A Catalog, You Say?
Face it … life is not a Bob Hope movie. And just as a family of adorable tots can’t really make it in show business anymore by punching the air and yelling, “Let’s put on a show,” gone too are the days of, “Let’s have a catalog!” in the not-for-profit world.
Having a merchandising program is one way for many nonprofits to raise unrestricted funds and to reach donors and prospects at a time when their mailboxes — both physical and virtual — are crammed with philanthropic requests. Properly undertaken, it can enable the nonprofit to increase its visibility in a positive way.
But such programs shouldn’t be undertaken lightly. A good deal of thought and effort needs to go into creating a merchandising program that reflects well on the organization. It’s all too easy for a poorly conceived or executed plan to damage a nonprofit’s reputation.
The first thing you, as an organization, need to decide is whether you want to create an actual merchandise business or simply sell some products to generate an additional source of revenue.
The distinction is an important one. If you want to actually create a business, you’ll have to establish a real infrastructure to handle the task. If that’s the case, you need to be able to answer “yes” to all of the questions below. If you answer “no” to any questions, you should take the necessary steps to turn that no to a yes before proceeding. These questions include:
* Is there a raison d’etre — other than raising money — to undertake this business? Just wanting to create funds isn’t enough. A merchandising program must have a tie-in with the organization.
* Is there a strong internal commitment from top management to support a business strategically, financially and emotionally?