Walmart, Costco Among ‘Checkout Champions’: Study

Cause marketing programs at retail and restaurants, including highly successful, long-running efforts by Walmart/Sam's Club and Costco, raised more than $388 million for charity last year, according to "America’s Checkout Charity Champions," a benchmark study from Cause Marketing Forum Inc.

The forum spotlighted 77 campaigns that generated at least $1 million dollars by asking consumers to make a gift, round up their sale, contribute change or feature their names on "pinups," or placards and paper icons that are then placed on display. This elite group of cause marketers has raised more than $3.88 billion over three decades, the research found.

"At cash registers and online, companies and consumers are banding together to raise tremendous amounts of money for good causes," noted David Hessekiel, president of Cause Marketing Forum. "We expect companies will raise significantly more in the next couple of years by better integrating technology, deepening employee engagement and working more closely with nonprofit partners."

Among 2014's champions, 38 campaigns also made the first survey, in 2012, including Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart/Sam's Club, which also retained its standing as the largest in-store program and the second largest in the survey with the Miracle Balloon program to benefit Children's Miracle Network Hospitals. The program raised $40 million in 2014, a slight decrease from the $41.6 million it generated in 2012. Since 1987, the program has raised $700 million for the network.

Issaquah, Wash.-based Costco's Children's Miracle Network campaign, which raised $22 million last year, came in fourth, as it did in 2012, with $14.4 million generated.

Among the campaigns that have grown since the first survey, the program with the largest absolute dollar increase between 2012 and 2014 was run by Kmart, which boosted dollars raised for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital by $10 million, to a total of $17.5 million. Kmart's parent company, Hoffman Estates, Ill.-based Sears Holdings Corp., attributes this rise to upgraded technology, a longer campaign period and employee engagement. The St. Jude campaign came in fifth overall, while Kmart's 2014 March of Dimes program, which garnered $11 million, ranked right behind it, in sixth place.

Meanwhile, Pleasanton, Calif.-based Safeway fell out of the top 10 this year, from the four separate campaigns it ran that made that list in 2012. This time around, the grocer’s top-grossing effort came in 20th, having raised $4.5 million to aid area food pantries. Other grocery efforts that made the list below the top 10 were Publix's Special Olympics and CMN Hospitals campaigns, Wegmans Food Markets' contributions to various local food banks, Stop & Shop's program in support of the Jimmy Fund, Dollar General's St. Jude initiative, Kroger's support of the Muscular Dystrophy Association and USO, Giant/Martin's work on behalf of CMN Hospitals, and Harris Teeter's fundraising for USO and the Wounded Warrior Project,

Further, the survey results didn't include any natural disaster-related campaigns for 2014, in contrast with the 2012 report, which tracked five $1 million-plus undertakings to provide relief in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

Overall, according to the study, nonprofits in support of children's health remained the top cause for funds.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds