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Stickers: Your Nonprofit's Secret Weapon

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You’ve seen them around the office, at the coffee shop, and while you’re driving around town. They’re on laptops, water bottles, and bumpers. And they might just be your nonprofit’s secret weapon. What am I talking about?


Yes, this is a blog post about stickers, and why they’re another in a long line of things that you should be thinking about.

They’re not important in the same way that board governance, DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion), gift acknowledgments, communication segmenting, etc., etc. — but important in a way that’s fun, impactful, affordable, and achievable.

A vinyl sticker​ is one of my most favorite things I can receive from a nonprofit I support.

Why Stickers?

Because it allows me to publicly display my pride for supporting the organization and my passion for the cause. Stickers invite supporters to be participants in promoting the brand, albeit in a passive way.

Perhaps the shining example of stickers in the nonprofit sector is the Human Rights Campaign. Their logo is one of the most recognizable symbols in the fight for equal rights for LGBTQ Americans. You’ve probably seen it on a rear windshield or bumper:

I asked Caitlin Toynbee, CFRE, the Associate Director, Member Relations and Monthly Giving at HRC, what their sticker strategy is. She told me:

  • We go through about 2 million logo stickers per year.
  • In fundraising, we place them in our acknowledgment letters, appeals, and cultivation mailings.
  • Our outreach team uses them at the 300 Pride events that HRC attends annually as a tool for engagement.
  • We also utilize the logo stickers as an incentive to opt into our mobile-app/SMS platforms or to complete an action. It’s an effective way to collect information that can be used in our acquisition and conversion efforts.

Christopher Speron, the Senior Vice President, Development and Membership at HRC, chimed in as well:

“It might just be a three-inch sticker, but since 1995 it has become one of the most recognizable symbols in the LGBTQ equality movement. You can easily find a Human Rights Campaign blue and yellow equal-sign sticker on a car bumper, your local grocery store and even around the world. I’m so proud of the work of our staff, volunteers, members and supporters who are working for equality and acceptance in all areas of life and that our logo stickers have become a visual representation of those efforts. We’ve come a long way in the push for equality, and I’m certain that HRC’s logo sticker will continue to be a symbol of progress, hope, and equality.”

They aren’t the only ones embracing stickers.

I spoke to Billy Price, the Social Media Manager at Preemptive Love, an organization that maintains a strong sticker strategy.

“For us at Preemptive Love, our message is our mission. The most important thing we do isn’t providing food, water, or medicine. It’s not creating jobs or helping refugees start new businesses. At the red hot center of everything we do—every food delivery, every family we serve—is the pursuit of peace between communities at odds. Therefore, we’re always looking for ways to invite people into that mission and into living that message. Stickers with our name and important mantras that we hold dear—like “Love Anyway” and “Love Across Enemy Lines,” are a manner of spreading that message organically through the lives of our staff, donors, and allies.:

Preemptive Love sends stickers to monthly donors, partners, and other high-engagement advocates. They also “sell” a pack of stickers on their website:

I love how they promote the stickers:

When hate is loud, love cannot be silent.

Use these stickers to decorate your car, computer, water bottle—as a reminder that we are the people who love anyway. When others step back in fear, we step forward in love.

Every sticker pack funds our peacemaking work on the frontlines of conflict in Syria, Iraq, and beyond.

It’s clear that stickers can be a powerful addition to your promotional toolkit. But how can you ensure sticker success? This quick guide covers all the bases.

Let’s start with…

Who should get stickers?

Despite my enthusiasm for stickers, they should be used somewhat selectively. Here’s a list of common donor segments and my recommendation for whether they’re sticker-worthy:

  • 1st-time donors: No. There’s a case to be made for a “yes” here, but my gut says it’s too early in the relationship. If you really know something about that donor, and you know it will be received well, go for it. But if you don’t know much or anything about this donor, which is probably the case, I’d save it for when you get another engagement signal or inbound interaction.
  • Monthly donors: Yes! This is the best group for stickers, in my opinion. The fact that they’re trusting you with their payment information to automatically charge them every month is a strong signal of affinity for your organization. There’s already pride there; give them a way to show it off.
  • Repeat donors: Yes. A second annual gift is a good time to send a sticker. They’ve renewed their support and made a big jump in average retention rates (from 20% to 60%).
  • Event attendees: Maybe. Have them available for folks to take if they want them. No need to force them on everyone. This will help you control inventory and costs.

Julie Edwards, the Executive Director of Humane Society of Northeast Georgia follows these guidelines:

“Our recurring/monthly giving club gets a sticker when they sign up. We also have stickers of some of our rescues we used at the holidays on ornaments and on thank you notes. We are in the process of having “fun” stickers made for other events and HSNEGA in general to hand out at said events or make for sale.”

How should you promote stickers?

You basically have two options here:

  • “Surprise and delight” – don’t tell donors they will get a sticker, and instead surprise them with it after they become a monthly donor.
  • Premium model – when promoting your monthly giving program, tell donors directly that they will receive a sticker upon becoming a monthly donor.

