A great way to raise awareness and funds for your nonprofit is to sell products on your website. Even if you’re not a designer, with some help from friends, family and local businesses, you can come up with products that will raise funds and draw attention to your cause.
First Thing’s First
Before you get start do an honest evaluation of your current website. Make sure all of your information is clearly outlined and organized in an attractive way. The mission of your nonprofit should be explained in a concise paragraph or two, and within that paragraph should be a one sentence tag-line highlighted on the opening page of the website.
Developing a Product to Sell
You can always go the route of many nonprofits by making the printed T-shirts, coffee mugs or tote bags. But to really attract attention to your cause and to drive traffic to your website, it’s a bonus to think handmade and personal.
Contact community groups and schools in your area to see what kind of arts programs they have, and which of their products could work best for you. Most people would love to sell their work and be a part of a larger project. You will have a unique product, be supporting others, and creating additional awareness for your cause in the community.
Alternatively, if there is another charity product you like, consider contacting the creators and ask if they will work with you to customize and sell you their product. At the Made With Love Project we often get asked by other nonprofits if they can buy certain bracelets of ours to sell for their cause -- and we are happy to oblige.
Stuck for Ideas?
Think of products that relate to your cause. Is your project a homeless shelter? Why not have a local senior group create handmade pillows for you to sell. Raising money for rescue animals? How about handknit dog sweaters or appliqué dog collars. Scholarship funds? Make patchwork book bags or hand made notebooks or holiday cards with a local art class.
What ever you decide on, focus on one product and do it well.
Keep Costs Down and Control Inventory
While you do want a great product that sells, you need to be very mindful of costs so the production doesn’t eat into your fundraising profits. Try heading to local businesses for donations of materials. It’s an easy way for a business to get involved in your cause and will cut your costs.
Make sure you also allow yourself enough lead-time to have your product produced and to keep an adequate stock once you launch the product online.
Branding Your Product
A product is more than a fundraising tool, it’s an ambassador into the world for your nonprofit, so make sure it is branded with information about your cause.
Photograph your product on a clean white background and find the right spot to add eCommerce features to your site. Feature the product either on the opening page or under a tab such as SHOP or SUPPORT.
Create a hangtag that includes your non-profit mission statement, a tag line and a photo that tells your story. Be sure to include your website address and phone number so that people can connect with you.
This is a hangtag we designed for the Coldplay, VIVA tour, where we sold our bracelets one year.
Promoting Your Product and Cause
Once you’ve launched your product it is important to promote it both online and off. Bring it to all your events and also ask to sell it at schools, fairs, outdoor markets and approach local businesses to sell it for you.
Sometimes giving is the best policy. When I first launched the Made With Love Project there was no clear market for our products but anytime someone asked me to participate in a charity event I would donate my bracelets and go to the event, building recognition and making contacts for my cause as well.
Use your product as a gift with donation for crowd fundraising campaigns, donor drives or event fundraising.
Remember: your product can do more than raise funds. What’s most important is having a product that makes your cause tangible, creating an easy way to find new supporters and friends for your non-profit.