Interesting, isn’t it, that within the next week we’ll celebrate both Black Friday (one of the biggest shopping days of the year) and Giving Tuesday (Dec. 2, the day we’re encouraged to donate to charity)? Maybe we should think about combining the two ideas so you could give to charity whenever you get a great deal.
Actually, a clever fellow named David Harrison, 66, his wife Cindy, and a few of their friends just came up with a way for some people to do it (kind of) through their new pay-it-forward Boomerang Giving website.
Boomerang Giving’s goal: When people get “senior discounts” they don’t need, they donate the value of those deals to charity. Or, as Harrison says: they “boomerang” the savings.
(MORE: The Senior Discount Dilemma)
A $14 Million Charity Windfall
The recently retired Harrison, who was chair of the University of Washington’s Nancy Bell Evans Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy, estimates that 3.5 million people turn 65 each year. By his math, if just 20,000 of the 65+ crowd donated $60 a month worth of age-related discounts from places like movies, stores, restaurants and public transportation, they’d contribute an additional $14.4 million a year to charity.
That would be a drop in the bucket compared with the roughly $335 billion Americans of all ages give to charity annually, but the nation’s charities could certainly use the older boomers’ boomerang money. And the donors would likely appreciate boosting their charitable-contribution tax deductions by giving up their discounts, which are typically 10 to 20 percent off.
“It’s amazing how many discounts are out there and how fast they add up,” says Harrison, of Bainbridge Island, Wash. After surveying 250 people over 60 — that’s generally the youngest age for senior discounts aside from AARP’s 50+ deals — he learned that 69 percent said they’d donate at least some of their savings; 77 percent of those with incomes over $75,000 said so.
“We think the possibility is great that they’ll give back the money to charities. That’s our fervent hope,” Harrison told me.
(MORE: Senior Discounts Aren't Always the Best Deals)
As a trial run, earlier this year Harrison got a local movie theater and a performing arts center to let patrons 65 and older have their $3 senior discount redirected to an area charity supplying child care to low-income families. The two-month effort yielded $840 in donations. “That got us started, and we’re happy we did it,” says Harrison.
The Boomerang Pledge
If you want to join his movement, you can start by signing The Boomerang Pledge on the Boomerang Giving site:
“I pledge to help make my community stronger by reinvesting some or all of the money I save from senior discounts into charities of my choosing.”
Wonder how much your boomeranging would add up to? Harrison’s site's Senior Discount Estimation Tool lets you calculate the monthly dollar amount.
Once you’ve determined how much of your senior discount savings you’d want to boomerang to charity, the Boomerang Giving site lets you make the donations there. “There are a lot of pledge sites in the world, but one where you can also take action is a wonderful thing,” says Harrison.
How to Turn Discounts Into Donations
Here’s how you do it: First, you select your favorite nonprofits on the Boomerang Giving site from its massive list engineered by the GuideStar charity databank. Then you make your tax-deductible donations (minimum: $10) there with a credit card, through its partner, Network for Good — a well-respected processor of online donations. (Network for Good gets compensated by keeping 4.5 percent of donations.) If you’d prefer donating your savings to a charity that’s not in Guidestar’s list, you’d just do it on your own.
Where to Find Senior Discounts
And if you’re not sure where to find senior discounts to give away, Boomerang Giving’s site links to other sites that specialize in finding them, such as Brad’s Deals, SeniorDiscounts.com and About.com.
It would, of course, be simpler, if you could just turn the discount into a donation at “point of sale” — when you actually pay for the movie or the product. Harrison’s working on it.
“That’s where we’re going,” he told me. “We’re talking to 20 technology companies now.” One possibility: a Boomerang Giving card. “We expect to choose a technology in the next three months.”
Harrison’s also in talks with several major nonprofits to run boomerang-specific campaigns with particular retailers in selected cities.
And what about joining forces with the gorilla of senior discounts, AARP? “We haven’t had discussions yet, but we’re heading in that direction. We’re hoping they’ll be excited by Boomerang Giving.”