4 Tips for Creating Branded Merchandise for Your Nonprofit

Woman holding unbranded bags

If you’ve ever recognized a clothing brand just by the logo on the merchandise, you understand the power of branding.

Even though your ultimate goal isn’t to turn a profit like these clothing brands, your nonprofit has just as much to gain from having a strong brand identity.

Many nonprofits face the question: What’s the most effective and efficient way to market ourselves?

This is where creating branded merchandise comes in.

Branded merchandise offers a great way to amplify your fundraising efforts and your marketing at the same time.

Modern technology has made it simple to create an online branded merchandise store for your supporters, making it part of a great integrated online and offline strategy.

What is branded merchandise for nonprofits?

Branded merchandise is a product your nonprofit sells that has your branding. Think of Nike’s signature swish or Apple’s eponymous logo. When you see their branded products, you instantly recognize them and attribute those products to a particular company.

Your nonprofit can achieve the same effect by adding branding to your fundraising products. This format is different than other product fundraisers due to the branded element of your merchandise. For instance, the difference between a classic cookie dough fundraiser and a merchandise sale is that the merchandise is attributed to your nonprofit, building brand recognition every time your supporters wear or use your product around town.

How to create branded merchandise for your nonprofit

Now that you know what branded merchandise is and its purpose, it’s time to start your campaign.

1. Hone your brand

Before picking the merchandise, you must revisit your current branding strategy. If you’re new to branding, consider adhering to the following traits of an effective brand:

  • Impactful
  • Visually appealing
  • Memorable
  • Authentic
  • Evergreen
  • Knowledgeable

These traits should impact your supporter-facing identity, including your branded merchandise.

Meet with your team and a nonprofit branding consultant to ensure you’re effectively capturing your desired characteristics.

Visual branding is a critical part of this process. Using beautiful graphic design will help you plant the seed of brand recognition that will bloom into full awareness of your organization.

Start by evaluating your nonprofit’s logo design, as this will probably be a central component of your merchandise design.

A strong logo is unique, memorable, and reflects your mission. Work with your team to assess your current logo’s effectiveness, and make the necessary adjustments.

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2. Decide which products you want to sell

With the help of modern customization technology, you can make your merchandise truly yours. Here are some products that you can make:

  • T-shirts
  • Hats
  • Sweatshirts
  • Coffee mugs
  • Bumper stickers
  • Water bottles
  • Tote bags

These are only a fraction of the possibilities available for your nonprofit to explore.

Consider sending a survey to your loyal supporters to see what items they are interested in buying. This way, you’ll only be offering the most popular items, increasing the likelihood that people will buy the products when you launch the campaign.

3. Team up with a product fundraising partner

You might be wondering how to get your fundraising items. In the modern era, you don’t need a screen printer in your basement to make excellent branded merchandise.

With the help of a product fundraising company like ABC Fundraising, you’ll be able to produce various items for your fundraising efforts. Simply put, they’ll make the products and receive part of your revenue as payment. It’s a low-risk, high-reward format that’ll ensure your donors get the best products.

4. Set up a fundraising web store

A critical part of fundraising is making your campaign accessible and reaching as many prospects as possible. A fundraising web store is the most effective way to accomplish both goals. Using an online vendor is the best way to make your branded merchandise campaign visible, accessible, and sharable.

Don’t worry if you have limited experience with website design. If you work with a product fundraising partner, they’ll help you get through the process smoothly.

Sometimes, they’ll set up a web store as a part of your campaign. Once your campaign is live, your supporters can directly buy from you via this page.

Ensure you frequently check in on the site and address any issues your supporters face. Here are some issues that you should keep an eye out for:

  • Lack of mobile accessibility. Recently, mobile search traffic has surpassed desktop search traffic. This means it’s more likely than not that your supporters will be visiting your online store on their mobile devices. Test your site’s mobile-friendliness by accessing it from your own handheld devices. Does the page fit on a mobile screen? Are your navigation paths intuitive? Are your fonts too big or small? Determine where to optimize your page for mobile users and make changes.
  • Slow load times. Loading time is a leading factor in determining your site’s user experience. A slow load time significantly reduces your conversion rate. Every additional second of webpage loading time reduces your conversion rate by 4.5%. Take the time to analyze your code to determine what could slow down your page. Frequent culprits are uncompressed images, unnecessary code, uncached data, and resource-hogging plugins.
  • Incompatibility with your fundraising platform/website. As this is a form of online fundraising, your online merchandise store should be integrated with your other virtual tools. For example, if you power your store through your website, the data you collect from order forms should be sent straight to your CRM, like your donation page. A virtual payment processor is also a must for your online store so that your donors can securely and quickly make their purchases.
  • Unclear graphics. While having a legible website is essential no matter the context, it’s particularly crucial for an online store. Your donors have to be able to see the merchandise options so they can pick their favorite. So, you should have crystal clear graphics and text to showcase your products correctly.
  • Broken links. It’s a great practice to include your other links to the main website on your online store to get more traffic overall. Revisit your page’s links and check that all relevant links go to the right places.

By bringing your merchandise store online, you’ll reach and appeal to a broader audience that might not have known about your organization.

What’s next?

Now that you have your brand, products, and online store set up, you might wonder what’s next for your fundraiser.

Once you’re ready to launch your campaign, you should consider how you’ll market the fundraiser. After all, your donors can’t buy anything if they don’t know anything’s happening in the first place! Spread your online store link on your digital channels, such as social media, emails, blog posts, and newsletters.

Instead of simply promoting your store as-is, consider taking a more donor-centric approach. Your followers probably see an ad on their feed every five minutes, so you must catch their attention with something unique.

For instance, you can post photos of your supporters wearing their new branded merchandise in the community. Not only is this a more exciting way to advertise your fundraiser, but it helps humanize your campaign by featuring your real-life supporters.

Don’t stop there if you’re doing a limited branded merchandise sale! If your supporters love your merchandise, consider saving some products for future use.

Branded items are great additions to your existing fundraisers. For example, you can save some items for auction prizes in your silent auction. You can also give out merchandise as donor appreciation gifts because who doesn’t love getting free stuff?

No matter your target audience, a branded merchandise sale will be a hit with your donors. Your loyal supporters will love giving to your nonprofit while representing you in their networks. The best part is that this strategy can be updated over time, with new drops occurring yearly or for every major campaign. Whether you’re throwing a school fundraising event or a church benefit, your branded merchandise sale will ensure that your supporters can bring a piece of your nonprofit home.

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