Embedded giving is the (apparently) increasingly common practice of building a philanthropic gift into another, unrelated, financial transaction. For example, rounding up your phone bill to make a gift to charity. Or using your own grocery bag and donating the nickel that the store gives you to a local homeless shelter. Or using a specific search engine because it donates a small portion of its advertising revenue to charity. Or mistaking that line on your credit card receipt for the place to calculate the tip, only to discover you've just made a gift to fight childhood hunger. Or adding $1 to your drug store, grocery store, gas station purchase to fight juvenile diabetes, MS, or any other number of diseases.
But here's the thing about embedded giving. No one is counting it. Some of the corporations that sponsor these opportunities count the gifts in their total charitable giving. Others count it as part of their marketing budgets. There's no consistency and no breakout of numbers, so we really don't know how much money is raised this way, for what, and by whom.
Embedded giving is all about making the giving easy for individuals. This ease also makes it painless - another dollar here, a few cents here. Few individuals can even remember what they donate to in this way; and no one reports it.
So what happens if we make giving so easy we forget about it? And if we actually "embedded giving" into every transaction, isn't that another way of making something a tax? After all, the folks who sell E-Z passes and other toll passes to motorists know full well that making it easier and faster to get through the toll booth, also makes it easier and faster to increase the toll rates.