Online Product Fundraisers: 3 Tips For Getting Started

Online Product Fundraisers: 3 Tips For Getting Started
Debbie Salat
October 10, 2022

The world of fundraising has evolved over the years to keep up with the Digital Revolution. Gone are the days when fundraising was done solely over lunch or by enlisting staff members to knock on doors or dial numbers during a telefundraising campaign. Instead, the online fundraising scene is booming with mission-driven organizations of all sorts finding more and more ways to connect with their supporters and pull in funding for their missions virtually.

And online fundraising isn’t just popular; it’s also extremely effective. In fact, according to the Blackbaud Institute, 12% of the total money raised for fundraising in 2021 was from online giving. What does this mean for your nonprofit, school, church, or sports team? That it’s time to jump into online fundraising with both feet!

Online product fundraisers are a great way to start. They put a twist on a popular fundraising idea, the traditional product fundraiser. Instead of sending volunteers out to knock on your supporters’ front doors and fill out order forms, an online product fundraiser moves the entire process to the web, setting your organization up for heightened success and easier campaign management.

Not sure how to get started? No worries. In this post, we’ll give you three tips that will help you get started with your first online product fundraiser:

  1. Partner with a dedicated product fundraising company.
  2. Choose a product to sell and get your online store set up.
  3. Market your fundraiser to your supporters.

With these tips, your online product fundraiser will be a breeze. Plus, your supporters will love receiving a little something in return for their generous support. Let’s jump right in!


1. Partner with a dedicated product fundraising company.

The first step in getting your online product fundraiser up and running is choosing a product fundraising company to work with. You want to choose a company that won’t just play the role of supplier, but will also be an active partner in making sure your campaign succeeds.

When considering potential partners, look for a company that:

  • Offers a variety of fundraising products. Choosing a fundraising product that your supporters actually want to buy is critical to your online product fundraiser’s success. The best fundraising companies offer a number of different options for organizations to choose from in order to customize their campaigns to fit their donor bases’ interests.
  • Can customize your campaign materials. Branded marketing materials—such as a customized order form used for an in-person product fundraiser or a virtual fundraising store’s landing page—make a big difference in how your supporters perceive your campaign. The right fundraising company can help you take your materials to the next level with customization services and increase the level of professionalism your organization brings to its mission.
  • Will set up your online fundraising store for you. Do you hear the words “online fundraising store” and instantly wonder, How on earth am I going to set that up? You’re not alone. That’s why top product fundraising companies take care of the heavy lifting for you by working out the technical side of your online fundraising store. All you have to do is start sharing the link and getting results.

As you consider different options for your product fundraising partner, be sure to choose a company that offers support every step of the way. If questions arise or you hit a snag somewhere in the fundraising process, you don’t want to be left putting out fires on your own! A real partner will have your back from beginning to end.


2. Choose a product to sell and get your online store set up.

Next comes the fun part: picking the product you want to sell! Since your campaign’s success will depend on the popularity of your chosen product, it’s a decision that your organization shouldn’t take lightly. Here are three tips for making sure you pick the right product:

  1. Consider what you know about your supporters. If you don’t choose a fundraising product that resonates with your supporters, you’ll have a hard time selling that product. So, step into their shoes and think about your options from their point of view. For example, perhaps you’re part of a PTA at your local school. According to ABC Fundraising’s list of school fundraising ideas, school supporters often respond well to products like popcorn and discount cards. Or maybe your supporters are baseball team parents who would love to show off their team spirit with branded merchandise. Or perhaps you’ll be selling to church parishioners who are interested in buying new holiday decorations. Think about the things your supporters value and let that information guide your decision.
  2. Browse online lists of fundraising products. It can be helpful to get a feel for what other mission-driven organizations are selling for their product fundraisers. A simple Google search will pull up dozens of roundup-style lists of product fundraising options. For example, Double the Donation’s list of product fundraising ideas walks through over twenty options, scoping out each option’s price, popularity, and how to get started with it.
  3. Consider out-of-the-box options and classic favorites. As you look at the plethora of product fundraising options out there, you might discover a new product you’d never considered possible to sell for fundraising purposes, like candles or flower bulbs. These are great atypical picks, but don’t overlook tried-and-true classics. For example, some organizations love selling cookie dough or discount cards to raise money for their cause. A familiar product can be appealing to supporters, too!

Once you’ve chosen the product you want to sell, work with your fundraising product company to get your online fundraising store set up. This is also a good time to determine how your supporters will receive your products. Will you have them delivered to one location and pass them out to your supporters? Or, will you take advantage of many product fundraising companies’ offers to have products sent directly to supporters’ homes?

