Tracking charity at the checkout lane

Published: Feb. 22, 2023 at 10:14 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - It’s almost impossible to avoid these days. You’re surrounded by people at the checkout and asked to give a donation, but does that money actually go to programs you want to support?

We’re On Your Side with how you can track where your money is going.

Odds are it’s happened to you. You’re at the checkout and asked to donate or round up change to charity.

“It’s almost unusual to go in and out of a store without being asked quite frankly,” Steve Edwards, a shopper said.

A $1 here and $5 there adds up. Organizations raise millions of dollars every year.

“This can be a very efficient way to raise a lot of money very cheaply,” Lauren Styron, the executive director of CharityWatch said.

CharityWatch is the only independent charity watchdog organization in the country. Styron says charity at the checkout can be a double-edged sword for customers

“Let’s face it inflation is very high. People are already very stretched and it’s really not fair to put people in that position where they have to make such an impulsive decision and feel pressured to donate before they’ve had time to research the organization,” Styron said.

Styron says don’t feel pressured into giving. You can research organizations on CharityWatch’s website to see where your donation is going. You’ll find A through F ratings on each organization.

“It can vary widely how much your donation really ends up being spent on charitable work. Generally speaking all the money that’s donated does get to the charity but the charity depending on which charity it is, might have very high overhead,” Styron said.

Styron says charities spend at least 75% of your donation on their programs and they keep their fundraising ratio down to about $25 or less to raise every hundred dollars of public support.

According to latest America’s Charity Checkout Champions report in 2021, over $605 million was raised by a group of 76 point-of-sale fundraising campaigns that each raised over $1 million. Ebay raised the most money at $82 million for thousands of charities of the sellers choice. PetSmart charities raised $44 million for animal welfare initiatives (which includes adoptions, disaster response and relief, access to veterinary care, supporting veterinarians). Walmart and Sam’s Club raised more than $28 million for Children’s Miracle Network hospitals.

If you aren’t sure where your donation is going, Styron says don’t donate impulsively.

“Take the time to check out a charity before you give and make sure that you’re donating to one that isn’t going to waste too much on overhead and that’s going to be directing most of the money they have to the programs,” Styron said.

There are about 1.8 million nonprofits in the U.S. Styron says there are no laws in place mandating that a minimum percentage of your donation has to be spent on programs that you are intending to support.

You can track charity spending with CharityWatch,, and Charity Navigator.

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