atlanta offers new customers a choice of $50 debit card or a $100 charitable donation to the charity of their choice.

— Georgia Natual Gas has just launched a program similar to Publix where they allow customers to target a percentage of their bill to specific schools.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.
Guest
9 years 3 months ago

Since all retailing is a local phenomenon, doesn’t it make sense to ask the locals where they would like you to make charitable contributions? Also, given so much parity at retail, the local charity option could be an excellent “tie breaker” for store choice.

Kai Clarke
Guest
9 years 3 months ago

This is a tremendous way to involve the consumer into the community and charitable giving of the company. Each company should be using this as their model.

Mark Lilien
Guest
9 years 3 months ago

Annually, Kennebunk Savings Bank in Maine sends a ballot with its statements asking its customers to vote on which charities the bank should support. Several thousand customers vote each time.

When the bank or retailer asks its customers to vote, it’s probably more impactful than having management make the decisions. Isn’t it interesting how few retailers ask their customers?

Dan Desmarais
Guest
Dan Desmarais
9 years 2 months ago

The wooden nickel is a much better idea than listing a URL on the receipt. It’s unique, tangible, instantaneous, and gives the shopper the chance to physically cast their vote.

Then they leave the store remembering the good feeling of having given something back, not the $235 they just spent at Whole Foods.

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