Business Charity and the Wisdom of Scrooge

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Before Scrooge underwent his miraculous transformation, he had a dim view of charity. When two solicitors visited him to raise funds to “buy the poor some meat and drink,” he assured them he’d already given.

“I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned [i.e. prisons, workhouses, government programs]–they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.”

Scrooge viewed charities and the people they helped as a drag on him and society. Sadly, he didn’t see the benefit of helping others beyond what he paid in taxes.

Fortunately, modern business owners have saved themselves from ghostly visitors by embracing charity all year long, giving generously to school programs, soup kitchens, and pet shelters. But their generosity is beginning to wane. Inundated with requests from charities, businesses are struggling to keep up and are channeling a less benevolent, more Scrooge-like weariness for giving.

“People used to come in and ask for a donation,” explained one business owner in my hometown of Newton, Massachusetts. “Now they just come in expecting it–as if I owe them something. Of course, as soon as they get what they want, I don’t see them again.”

“I don’t expect people I support to spend their whole paycheck in my store,” he added. “But it would be nice if they showed their support for me, too.”

Some businesses have responded by limiting their support to causes customers support. Others are tapping into mobile technology and location-based services to link shoppers to donations.

Checking-in For Charity

Luxury car maker Lexus this month launched, a Facebook promotion that donates ten dollars to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America for each check-in on Facebook or Foursquare. When users check in to a Lexus dealership, donations are doubled for each check-in for the entire day. Lexus could have just given Boys & Girls Clubs $100,000 (the maximum donation possible from the promotion). Instead, they tied it to users liking their Facebook Page, and rewarding them when they check in at a dealership.

Despite being only a couple weeks into December, the promotion has already raised over $90,000.

Lexus’ check-in-for-charity promotion ends this month. But a new location-based service, Check-in For Good, will allow businesses to link donations to consumer activity all year long.

The premise behind Check-in for Good is a good one. When consumers check in with the app, the business makes a donation to a cause. Nonprofits can help themselves by petitioning local businesses to designate them as a check-in beneficiary.

It’s a good option for businesses since the giving only happens when shoppers check in at the businesses’ physical location. An added bonus is that businesses can add a special or discount to further drive visits and donations.

This video explains how Check-in for Good works.

Using a service such as Check-in for Good doesn’t make businesses a Scrooge.

“It could actually lead to more giving,” said founder Rob Katz. “The service shows that you can do well and good, which may increase all forms of business giving.”

“The service is win-win,” added Katz. “Wasn’t it Tiny Tim who said ‘God bless us, everyone‘?”