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Read This Before Donating at the Register

“Would you like to round up your change and support a good cause today?”

Point of purchase (POP) fundraising campaigns lower the barriers to charitable giving by making the process simple and impulsive. Though they helped raise $441 million in 2016 alone, “POP” campaigns have their drawbacks. Here are 5 things to keep in mind next time you’re asked to roundup at the register.

1. POP Campaigns Encourage Passive Philanthropy

Research shows that people who contribute to POP campaigns are less likely to donate on their own terms. By donating a few cents at the register, individuals naturally feel they’ve met a "moral quota." Unfortunately, this mentality may actually be damaging to philanthropy as a whole.

According to Stanford Social Innovation Review, having a society full of individuals who are content in giving at the register is not enough to enact change on a societal level. True progress occurs when individuals take an active stance on philanthropy, and seek out causes to support with whatever resources they are willing to spare.

2. POP Campaigns Can Feel "Forced"

We’ve all been there. All you wanted to do was buy some deodorant, and next thing you know you’re being asked if you want to support an obviously worthy cause in front of people you might see every day.

Donating to charity is a personal choice that requires a fair amount of due diligence, and checkout solicitations create social pressure that often results in people acquiescing to avoid feeling guilty or looking bad in front of their peers. Forcing people’s hand might be an effective way to solicit donations, but it often leaves a bad taste in the donor’s mouth.

3. You Don't Always Know Where Your Money Goes

Knowing the general focus of a POP campaign is not enough to make a truly informed decision to make a donation. Unless you are already familiar with the featured nonprofit, there is simply no time to research how exactly your donation will be used. Does this organization specialize in funding awareness campaigns? Medical research? The answer might affect your decision to donate, so you’re better off doing your due diligence to make sure you’re supporting an organization that aligns with your personal values.

4. POP Donations Are Difficult to Track for Tax Deductions

POP campaigns tend to be notoriously unclear about how each donation is actually processed: does the money go directly to the charity, or do stores hold onto the money until they can write one aggregate check in their own name? The answer can vary from campaign to campaign, meaning that unless the store prints your receipt with the amount and recipient of your donation, it can be difficult to claim the credit for your donation.

Of course, philanthropy isn’t about receiving credit. But there are several advantages that come with claiming responsibility for donations, like the corresponding tax write offs. For people who are interested in benefiting from these tax deductions come April, donating at the register might not be the best choice.

5. Your Donations Are Anonymous

POP campaigns are effective because they only require a split second of people’s time and attention: just tap “yes” or “no.” Unfortunately, this means that the sponsored nonprofits don’t receive valuable donor data. While cash is always nice, nonprofits rely on the ability communicate with donors in order to build lasting relationships that generate cash flow over the long-term. Without donor contact information, nonprofits miss out on the opportunity to organically grow their user base.

Ultimately, point of purchase fundraising is a step in the right direction. It gives people a means to donate without changing their daily routine. But the downsides that come with POP fundraising make it, at best, a handy way to raise money in a pinch. If you're interested in a better solution, GiveTide offers all the benefits of POP fundraising, while still allowing you to give on your terms to the organizations that you want to support.

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