By Helen Sullivan, APR, Fellow PRSA

Whether you call them Food for Fines or Donations for Citations* programs, the concept of creating an annual event where people can pay off tickets in a way that benefits communities is a win-win. The charity recipient benefits, those with citations feel good paying a ticket (how often does that happen?), and parking operations gain positive visibility within the community.

I am in search of more programs doing this. Last year, we received a great deal of media interest when we distributed a news release about these programs becoming a trend. Quite a few reporters called to find out if there were programs in their communities. This year, I’d like to have a longer list of programs to share—some positive media coverage may be in store.

Here are some examples of programs to inspire you:

  • Lexington, Ky., Parking Authority (LPA) has received national attention for its innovative “Food for Fines” program that excuses $15 in parking fines for every 10 cans of donated food.
  • Last year, Tallahassee and Tampa, Fla., took $1 off parking fines for every donated can of non-perishables.
  • The Las Vegas City Council approved a program to allow donations of food or toys equal in value to the parking fine during the upcoming holiday season.
  • The City of Albany, N.Y., excused late fees on parking tickets for citizens who donated canned goods, and managed to collect 5,000 meals’ worth of food.
  • The University of Nebraska Omaha’s parking services accept food or toys during its Fill a Need Fulfill a Ticket program.
  • Texas Tech University Transportation and Parking Services won a Parking Matters® Marketing & Communications Award this year for Pop Tarts for Tickets, which incorporates the concept year-round to create campus awareness of community needs and demonstrate the department’s commitment to public service.

Programs are not limited to the winter holiday season. In fact some charities, often inundated at Christmas, appreciate help at other times of the year when donations lag.

Have a program to share? Email me:

*IPI refers to these programs as Donations for Citations because local libraries often have Food for (library) Fines programs and food isn’t always the donated item.

Helen Sullivan, APR, Fellow PRSA, is IPI’s communications counsel.