Round up to help out, support local charities

I encountered a brilliant idea recently that I think could be easily implemented for an enormous positive impact on local communities.

I was checking out at a local Bloomington grocery store, and after I was given my total, I was asked if I wanted to round up my total to the next whole dollar. The extra amount would be donated to a community charitable organization (in this case, a women’s shelter for victims of domestic abuse).

I readily agreed. For one, the amount was less than a dollar so it didn’t seem like it would make an impact on my finances. Not to mention I like the idea of having an even amount to subtract when I balance my account, or not having to deal with change if I’m paying with cash.

But more importantly, I felt good that I was helping a worthy organization, and that I was joining together with others to reach a goal that probably none of us would be able to achieve alone. I later found out the effort raised more than $7,000 for the charity, and I could feel that I was part of that.

This is such an awesome idea because it is such a small amount for any one individual. Even if you consider that you might have several transactions per month, it’s still not a huge burden.

Spreading it out in incremental donations means you probably won’t miss it. But when every little bit is added together from all the customers, then it can be a huge benefit for a worthy charity.

I’ve encountered situations in which customers are asked to donate $1 for a charity. I’ll usually do it once, but probably not every time. For some reason, the fact that it’s $1 rather than the spare change that would come from a round figure just seems to be some sort of psychological barrier—even if the total I end up donating over the course of the month ends up being the same amount.

Plus these are usually national non-profits, and while they are good causes, they just don’t grab me the same way that a local group does. I think of this as a sort of crowdfunding within the local community. I’d also be more likely to patronize a store that did this, so that’s an added incentive for the merchant to get this set up.

The monthly charity could be highlighted in a display so that everyone would know who was being supported, and that alone might prompt customers to shop more, or even to add extra donations to their transactions. Spotlighting a group in this way would also raise awareness, and might encourage community members to donate at other times, or to get involved in a volunteer capacity.

Of course there needs to be a posting of how much was raised from the previous month to demonstrate the effectiveness of the program. This could also be a teachable moment for children; parents could show how working together helps to reach a goal. This could work to instill a sense of community activism in young people.

Stores that offer bag credits (which they all should), could give you the option to donate your bag credit to the charity rather than having it taken off your bill. This is a particularly great deal for us patrons because it doesn’t cost us anything (not to mention giving us motivation to bring our bags each time we shop).

Supporting local charities doesn’t have to be complicated or unduly burdensome; with a little creativity we can even find ways to make it fun.

Stephanie Haines of Bloomington is a Greenfield native. She can be reached through her website,