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Pennies from Heaven

CLOSE ON GUS -- He holds the envelope in his hand, trying not to show his excitement. But you can practically hear his heart pounding. Now, almost afraid to look, he slowly edges the check out of its envelope. He closes both eyes. Now he opens one eye and peeks.

INSERT -- On the "Expenses" check emerging from the envelope.

First we SEE the name: AUGUST GORMAN. And then...the amount: $85,789.80!

(o.s.) (quietly)

Pennies from heaven.

Round-Up Some Change

Imagine if, like Richard Pryor’s character Gus Gorman in Superman III, that the charity you work with or for could get just a few pennies from each retail transaction. It wouldn’t necessarily mean an $85 million payday, but a bunch of pennies really adds up. (The excerpt is from Superman III was written by David Newman and Leslie Newman).

If the charity you work for or with generates a lot of affinity and has a particularly strong relationship with a retailer or a banking institution, you may be a likely candidate for a super Web 2.0 version of the change round-up campaign.

Change round up campaigns have been around for decades now and probably much longer. What am I talking about? There’s a number of possible iterations:
  • There could be a jar next to the cash register with a little narrative story on it.
  • It could be a type of kinetic sculpture that bids you to watch the show for the price of a quarter and benefiting a charity.
  • When I was at Children’s Miracle Network, our Canadian office devised an ingenious campaign with Air Canada whereby international travelers were asked to disgorge their pockets of foreign currency when they arrived back home.
  • A more sophisticated version might involve a retailer programming a key in a cash register that rounds up the cost of purchase to the next Euro, Renminbi, Yen, Pound, Dollar or Rupee. So if the transaction comes to €22.67 Euros, the cashier would ask if you would like to round up the transaction to an even €23 Euros, with €0.33 Euros going to the cause.
Now there’s two new change round up efforts ready for the Web 2.0, one that’s already built and one that a tech-savvy charity would have to build on its own, probably in conjunction with a bank or other financial institution.

Already in place is a service called, which allows online retailers to add a virtual coin jar to their shopping cart. Customers making an online purchase are asked to round up their change for a cause during the transaction. The software is free to retailers. Change Round Up extracts a 10 percent fee from each donation.

The second one is my own brainstorm. But feel free to steal it. Because that’s what I did.

Bank of America has a campaign for its customers called “Keep the Change” that has signed up more than 2.5 customers. When those Bank of America customers make a purchase using their debit card, it automatically rounds up the purchase to the nearest dollar and transfers those pennies into their savings account. It’s a form of enforced savings.

A shrewd charity with a lot of affinity could do much the same if they had a strong relationship with one or more financial institutions. It goes without saying (I hope) that you’d need to get a customer’s approval first. Also, this is probably more of a promotion than an on-going campaign. The charity better have a lot of affinity to make an ask like this and you’d need to market it effectively.

I’m not a geek, but building this change-round-up system doesn’t strike me as being technically complicated. The bank/financial institution would probably want survey its customers first. And while there would be up-front costs those costs would be largely sunk after the change round up software was developed.

What are the benefits to the bank or financial institution? They include:
  • Cause-related marketing can directly enhance sponsor sales and brand.
  • Cause-related marketing can heighten customer loyalty.
  • Cause-related marketing can boost a company’s public image and help distinguish it from competition. It also gives corporate PR officers a new story to tell.
  • Cause-related marketing can build employee morale and loyalty.
  • Cause-related marketing can improve employee productivity, skills and teamwork.


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