Choosing the Best Nonprofit Merchandise for Your Online Store
When most people consider the work of nonprofits, selling merchandise is not the first thing that comes to mind. However, an online merchandise store for nonprofits is an extremely effective way to boost donations, maximize fundraising, and increase profits overall. In this guide, we will share how lucrative setting up an online store can be, and how much it can support the growth of your organization. We hope you find some great ideas for your own organization!
- Why Should My Nonprofit Have an Online Store?
- Types of Merchandise to Offer in Your Online Store
- How to Choose the Best Nonprofit Merchandise for Your Organization
- Maximizing the Success of Your Online Fundraising Store
- Final Thoughts
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Why Should My Nonprofit Have an Online Store?
Some may wonder whether owning an online store is necessary for nonprofits, especially if they already accept donations and gather membership or event fees and are successful at it. The truth of the matter is a well-run online store can enhance your donation platform, and offer alternative ways to give. Many nonprofits manage large online markets that offer a variety of merchandise, as well as multiple ways to donate to their organizations.
Animal sanctuaries often employ sponsorships as a means to garner and personalize donations. That is to say, when an individual sponsors a specific animal at one of their beloved sanctuaries, they tend to feel more connected to that nonprofit and especially to the animal they are essentially providing food and shelter for. Each donation goes towards this animal’s wellbeing, including their medical care. In return for their sponsorship, an individual will often receive totems in the form of pictures, updates, and perhaps a stuffed toy. Engaging patrons in this way - literally showing them to whom their money is going, and how they are helping them live a fulfilling, healthy life - is exactly the kind of thing that will keep them connected to the organization. Sponsorships, and to a lesser degree purchasing totems of a specific animal or individual an organization aims to provide relief to, humanizes the nonprofit-supporter relationship, providing the latter with an item that may not be costly, but is rich in meaning.
Most large nonprofits already manage their own online stores. And investing in an online store helps small to midsize organizations stay competitive in their sector. If there are two animal shelters operating in the same area, but one has a robust income from merchandise sales, that one is more likely to grow and thrive. These sales can help bridge the gaps between heavy donation and membership seasons, as they bring in that bit of extra revenue that can make a difference in the long run.
Types of Merchandise to Offer in Your Online Store
One of the best ways to maximize interest in your organization is to offer a variety of ways to give, from actual goods to perks and rewards. You can offer any of the following on your online store and rake in the proceeds.
Eva would love to start selling merch for her nonprofit!
Selling branded merchandise is a great way to generate income for your organization. There is almost an unlimited variety of merch that you can put your nonprofit’s logo on. Members and stakeholders can show their support by wearing or using these products, and spread awareness simply by being visible to others. If you are working with a nonprofit influencer, you may be able to negotiate a post or video in which they model your apparel, adding another layer of branding impact.
Here is an example of popular branded merchandise that you can offer to your supporters:
Shown above: 4ocean Shark Braided Bracelet.
4ocean is a nonprofit that focuses on ridding our oceans, rivers, and coastlines of trash, especially plastic, making them more habitable to all the wildlife that call them home. Purchasing this bracelet is symbolic of one’s commitment to oceanic wildlife, especially sharks, as it represents eliminating over 1 pound of trash from the ocean.
Apparel. This includes things like t-shirts, hoodies, buttons or pins, bracelets, socks, hats or visors, scarves, and sunglasses.
Drinkware. Coffee mugs are hugely popular (who does not drink coffee or tea?), travel mugs or cups, and even wine glasses or beer steins can be offered.
Utility items. This can include things like reusable canvas bags, swiss army knives or all-in-one tools, glasses repair kits, stress balls, flower pots, and bottle openers.
Stationary. Pens, pencils, calendars, planners, and notebooks are always popular.
Fun Items. Stuffed animals or other toys, succulents in branded pots, coloring books, crayons or markers.
While regular donations are always welcome, it can be fun to sell certain "donation items" in your online store. Most people enjoy the experience of shopping, and so may find it more fulfilling to purchase something for your nonprofit rather than give a cash donation.
For example, if you are a charity that helps children in the hospital, you may offer toys or activities for a child. Make it clear to the purchaser that they are buying these for a child your organization sponsors, and that they themselves will not actually receive the item.
Source: C.S. Mott Children's Hospital
A sponsorship package is when a supporter donates a certain amount to a nonprofit and then receives specific rewards in return depending on the amount or "level" of their donation.
Rewards can include things like advertising in your periodical, signage at an event, or even meet and greets with nonprofit VIPs. These things can be valuable to larger donors and companies.
