Small business gift card program more than triples goal

The Cincy Card Connection gift card matching program created by Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. (3CDC), P&G and media agency Empower has officially raised more than $250,000 for Downtown businesses – $131,500 in direct gift card purchases for local businesses, and $122,000 through eligible matching gift card purchases.

Launched in early April, the program was designed to alleviate some of the financial strain caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The three organizations originally pooled together $37,500 to serve as a matching fund for gift cards purchased at local businesses, with the goal of doubling the money into $75,000 of direct cash infusion into the local economy. 

Less than 24 hours after the program’s initial launch, the funds were depleted, but receipts for eligible purchases continued to stream in to 3CDC. So, the organization immediately began seeking additional funders to help cover the match for gift cards already purchased. 

Six Cincinnati organizations stepped up to contribute to the matching fund for Round 1 of the program, which has now been completed:

In addition, Empower pitched in an extra $2,500, and generous individuals contributed a total of $6,500 to the matching fund.

As a result, 3CDC will honor all eligible purchases submitted through Monday, Apr. 6 – injecting a total of $122,000 into local businesses through matching gift card purchases in the program’s first round.

“We set out to raise $75,000 for small businesses in Downtown Cincinnati, but thanks to the generosity of the individuals, corporations and philanthropic institutions in this community, we’ve been able to do so much more than that,” said Steve Leeper, president and CEO of 3CDC. “We’re incredibly grateful to everyone who has contributed to this effort to support these local entrepreneurs, who are so essential to the positive energy in Cincinnati’s urban core.”

Steve Leeper

How it works

The program’s structure involved customers purchasing a gift card from a Downtown business and submitting a receipt of the purchase. Eligible purchases will then be matched with the purchase of a gift card from a similar – but different – Downtown business, spreading the funds to more businesses and encouraging patrons to try new businesses.

The funding organizations, along with other key stakeholders, have developed a system to purchase the matching gift cards in as equitable a fashion as possible. The matches will be purchased according to business type in three categories – bars/restaurants, retail and service. 

The 3CDC team is currently working to respond to all submissions and plans to distribute eligible matching gift card purchases within the next 30 days.

In addition, 3CDC and its partners are working on raising additional funds for a second round of the program that will be announced at a later date.

Kelly Adamson

“Our organization appreciates the innovation of this program,” said Kelly Adamson, executive director of the Over-the-Rhine Chamber, “as it not only injects immediate funds into our small businesses, but provides an easy avenue for consumers to support their favorite spot and the opportunity to discover a new business along the way.”

By the numbers

Total amount raised: $253,000

Value of gift cards purchased: $131,500

Amount eligible for matching purchase: $122,000

  • Eligibility rules:
  • Gift card purchased and receipt submitted April 2 through April 6
  • Original gift card purchase between $20 and $100
  • Max purchase $100 gift card per establishment
  • Max $500 per person

Number of gift cards purchased: 1,928

Number of businesses benefiting: 157

  • 103 bars/restaurants
  • 43 retailers
  • 11 service

Neighborhoods where cards were purchased:

  • Downtown/CBD: $62,200 (47%)
  • OTR/Pendleton: $37,900 (29%)
  • Location in Both: $31,400 (24%)

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