CSR Campaign of the Year

Keep the change: How Panda Express turns small donations into big money

The restaurant chain asks customers to round up the cost of their order to the next dollar. So, 34 cents here and 59 cents there, and pretty soon they’re gathering tens of millions for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals—not to mention winning kudos as PR Daily’s Grand Prize for CSR Campaign of the Year for 2020.

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Rounding up can round up a lot of cash—and that cash can do a lot of good.

The overall program strategy for Panda Express is simple: Ask every customer to round up their order total to the next dollar. Those small increments add up to millions of dollars every year for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and their educational charities.

Here’s an example: If a customer buys a meal at Panda Express and the total comes to $7.27, that customer is asked to round up to an even $8 to benefit Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. The customer would then agree or disagree that their change—this time totaling 73 cents—be donated. 

The results are no small change.

In 2019, Panda Express raised $51.4 million for its charity partners through its in-store fundraising program—roughly $140,000 every day. The program has seen significant growth over the past two years, having raised $29.4 million in 2017 and $41.8 million in 2018.

The program also inspires brand loyalty among customers. Panda Restaurant Group’s surveys have found that millennials and members of Gen Z recognize its involvement in supporting local efforts and are 80% more likely to remain loyal to Panda Express into their adult lives. 

Internally, employees see the impact they are making on the 131 hospitals that they fundraise for through monthly engagement meetings, patient interactions and high-level reporting of impact. Of course, happy employees mean high retention rates and better customer service.

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