My almost three year old daughter thought it would be fun to run down the aisle at church several Sundays ago, so I ended up taking her to the lobby area. While there, she found a piece of paper that included names of hundreds of restaurants, hotels and stores that if you purchase a gift certificate from, our church receives a percentage. So basically if you buy a gift certificate worth $100 to the local Kroger grocery store, you receive a hundred dollar certificate and the church receives a percentage, in this example, of 6% or $6.
I had seen this before at our church but hadn’t really paid attention to it. Then I found if you buy a certificate from Marriott the church would receive 12%. Considering we were planning a trip to San Diego and were staying in a Marriott Residence Inn, immediately after church I called the lady in charge to order some travel cards.
Then I got to thinking what a fantastic idea this is – it’s a win win win win. I win if I purchase the cards because I feel good about making a donation to the church for nothing, the church wins because they receive money, the restaurant, store, or hotel wins because they have just made a sale, and the people we buy the gift certificates from, Great Lakes Scrip, wins because they make money. What a genius idea this is. I want to get my hometown church in Nebraska signed up for this program and everyone else I can think of because I think it’s a very winning idea. Beats selling candy bars or cookie dough to raise money for charity.
Great Lakes Scrip was founded in 1994 by two families in western Michigan. They have sold over $4 billion in gift certificates, or scrips, since then, raising over $220 million for charities. They service over 14,000 nonprofits throughout the country. Here’s how it works:
- Great Lakes Scrip purchases tons of scrips from retailers for cash at a big discount.
- The nonprofit organization buys the scrips from Great Lakes at a discount
- The nonprofit sells the scrips to the end user at face value.
- If an organization has 150 families, they probably spend about on average between $1-2 million a year for essentials like food, clothing, etc. If these same families purchased scrips to pay for these items, the organization would raise between $40,000 and $80,000 a year without spending a penny.
Great Lakes Scrip have posted profits for over thirteen years, and in 2002, founders Carol Burgess and Carol Smith were named Ernst and Young’s entrepreneurs of the year.