Work with your partner to determine what makes the most sense for your organization. Once you’ve worked out these logistics and your store is live, you’ll need to start spreading the word to pull in funding!


3. Market your fundraiser to your supporters.

As you embark on your online product fundraising journey, your organization will need to prioritize promoting the fundraiser. The success of your campaign relies on driving people who are willing to support your cause to your fundraising store website or page.

Keep this in mind as you employ nonprofit marketing best practices, such as:

  • Taking a multichannel approach. Marketing is never one-size-fits-all because each of your supporters has different communication preferences. To address these unique preferences, take a multichannel approach, such as marketing via both Facebook and direct mail. Not only will you show that you understand and value your supporters’ preferences, but you’ll likely reach new audiences as well.
  • Leveraging search engine marketing (SEM). SEM helps you direct more traffic to your website by increasing your site’s rankings for relevant keywords. Nonprofits and other tax-exempt organizations are eligible for the Google Ad Grant, a program that supports SEM efforts by providing $10,000 of free Google Ad credits per month. There are Google Grants agencies that will support you during the application phase, find the most impactful keywords for you to target, and even manage your campaigns.
  • Making your communication personal. Whether you’re connecting with a potential donor for the first time or saying thank you for a donation, it’s always necessary to make your supporters feel important to your organization. Personalization is especially important when asking supporters to purchase a product to help out your cause. For example, make sure any emails about your campaign have greetings automatically populated with the recipient’s name.
  • Including a QR code on physical marketing materials. Want to use printed marketing materials like flyers or direct mail for your online product fundraiser? Make sure to include a QR code leading to your online store on the materials. This will bridge the gap between print and digital communication channels, allowing your supporters to navigate directly to your site just by scanning the code. This shortcuts the long process of typing a URL into the search bar on their phones or tablets.

Put your best foot forward when communicating with your supporters about your upcoming (or ongoing!) product fundraiser. Once the campaign wraps up, don’t forget to ask your supporters for feedback on your strategy and analyze engagement data. This will help you pinpoint specific ways to improve your future online product fundraisers (and other types of campaigns).


Bonus Tip: Pair your product fundraiser with an event.

Want to supercharge your online product fundraiser? Try kicking it off or tying it to an event. Leveling up an online fundraiser with an in-person, virtual, or hybrid event can help you drum up more excitement for your cause and get people to take action and support your campaign.

Here are a few fun event ideas that are perfect for pairing with your online product fundraiser:

  • Back-to-School Carnival: Since product fundraisers are especially popular with schools, try hosting a back-to-school carnival complete with carnival games and fun prizes. Set up a booth where people can see the fundraising products you’re selling and get information about your online store.
  • Hybrid Walk-a-Thon: Hybrid walk-a-thons are profitable fundraisers on their own, but what if you sold branded merchandise like water bottles, t-shirts, hats, or travel mugs in your online fundraising store on top of hosting the event? Your supporters would likely love to invest a little additional money to get a piece of merchandise commemorating the experience, whether they’re participating in a big group at your in-person event or completing the walk-a-thon on their own.
  • Holiday Gift Fair: The holiday season is a great time of year to sell fundraising products. Make your online fundraising store a highlight of the fair, promoting products like candles, flower bulbs, branded merchandise, cookie dough, and popcorn—anything that your supporters might like to wrap up and give to their loved ones!
  • Virtual Cooking Class: If you plan to host a virtual cooking class, you’ll likely get a lot of people signing up who love good food and tasty treats. This is a perfect opportunity to give a plug for (and link to) your online fundraising store if you’re selling something delicious like cookie dough or gourmet popcorn.

Online product fundraisers can easily go hand-in-hand with your organization’s upcoming events. Before, during, and after your event, look for ways to naturally direct your supporters to your online fundraising store to bring in extra revenue for your cause.

The Gist

As you embark on your online product fundraising journey, remember to look for the right fundraising product company to partner with, choose the right product your supporters will love, and market your fundraiser effectively (and maybe even pair it with an event!). These steps are sure to help your organization meet its campaign goals.

Good luck!

Debbie Salat
Debbie Salat is the director of fundraising activities and product development at ABC Fundraising(r) - Debbie joined ABC Fundraising(r) in 2010 and is responsible for launching over 6500 fundraising campaigns for schools, churches, youth sports teams and non-profit organizations all across the USA. With over 20 years of fundraising experience, Debbie knows the path to success for fundraisers which she shares with groups on a daily basis so they can achieve their fundraising goals.
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