The City That Sleeps Raises $650,000 for Local Businesses

By Doug Zanger 

Retail and restaurants are among the industries taking the most significant hits during the coronavirus crisis. There are countless programs designed to help struggling businesses, and purchasing gift cards is one of the ways to keep them running.

In Cincinnati, agency Empower (who you may remember from an excellent recruitment video) joined Procter & Gamble and the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation to help raise $650,000—split over two focused gift card matching pushes—for local businesses.

The first round of the Cincy Card Connection program in April focused on full-service restaurants and bars and raised $250,000. The second round, topping out at $400,000, benefitted retail and personal services businesses—with 100% of the matching gift cards purchased from minority- and women-owned businesses.


In total, close to 4,700 gift cards were purchased, benefitting 284 people who operate businesses in the city.

“Since the start of the gift card matching program, we’ve sold more gift certificates than we did over the entire year of 2019,” said Carolyn Deininger, who owns a retail gift shop and paper store with her husband, Mike Deininger. “This was a real boost as we struggled through the quarantine closure. Our online sales were also jump-started, in part, as a direct result of customers having gift cards they purchased from us—cards they might not have purchased without the added incentive of the matching program.”

Fourteen organizations contributed to the second round’s matching fund, including P&G’s Supplier Diversity Group and Hispanic and Asian Pacific American affinity groups. Kroger chipped in as well.

Because of the program’s success, Northern Kentucky (across the river from Cincinnati), Pittsburgh and Columbus, Ohio, rolled out similar programs—and three other cities are exploring it as well.

“It’s imperative that Empower support the local businesses that make the neighborhood culture so vibrant,” said Jim Price, owner and CEO of Empower. “We’re thrilled that other communities have gotten inspired by the success of the gift card matching program and hope the ripple effect continues nationwide.”