Store Charity Drives: Are You Being Pressured?

March 2nd, 2010 by Kathy McManus

In-store charity drives: good, or giving gone astray?

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

Is it okay to make someone feel bad about not doing good?

The Wall Street Journal’s Eric Felton recently wrote that he expects a backlash against stores that hit up paying customers at the checkout counter, asking them to donate to the business’s chosen charity. 

Felton recounted how, while he was buying holiday gifts that were on sale, a store clerk “proclaimed in a loud, clear voice: “With the markdowns, you just saved $20. How much of that would you like to donate” to the store’s charity of the month. Felton says he gave “a bit,” but wondered, “how many, like me, came away with a bad taste from the experience, an unpleasant sense of having been imposed upon”?

He contacted university philanthropy professor Leslie Lenkowsky, who said, “You get to feel badly if you refuse to donate.” But Lenkowsky also believes that being pitched directly at the cash register is superior to indirect methods because the donor makes “an affirmative decision” to give, and gets a “warm fuzzy glow.” 

“More like a slow burn,” Felton wrote of his own experience. “I’m left with the nagging sensation of having to cry ‘uncle.’ I never feel as though the offhand donation amounts to much — what, only a $5 donation when spending $100 on yourself! — which leaves me feeling rather like a skinflint. And yet, if I don’t pony up at all, there’s the reflexive twinge of shame.” 

Tell us what you think: Are in-store charity drives a good idea, or are they giving-gone-astray?