Gift Cards that Give

Reward employees with a gift card that packs a one-two punch!

By Sherryll Sobie and Sandra Eagle

Like so many of us, Stéphane Roy wanted to do something. Two years ago, Roy, the manager of a Jean Coutu Pharmacy in Saint-Lambert, Que., learned that a colleague had been stricken with breast cancer, for the second time.

The franchise’s 60-plus employees began fundraising initiatives like bowlathons, lotteries and product sales. While each initiative had its merits, Roy wondered if they could do more.

That’s when he learned of FundScrip. Self described on the company’s website as, “Canada’s leading gift card fundraising program,” FundScrip essentially functions as the go-between for groups wanting to raise money for a cause, and suppliers who want to sell their products and services through gift cards.

So what’s in it for FundScrip? According to president and CEO Christopher Hill, “We buy our gift cards at pre-negotiated volume discounts, sell them at face value to end-users and then split the difference with the majority going to the campaign beneficiaries.”

Depending on the supplier, two to 10 per cent from the purchase of each gift card is given to a charity of the purchasers’ choice. Fairmont, for example, is one of FundScrip’s retailers. The Canadian hotel and resort chain offers 10 per cent back, which means for every $100 Fairmont gift card bought, $10 is donated to the purchaser’s cause, on their behalf.

Since its inception eight years ago, FundScrip has mainly attracted non-profits like schools, sports teams and religious institutions, but Hill says that’s changing. “Corporate fundraising groups represent a small but growing portion of our business.”

Over the last two years, Roy and his Jean Coutu colleagues have purchased $43,200 worth of gift cards—mostly gas and groceries. Total profits directed to the Canadian Cancer Society to date are $2,187 (and counting).

All their hard work has paid off. The colleague in question is now in remission and back to work fulltime as an assistant merchandiser.

Stéphane Roy, manager, Jean Coutu Pharmacy, has these suggestions:
Chat it up. Create a committee to oversee communication efforts, and send out regular reminders that this is a way to fundraise with everyday spending (and there’s no extra cost).

Make it easy. Select FundScrip’s electronic funds transfer payment option to automatically debit your groups’ bank account, and then develop an equally time-effective collection system for the individuals in your group, such as postdated cheques.


Swap, Sell, Buy or Donate
The popularity of gift cards as an employee incentive or client gift is undeniable, but sometimes even a gift card from a specific retailer is the wrong match for the right person.

About two and a half years ago, Frances Ho had a number of gift cards in her wallet, but all she truly wanted was the hard, cold cash. Frustrated by the hassle of trying to sell her cards on Craigslist, Ho found business partner Zaheed Poptia, and together they created

So far, their Canadian site has had over one million visitors, who are invited to register for free to buy or sell the cards they won’t use for ones that they will. Cardswap will buy cards at about a seven per cent discount and then offer them online for interested buyers. Almost every retailer is represented, in just about any category you can imagine, from department stores, to retailers of sporting goods, electronics, food, fashion or entertainment.

For those philanthropically inclined, there is an option for unused cards to be donated to charity. Ho says Cardswap has partnered with 15 charities including the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, Ontario Region, and Covenant House of Greater Toronto. The registered charities email their members asking for cards to be donated. The charities have customized links to the Cardswap site that allow them to sell the unwanted cards in exchange for cash. An extra incentive: official tax receipts are issued for the value of the card.

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