Source: The Rapidian
For example, the Women Who Care of Kent County is a group that meets in Western Michigan to raise money for local nonprofits. Here they are seen meeting a member of the board of Safe Families for Children, a nonprofit dedicated to ensuring children always have safe housing in times of familial crisis.
For professional organizations, an online store is a great place to offer educational materials. This can include things like books (both physical and digital), webinars, PowerPoints, and continuing education credits for your field.
Source: The Scuba News
For example, seen above is an online advertisement for a webinar presented by Coastal Action, an organization committed to cleaning up our seas.
How to Choose the Best Nonprofit Merchandise for Your Organization
Gauge your nonprofit’s vision. How will the products you list in your online store best reflect your nonprofit’s goals and aim? How can you reach people with your merchandise - that is to say, how will you use your online store as a tool to gain more supporters and stronger support? Below we list a few things to consider when coming up with merchandise that best fits your brand!
Identify Your Target Audience
Who are you selling to? It can be a misuse of resources to offer inventory that will not sell, so you need to take a hard look at your target audience. Offering niche items for your target group can make your site fun and interesting. A professional society for occupational or physical therapists can sell things like branded goniometers (tools that measure range of motion), while an animal rescue would do well to sell things like dog toys or grooming products.
Have a brainstorming session with your coworkers to throw out ideas. There may be some really fun and appropriate products that you have not even thought of. You can even reach out to some of your members with a survey to see what they might find valuable.
Pro Tip: Listing limited stock of a trendy item (like Yeti and/or /Stanley tumblers or baseball caps) to encourage a greater flux of purchases in a short amount of time is a great way to meet your nonprofit’s revenue goals.
Match Your Mission
When you are deciding what to sell on your site, do not only think about your audience, but what you want to convey through your inventory. For example, if you are part of a nonprofit trying to reduce ocean waste, it may not be in your best interest to offer a bunch of plastic manufactured products. But reusable glass water bottles or metal straws would likely be popular items.
Maximizing the Success of Your Online Fundraising Store
Online merchandise stores that are put together well seem reputable and professional. Utilize the best of your resources to build a website that catches the eye and drives sales.
Focus on Aesthetics
Because you want your nonprofit merchandise to shine, design your site with clean and simple backgrounds as a backdrop for engaging visuals of your products. Images of your merchandise should be well lit and positioned attractively. Get a professional photographer if your organization can afford one. If you cannot, delegate the task to the best photographer you have on staff (or even ask a talented volunteer).
Matt is setting up his online store!
Write to Sell
You need your audience to want what you are selling. Have your best staff writer write engaging descriptions of your products, and add emotional appeals to all donation and sponsorship items. Again, if you can afford it, this may be a job to delegate to a professional consultant.
Find the Right Platform for Your E-Commerce Store
Finally, it is important to choose a reputable company like Springly (that’s us!) to help you create and manage your online store. A great feature of a store platform that caters exclusively to nonprofits is their ability to understand the unique needs of a nonprofit. For example, they offer features that are maximized for both product sales and charitable giving, like the option to sell merchandise directly in your membership campaigns.
Your nonprofit mission is important. Give your organization the funding and reach it deserves by creating and managing a successful online store to sell your nonprofit merchandise. We all know that fundraising for nonprofits is the lifeblood for their survival. Adding an online fundraising store can both enhance and supplement your donation and membership income, which can be especially helpful during slower giving months.
Take some time to research and consult on the best items to sell, and your store will really take off. Just remember to focus on your mission, your members, and your wider audience. With a bit of know-how, a trusted platform, and a dedicated team, your organization can launch a successful merchandise store that makes fundraising for nonprofits both fun and easy.
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💡Can a nonprofit sell merchandise?
Absolutely! In fact, most nonprofits do! It’s a great idea for organizations to sell merchandise because not only does it bring in extra income, but can really amplify their message as well. Find out more.
🔑 How do I start a nonprofit online store?
There are a few steps to follow to start a nonprofit online store. First, decide on the kind of merchandise you’d like to sell and purchase inventory. Next, create images and descriptions for each of your products. Finally, find a trusted company to help you create an online store—many can help you get your store online in just minutes. Find out more.
📝Can a nonprofit sell on Etsy?
Your organization can absolutely sell their products on Etsy or similar sites. However, it’s a better choice to work with a platform that can be integrated with your own nonprofit website. This will streamline all of your services and make life a whole lot easier. Find out more.