Merchandise fundraising has been used for years to help nonprofits and individuals raise additional funds. Consider the last time you went to a concert; did you purchase or consider purchasing a sweatshirt to commemorate the experience? What about the last 5K you ran; did you receive a t-shirt after registering?
You see merchandise in many different places each day, but have you ever stopped to consider why?
Merchandise fundraising does more than simply raise money for your cause. It’s also a valuable tool to attract and engage your supporters!
When people have more options to make a difference for a cause they care about, they can choose the one that’s most convenient for them. This means that some people may find online donations the best way to give, others may prefer recurring automated contributions, volunteering, or acting as a fundraiser for a peer-to-peer campaign. But alot of your supporters will prefer receiving something in return for their contribution. This is where merchandise fundraising comes in.
Merchandise fundraising allows your supporters to make a charitable donation to your nonprofit and in return, they’ll receive a new custom t-shirt, sweatshirt, or any other type of apparel. This type of fundraising is very unique because it feels less like a traditional donation and more like a normal online transaction. Because of this, it’s a much more appealing option for raising money for both the nonprofit and the supporters.
Some of our favorite fundraising merchandise strategies for nonprofits are:
Selling branded merchandise in person at an event
Opening an eCommerce store through a trusted provider or with website plugins
Crowdfunding with branded merchandise
Offering online order forms for specific campaigns
Not only do merchandise sales provide the opportunity for donors to give in a new way, but there are also different ways to sell merchandise. These sales make people happy in more ways than one, which is a great first step to a more engaged donor.
Put yourself in your donor’s shoes for a minute. You bought a t-shirt for a cause you care a lot about. You know your money went to a good cause, plus, the shirt looked cool so you can’t wait to wear it! Then, the first time you wear it out in the world, someone asks you about it. You puff out your chest and explain to them the cause that you’ve supported and how they can help too.
In moments like these, the donor has become a true partner for your nonprofit.
All donors are nonprofit partners in a sense. They contribute to the cause, and those contributions are what allow the organization to continue doing good work.
However, when a donor crosses the line from giving privately in the safety of their own home to verbally and publicly supporting your nonprofit’s brand, they have truly solidified the partnership.
When your organization raises money, make sure you provide options for your supporters to share their involvement with your organization. You may choose to:
Provide social sharing buttons on your fundraising page
Ask supporters to post pictures wearing branded merchandise
Launch online campaigns where supporters can share fundraising initiatives and help your organization raise more money
This might seem somewhat obvious. Of course, branded merchandise supports your nonprofit’s brand. But there’s a lot more to your brand than logos, fonts, and colors.
Your organization’s brand represents the nonprofit itself: what you believe in, who you are, how you do it, and why you do what you do. The triad of mission, values, and vision are what make up the brand you’re trying to get across with branded merchandise.
For this reason, you need to put a lot of thought into your brand and how you’re telling your story to your community. Fundraising with branded merchandise gives you an opportunity to share your story in a more creative fashion. You can:
Provide campaign context for individual fundraising pages
Design t-shirts for different campaigns or aspects of your story
Ask supporters to come up with t-shirt designs based on their take on your story
Ask fundraisers to explain how they relate to specific aspects of your story before sharing the campaign with friends
While your mission is what’s important, your supporters may bring new perspectives to that mission. They may want to share the parts of the story they relate most to. This is the key to getting your brand name out there.
Your supporter can say, “This organization supports X, Y, and Z. I support that cause because…” This approach adds a personal element to your brand and helps carry it further. But it all starts with you explaining your organization’s story.
Supporters will share and promote your brand to others if you first promote it well to them. Selling branded merchandise simply opens up a platform for everyone to share the organization’s mission, values, and vision.
Merchandise is an incredible resource for more than just raising money. It’s used to diversify options for better donor relationships, to solidify partnerships with your supporters, and to increase awareness of your organization’s brand.
When you decide to launch a branded merch fundraiser, be sure to do all of the proper research and make the most of the campaign so that you will receive more results and better benefits from your fundraising efforts.
Kevin Penney is the CMO and co-founder of Bonfire.com, a company that’s reinventing how people create, sell and purchase custom apparel. He loves solving difficult problems, working with the Bonfire Product team, and hockey. He has over 10 years experience in digital media, design, and technology.