Create Brand Loyalty and New Revenue for Your Nonprofit with an Online Branded Merchandise Store
In hard times, flexibility is key. Fundraising was already moving online more and more, and the pandemic has only accelerated that shift. At the same time, the rise in cost of living means it’s increasingly important to find fun ways to engage supporters in novel and affordable ways. Giving them the opportunity to buy something they love to wear is a great way to ensure an ongoing relationship, to re-engage existing supporters and to grow your community. Used correctly, something as simple as a T-shirt can spark conversation and lead to a movement that will last for years to come.
During the previous recession, 25% of income to charities came from product sales. With new technology, charities can create and sell their own branded merchandise through an online store for free. This means providing supporters with a tangible product, building an ongoing relationship and making the most of opportunities to spread the word about your cause.
Turn Your Cause Into a Movement
When done right, merchandise makes people feel involved, like they are part of something bigger than themselves. Wearing a charity T-shirt broadcasts to the world that this is a cause you care about, and that others should, too. So rather than asking people to donate to a cause, you’re inviting them to join a movement.
Help Refugees’ viral campaign reached millions of people within only a few weeks by harnessing the power of social media. With its simple message reminding people to “choose love,” the small charity, which has since rebranded to Choose Love, reached out to celebrities and rallied their supporters with the hashtag #ChooseLove. Within a few weeks, the movement raised 100 times more funds than the average charity.
Increase Brand Awareness
Research shows that more than half of people who receive promotional products keep them for more than five years. A thank-you card will be read and then recycled, but merch keeps your charity at the forefront of people’s minds. You’ll see a T-shirt every time you open your wardrobe. That’s hundreds of little reminders of your cause. A well-designed tee can spark conversation and make you laugh or think. With the right design, your message will stick in someone’s mind all day.
Donor retention is one of the most important factors in meeting fundraising goals. Someone who has already given money to a cause is far more likely to be re-engaged in future, and more likely to donate more since they already know and trust the charity. Merch is a constant reminder of what they care about, and a reminder to keep supporting your cause.
At the Greenpeace store, 35% of customers have placed an order in the past — that’s a solid income the charity can rely on with minimal effort required to keep it up. Through well-targeted advertising and regular email campaigns, Greenpeace has been able to create a community of engaged supporters that will continue to help its fundraising efforts.
With a circular supply chain, merchandise itself is an opportunity for engagement. For example, some nonprofits encourage donors to send products back once they are worn out so they can be turned into new clothing. Your organization could then offer supporters a discount on their next purchase at your online store, prompting them to support your cause once again.
Diversify Contribution Options
In hard times, flexibility is key. When the pandemic sent everyone home, people went online. Now charities are selling 151% more products online than in stores. Any charity that was quick to adapt to the new conditions created the perfect opportunity to raise more funds. In the uncertainty that is to come, more than half of those surveyed favor one-time contributions, according to the “Cost of Giving Monitor” report. It is imperative that charities find a way to ensure their supporters are incentivized to support their causes.
Since the pandemic, online giving is becoming the clear favorite fundraising platform, with 61% of supporters donating online, according to Enthuse’s summer edition of “Donor Pulse.” (opens as a PDF) Brand recall is stronger online as well. The report noted 78% of people who bought a product from a charity’s own website will recall the brand. Additionally, people give 18% more money on a charity’s own website than they do on a consumer giving platform. Fundraising platforms can have great reach across demographics, but when it comes to retaining supporters and boosting fundraising income, creating your own online store is best.
Fundraise at Events
While online fundraising continues to grow in importance, events remain a key strategy for many charities. They can be a vital part of building an engaged community, and can create huge social media and media opportunities. The right merchandise can turn a one-day event into an ongoing opportunity.
Use your merchandise to help share your message and as a physical reminder. With dropshipping technology, you can send merchandise directly to your supporters’ houses, so they can wear your T-shirt while completing a challenge, in person or virtually.
Events can be a great place to make sales and fundraise in person, too. Greenpeace created a merch store at Glastonbury Festival this year, making the most of the opportunity to meet its supporters in person and build a relationship. The event boosted the number of online-store visits by more than 50%. Getting out there into the spaces your supporters are likely to occupy can be a great outreach method, and fun T-shirts will always attract a crowd.
Print on Demand
Traditional production methods for merchandise come with added complications. Clothes are made speculatively, meaning you have to guess how much you will sell and pay for stock up front. For a charity looking to fundraise, this is less than ideal. Now, new print-on-demand technology means manufacturing can be done in the seconds after an order is placed. So there’s no upfront cost, no overproduction and no waste.
Using a print-on-demand supplier means orders will immediately be routed to the factory closest to your customer, where their item will be printed immediately and shipped directly to them. So you have more time — and money — for fundraising.
Align With Your Values
One of the key deciders of public trust in a charity is based on their actions. This includes the work they do, how their funds are allocated, and, importantly, that their fundraising actions are consistent with their values.
With tighter budgets, people are becoming more selective about where they give their money. Globally, 85% of people are shopping more sustainably in recent years. They are willing to pay more for sustainable clothing, too. Creating sustainable merchandise means broadcasting your values to the world and attracting high-value supporters at the same time.