The uncertain economy may have led both consumers and companies to scale back their charitable donations this year. But rather than not give at all, many are doing their philanthropic work at the checkout line.
Cause-related retail, in which a portion of what a consumer pays for a product goes to a charitable cause, is likely to flourish this year, say experts.
"As the economy tightens, Americans have fewer dollars to give to charities," says Alison DaSilva, vice president of Cone, a Boston-based marketing firm that helps corporations develop charitable-giving programs. "Marketing promotions provide a very convenient way for Americans to give back."
Among the 91 percent of Americans who will give to charity this holiday season, 58 percent plan to do so through cause-related purchases. It represents the second most-popular method behind donations of personal belongings, according to a recent Cone survey.
The types of retailers offering cause-related promotions varies. "It could be a charity tie-in with a breakfast cereal or even men's ties," says Bennett Weiner, chief operating officer of BBB Wise Giving Alliance, a national charity watchdog in Arlington, Va., under the auspices of the Better Business Bureau.
Examples of promotions: Target donates 1 percent of purchases made with the company's credit card to arts and education programs. Hormel donates cured hams to charities based on consumers' purchases of the company's meat products between October and January.
In addition, several national banks offer credit cards with affinity programs that let consumers direct a small percentage of their purchases toward specific charities. And some websites, like www.greatergood.com, donate a percentage of revenue from product sales.