Target Terminates Take Charge of Education Program

Target will end school charity program, shift giving focus to wellness in May of 2016.  The trademark giving program through which it has sent hundreds of millions of dollars to schools over nearly two decades will be ending say Target Corp.

The Minneapolis-based retailer began notifying schools in Septemeber 2015 that it will discontinue its “Take Charge of Education” program, through which the company donates 1 percent of Redcard holders’ purchase total to a school of their choice.  As a Redcard holder, I had my account set up to donate to my alma mater "Academy of the Scared Heart." 
So when I received the following no-reply email from I was very disappointed:

Community giving has always been, and continues to be, a cornerstone of our company. Since 1946, we've given five percent of our profits back to the communities where our guests and team members live and work. This year, Target reached a significant milestone in that giving: Over $1 billion of support to education. We're glad that you've chosen to join us in supporting our schools and communities - by shopping with us and by using your REDcard™ to participate in Take Charge of Education.

As we continue to look for the most impactful ways to support the causes that are most important to our guests, Target has decided to end the Take Charge of Education program as of May 14, 2016. Schools have been informed of the change and will still receive their annual payout check in February, as well as a final check shortly after the program ends. That means that your qualifying REDcard purchases made before then, including your holiday shopping this year, will still count toward your designated school's payout.

While this is a change in how we give, we remain committed to being a vital part of our communities. Target will continue to support education through other programs, and will also expand our giving to include more connections to wellness. We thank you for being part of that support, and encourage you to watch for the new ways we will make contributions in your community.

Best Regards,
Target Card Services

Over the last 18 years, Target has distributed more than $432 million to more than 100,000 schools across the U.S. through the initiative.

When the Take Charge of Education program launched in 1997, it was a novel concept to tie the shopping behavior of individual consumers to a company’s donations and to give customers the opportunity to direct funds to a school of their choice. It was also an extra incentive to get people to sign up for Target’s credit and debit card.

“This program really connected across a lot of areas that Target cared about in the past,” said Amy Koo, an analyst with Kantar Retail. “It hit on the Redcard, it hit on greater loyalty and it hit on more community engagement.” She noted that education was a social issue that deeply resonated with Target’s core demographic — young families with children

So why then is Target terminating the program?
When the company surveyed shoppers, it found that many did not remember if they had designated a school.  Also only 10 percent of Redcard holders enrolled in the program.

The change will be a disappointment to schools that had become accustomed to receiving the unrestricted funds every year to cover budget gaps for everything from school supplies to after-school programs. Target says schools received an average of $370 a year from the program, though some received thousands of dollars a year.

We could always count on those checks a couple times a year,” said Darren Yerama principal of Expo Elementary School in St. Paul. “Sometimes we use it for school supplies when students come without any. We also use it to supply books for classroom libraries and in helping to purchase some supplemental curriculums.
— Darren Yerama

St. Paul Public Schools received $96,525 this year. 

The shift in Target’s giving strategy is the latest change under chief executive Brian Cornell, the retailer’s first outside CEO, who joined the firm 15 months ago.

Please Note:

  • Program officially ends on May 14, 2016
  • Redcard holders can still sign up for the program or change their designated school until the last day
  • Schools can continue to sign up for the program through Jan. 30, 2016
  • Schools will receive a final check by July 1, 2016
  • Target will send a final grant to schools by July 1 to help in the 2016-2017 school year