Your mileage may vary, but I lean more towards “surprise and delight” – if a prospective donor is turned off by the idea of a premium, they may not make the donation. Another way to avoid this is to include an opt-out to receiving the sticker, but this is adding an extra layer of complication that might confuse the donor (not to mention your time setting up the mechanism).

HRC takes a third approach: simply giving them away for free through a custom landing page:

Enclosed with the sticker is an appeal:

What HRC is doing is essentially spending $0.40-$0.50 to acquire a lead (contact info) while also creating a mobile advertisement. This is an extremely good value.

Yes, they’re a large organization with the means to pull this off, but this isn’t terribly out of reach for any sized org.

What about the cost? Should we really be spending money on this?

The question of cost is a fair one. Budgets are already tight, and It’s reasonable to fear that at least some donors will find it off-putting that you’re spending their donation on a premium of some kind.

Let’s compare the cost of stickers to other, more common premiums:

  • Stickers: If you use a vendor like Sticker Mule or Canva, you can get 1000 3 x 3 die-cut stickers for about $350. That’s $0.35 per sticker.
  • Calendars: If you use a vendor like Vistaprint, you can get 500 8.5 x 11 calendars for about $6000. That’s $8.33 per calendar.
  • Ceramic coffee mugs: If you use a vendor like Discount Mugs, you can get 1000 ceramic coffee mugs for about $930, or $0.93 per mug.

None of this includes shipping to your recipient.

With stickers, you can easily slip it into an envelope and not incur any additional postage. Calendars and mugs being larger, you’ll likely exceed the cost of one stamp (not to mention having to protect both items, especially the mugs). Sure, you can hand them all out in person to avoid some of this, but that requires you to have an event.

But the cost of a sticker is so low that it shouldn’t register in the donor’s head as a big expense (and it won’t be a big expense if you buy in bulk, especially in greater quantities than the example above). The stamp for the envelope might even cost more than the sticker you’re sending.

What do we actually get out of it?

Let’s continue comparing stickers, calendars, and mugs.

Beyond the impact that it has on the recipient, a premium’s value is in the impressions (eyeballs) it generates, and what revenue those impressions generate.

Stickers have the potential to generate more impressions than the other two. Why? They’re just more mobile.

Where does a mug or calendar live? Probably your kitchen or your cubicle. A few co-workers or houseguests may see them, but that’s about it.

Buttons and magnets have a similarly-low price point as stickers but suffer from the same lack of mobility (buttons to a lesser extent, but a sticker won’t accidentally draw blood).

Plus, apparently, refrigerators aren’t magnetic anymore???

A sticker, on a car, laptop, or water bottle is going to move with you. Unless you’re wearing a calendar like a necklace, it won’t have the visibility as a sticker (but shout-out to branded water bottles!). Sure, the sticker might not be immediately recognizable to a stranger in a coffee shop, but neither would a calendar or a mug.

That leads me to our next topic:

What should our sticker actually be?

The easy answer is your logo, but with just your logo you run into the challenge I alluded to above: recognizability.

Few of us have the recognizability of a national organization, like HRC or Komen. That’s why it’s not a great idea to only use the “mark” in your logo.

Take a closer look at Preemptive Love’s stickers:

You can see that they take a “slogan” approach, turning value statements into a sticker.

Additionally, they have two stickers centered around the brand itself. Spelling out the name of the organization (like in the top-right sticker) does more for the viewer than the bottom-right sticker, which is just their logo mark.

The same is true for the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia:

This is an “alternative” logo that lends itself better to a sticker than their standard logo that you’ll find on their website. Using the state outline is also savvy, as it’s a common design strategy for other common vehicle window stickers (plus, you simultaneously allow the recipient to show pride in the organization and the state).

They also have a sticker specifically for members of their giving society:

This one checks all the boxes: understandable by the viewer, pride-inducing for the recipient.

Stick to the plan

If I’ve convinced you to dip your toes into the stickers water, click the image below for a discount on your first order through Stickermule.

Custom Stickers, Die Cut Stickers, Bumper Stickers - Sticker Mule

Be sure to let me know how it goes.

Does your organization have stickers? How do you use them? Let me know in the comments below!


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  • Kristen Hay

    Happy to hear it, Lisa! You can find what you're looking for here:
  • Lisa Salisbury

    I love this article and could not agree more...Please send me a good mailing address as I have to send you a sticker from our organization...PLEASE.
  • DeWayna Hogue Pittman

    Yes! Stickers are silent ambassadors - and you know you're on the right track when a recipient calls to request another one for their office, or their laptop, or their partner...
  • Steven Shattuck

  • Cindy Dashnaw

    Nice article, Steven! I think the best stickers today are "cool" (or whatever the kids are saying these days), like the Keep Ann Dancing and Love Anyway stickers. By displaying them, you're not just giving away advertising space; you're saying you are part of the cool kids' club that knows what these symbols, shapes and words mean and believes deeply in the movements they represent.
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