Gift Cards in a Retirement Community?

By Kevin McIntosh | Editor, CARDWATCH REVIEW | Spring 2005

The Brethren Home Community (TBHC) in New Oxford PA has approximately 500 residents with five unique revenue locations including a fine dining room, café, salon and gift shop which are also open to the public. The community previously offered gift certificates however these were burdensome and not very convenient to use or an efficient process.

“We wanted a simple, easy to use and virtually administration-free replacement to this cumbersome manual paper based process”, said Todd Couzins, Director of Information Services. “With the holiday season fast approaching, we were hoping to take full advantage of a new system prior to this time.”

TBHC, a CARDWATCH client for over 5 years, adopted the Gift Card application module soon after it’s release at AAHSA 2004 in Nashville and had it up and running by early November. According to Couzins, “it [the Gift Card program] was easy to set up, much like a standard CARDWATCH Meal/Spending plan. The cards have no value until they are sold through a P.O.S. process to activate them eliminating any risk of theft or loss.”

“We simply assigned a pre-set range of card numbers and a service charge for unused cards to consume the liability to the community over time. This also helps us avoid having to pay the state for any “unclaimed property” down the road. By moving away from the Gift Certificate process, the need to track personal purchaser information becomes optional.”

TBHC sells the Gift Cards on campus at both the restaurant and the café. Families are also invited to purchase cards over the phone to send to residents. In addition, the community and its residents have been using the cards as door prizes at various functions. Other communities have also found Residents purchasing them as a special “thank-you” to staff.

Approximately 50 Cards were sold in the first 60 days leading up to and throughout the holiday season of 2004, making it a successful launch given that there was no active marketing effort behind it. Sales in the first 6 months have been approximately $2300, up considerably over Gift Certificate sales of the same period the year prior. Residents seem to have adopted their use quickly, not surprising since they were already accustomed to using their ID cards for transactions around the community.

The Brethren Home Community already has its own in-house ID card printing and encoding system that it uses for creating cards. “Although it costs us just under a dollar per card to make, the net long-term cost will be much lower as we are re-using cards when they are depleted”, said Mr. Couzins. In fact, TBHC has printed 100 cards to date and expects that they may not need to print more if these cards continue to circulate as quickly as they have been, given the population of the community.

“So far the CARDWATCH Gift Card program seems to be a cost effective, time saving way to generate additional revenue streams for the community and we only expect this trend to increase as awareness among residents and visitors grow.”