Honor Boxes Courtesy of Sheridan Systems

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Honor Boxes

Potential Revenues:


Revenue Source:

Loose change and bills left in the honor boxes




Honor Boxes


Local businesses, www.SheridanSystems.com,  www.CoolPlastic.com

Volunteers Needed:

People to place, refill, and collect the money

How It Works:

This is the charity version of a vending machine route.  Honor boxes come in both corrugated box configurations, as well as plastic towers.  Both are filled with candy or snacks, along with a suggested donation amount for each item – usually $1.  The corrugated box variety offered by www.SheridanSystems.com and others, can be placed in company or small office kitchens and break rooms.  When employees take their breaks, they can choose one of the snacks from your assortment and put the minimum donation amount in the box. 

The term “honor box” comes from the fact that you are leaving both the snacks, as well as the donations in an unsecured environment.  Anyone can take the candy or the money.  You’ll have to monitor each location to determine if you want to continue delivering to them, but in general, most people are pretty honest and generous.  In a study,[i] typical results showed that payments averaged about 90-95% of the suggested amount.  Whether that average would increase when the honor box is done as a charity fundraiser has not been statistically determined.

Another version of the honor box is a clear acrylic candy dispenser that has a donation box fitted on top.  This is usually designed for the bags of small candy samples or mints that you see in most stores.  These are sometimes placed in the same areas recommended in the write-up in the Donation Boxes section of this book.  These are more costly than the corrugated cardboard honor boxes. You can see samples of this type of honor box at www.CoolPlastic.com.

Consider how perishable each product might be.  If you’re going to do donuts and bagels, those items have to be replaced daily, so you might only want to deliver them on Friday’s.  Candy tends to last much longer.  Check the expiration dates on each product, if available.

[i] White-Collar Crime Writ Small: A Case Study of Bagels, Donuts, and the Honor System,  Steven D. Levitt,  The American Economic Review
Vol. 96, No. 2 (May, 2006), pp. 290-294; also: http://pricetheory.uchicago.edu/levitt/Papers/WhatTheBagelManSaw.pdf



Ideas to Consider:

Best locations are usually in the company break areas and small office kitchens.  Other areas might be union halls and association meeting places, as well as libraries on a profit-split basis.  Some of the larger corporations already have vending machines, and they may not be willing to put a competing box nearby.  A compromise location or selection of items that are unique from the ones sold by the for-profit vending routes may be worked out to everyone’s satisfaction.

Best places to obtain low-cost candy bars and snacks are going to be Wal-Mart, Costco and Sam’s Club.  However, if you watch sales at local drugstore chains, especially after Halloween, you’ll see some extraordinary buys.  You might also be able to get some of the candy donated, especially if this is a short-term project. 

If you live near a manufacturer of these snack items, see if you can work out a direct purchase deal.  At the very least, you can ask for some donated products.

As with the donation boxes, you can set up a monthly revenue stream along with people who can manage the routes for you.  Ideally, you’ll have many friends and supporters who work in some of these target companies.  Perhaps you can persuade them to manage the boxes and money on your behalf.


Source of Idea: The first honor box study (see footnote referenced in this write-up) spanned a 12-year period from 1993 to 2004.  “Freakonomics” attributed the honor box to a research analyst named Paul F. who grew a large bagel business to 140 companies after a work cut-back, and still operates it today.  He’s delivered more than 1.3 million bagels.

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