Dr. Ruth K. Hansen, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
Dr. Ruth K. Hansen

Dr. Ruth K. Hansen
Assistant Professor, Nonprofit Management
Director, Institute for Nonprofit Management Studies
College of Business and Economics
University of Wisconsin-Whitewater

Amid ‘checkout charity’ boom, some Americans are more likely to be impulse givers than others
by Dr. Lauren Dula and Ruth K. Hansen | The Conversation, November 2023

In an enlightening article “Amid ‘checkout charity’ boom, some Americans are more likely to be impulse givers than others,” co-authored by Dr. Lauren Dula (Binghamton University) and Dr. Ruth K. Hansen, NACC Board Member and Assistant Professor of Nonprofit Management at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, the phenomenon of impulse giving at retail checkouts is explored in depth. Published on The Conversation, the article delves into the growing trend of checkout charity in the United States, where consumers are frequently asked to contribute to various causes such as Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, or relief efforts in Ukraine. The study highlights the significant impact of these campaigns, noting that in 2022, 77 businesses raised over $1 million each, totaling $749 million.

Dr. Hansen and Dr. Dula’s research, soon to be published in the Journal of Public and Nonprofit Affairs, involved a national survey of 1,383 American adults to understand the profile of an impulse giver – someone who donates on the spur of the moment during a retail transaction. Their findings revealed that more than half of the respondents had engaged in checkout charity, typically rounding up their purchase total. These impulse givers, predominantly under 50 years of age and from middle-class backgrounds, contribute about $50 annually through such acts of charity. Interestingly, the study found that women are more likely than men to participate in checkout charity, and Black respondents were found to give more on average than white respondents. However, despite this trend of generosity, the article raises concerns about potential donor fatigue, suggesting that the increasing frequency of checkout charity requests could lead to a decrease in impulse giving as customers grow more accustomed and possibly less responsive to these appeals.

Ruth K. Hansen, PhD, is an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater’s College of Business and Economics, and director of the Institute for Nonprofit Management Studies. She teaches classes in nonprofit organizations, fundraising, organizational behavior, and research methods. Her research focuses on the theory and practice of fundraising, and equity and inclusion in resource mobilization. Dr. Hansen has more than 20 years’ professional experience as a fundraiser, and is a former board member of AFP-Chicago. Recent publications include “Applying a stakeholder management approach to ethics in charitable fundraising,” published in the Journal of Philanthropy and Marketing and “Gary Neighborhood House: Managing mission and uncertainty in the Civil Rights era,” in the edited volume Hoosier Philanthropy. She contributed the chapter “Theory in Fundraising,” to the new edition of Achieving Excellence in Fundraising, which was featured on Bill Stanczykiewicz’s First Day Podcast from The Fundraising School. Her research with Dr. Lauren Dula on fundraising appeal letters, supported by the AFP Foundation, is the subject of a recent article in Advancing Philanthropy.