Nonprofit Shopping Fundraisers: A Crash Course

Guest Post by Korri Piper, Sales and Marketing Consultant & Director of Vendor Relationships at ShopRaise

Nonprofit fundraising, like many fields, is constantly changing. New technology makes fundraisers easier to organize and gives your organization more options than ever before to tailor your fundraising strategy to your nonprofit. When choosing fundraising ideas, you’ll want to be on the lookout for methods that stand out from the crowd and can appeal to a wide range of supporters.

A shopping fundraiser checks all the boxes for an effective, modern fundraising drive: it’s innovative, widely popular, and easy to run. When supporters make everyday purchases through participating online retailers, your organization can earn additional revenue at no extra cost to you or your supporters. You’ll benefit from the donations, and by shopping for a cause, your supporters are giving back to your organization while getting the food, clothes, household necessities, gifts, and other items they were going to buy anyway.

In this guide, we’ll walk through the basics of nonprofit shopping fundraisers and answer these questions:

  • What is a nonprofit shopping fundraiser?

  • How does a nonprofit shopping fundraiser work?

  • What are the benefits of shopping fundraisers?

  • How do I spread the word about my shopping fundraiser?

Shopping fundraisers can benefit your nonprofit year-round, as long as you engage your supporters. When you set up your shopping fundraiser, partner with a platform that will make the fundraiser easy to plan and track along the way. Let’s dive in!

What is a nonprofit shopping fundraiser?

An online nonprofit shopping fundraiser is just what it sounds like: supporters raise money for your organization as they make purchases online like they normally would. These fundraisers are an example of what ShopRaise refers to as ethical shopping, which has been a trending topic over the last few years as buyers have become more aware of the many impacts their purchases can make.

You might be familiar with charity stores or rounding up your sales total for a cause, which are forms of shopping fundraisers. But by taking your shopping fundraiser online, your nonprofit can provide supporters with more versatility for how they support your cause as well as a more engaging online donation experience.

You can get started with hosting an online shopping fundraiser by partnering with a nonprofit shopping program. These programs already have access to vast networks of businesses and will handle the necessary negotiations for your organization.

How does a nonprofit shopping fundraiser work?

There are five basic steps to a nonprofit shopping fundraiser:

  1. You partner with an online shopping program. Research nonprofit online shopping programs and partner with one that has connections to a variety of retailers your supporters already shop at. Your partner will then provide your nonprofit with access to their app and browser extension that will enable supporters to shop for your cause.

  2. You engage your supporters. While online shopping is sometimes referred to as a passive fundraiser, you’ll need to market the fundraiser actively so your supporters know how to get involved. To make sure your initial launch is a success, you can partner with a nonprofit shopping program that can create marketing materials for you.

  3. Supporters shop as they normally would. Once supporters have downloaded your shopping program’s app or browser extension, they can use it when shopping at their favorite online retailers. Make sure to continue marketing your fundraiser to remind supporters to keep using the program as they shop online over time. You may also encourage them to share the fundraiser with their friends and family to get more support.

  4. A portion of the profits goes to your organization. As supporters make purchases, your nonprofit will receive a steady stream of revenue through your shopping fundraiser program. Keep in mind that shopping fundraisers will accumulate funds over time. After running your fundraiser for a few months, you’ll likely be impressed at the amount your supporters have managed to raise.

  5. You track your results and use them in your marketing efforts. As your supporters start shopping through the program, your nonprofit will receive information about who your top shoppers are, who you can contact to show your appreciation. Also, make sure to keep promoting your shopping fundraiser to remind current supporters about your program and get new supporters involved.

Shopping fundraisers can be a bit outside the box, but with help from the right program, you can envision and promote a successful shopping fundraiser for your nonprofit, school, sports team, club, or other charitable organization.

What are the benefits of shopping fundraisers?

A great characteristic of nonprofit shopping fundraisers is that they benefit your supporters as well as your organization while having virtually no drawbacks. Also, as far as virtual fundraiser ideas go, shopping fundraisers require relatively low effort to reap high rewards.

Benefits for supporters

When your nonprofit’s supporters participate in your shopping fundraiser, they benefit in three main ways:

  • Ethical motivations to purchase. During a shopping fundraiser, participants are spending money that they probably would’ve spent anyway. But they’ll feel better about their buying habits when they know that they’re supporting a good cause while they shop.
  • Less time and effort to give to your cause. With shopping fundraisers, participants don’t have to go out of their way to give. Instead of taking the time to make online purchases for themselves and contribute to your organization separately, they can take care of everything with one transaction.
  • No additional expenses. All items that supporters purchase online through your nonprofit’s shopping fundraiser will be the same price as they would be otherwise, and they’ll have access to the same deals and coupons they normally would. So, supporters can essentially contribute to your nonprofit for free. They also don’t have to write a separate check or buy an item they don’t need, making this fundraiser a “no-ask sale.”

Benefits for nonprofits

Besides also benefiting when supporters share your fundraiser, a shopping fundraiser will be particularly helpful for your nonprofit for these reasons:

  • It’s one of the best year-round fundraisers. As you probably know, bringing in funds at the end of each calendar year is important for all nonprofits. But having a fundraising method that you can run all year long—like an online shopping fundraiser—can help your organization bring in more reliable contributions and take some year-end stress off your staff.

  • It brings in unrestricted revenue. Unlike many fundraisers that have a specific purpose from the start, contributions from a shopping fundraiser benefit your organization as a whole with no limitations. So, your nonprofit can put the revenue toward operating expenses or future budgeting needs in addition to projects and initiatives.

  • It’s easy to run over time. Once your shopping fundraiser is completely set up, your nonprofit shopping program will handle the actual running of the fundraiser. All you’ll need to do is continue your marketing efforts and track your results.

When choosing a program to partner with, research different contribution rates to get the highest value possible for your nonprofit. For example, some popular shopping fundraisers will contribute just 0.5% of sales totals to organizations, while others can get rates as high as 10% depending on the purchase.

How do I spread the word about my shopping fundraiser?

To make your shopping fundraiser successful, you’ll need to get the word out to your supporters. Using a variety of communication channels will help you reach as many supporters as possible and bring in more contributions over time.

Some of the best channels for marketing a shopping fundraiser include:

  • Your nonprofit’s website. Supporters should be able to find all of the valuable information they’ll need about your shopping fundraiser on your website. Try partnering with a shopping program that will help create a specific co-branded webpage for your fundraiser.

  • Social media. Since social media is such an important tool for promoting online shopping, promoting your shopping fundraiser on your organization’s accounts will flow naturally into your followers’ feeds year-round. Your followers will also help you in spreading the word if they can share your posts about the fundraiser with their followers.

  • Email. Getting Attention’s guide to nonprofit marketing highlights the high ROI and wide reach of email, which you can leverage to promote your shopping fundraiser to your nonprofit’s whole audience. In your messages, include detailed instructions about how supporters can get started with a shopping fundraiser and a link to download the app or browser extension.

  • Flyers. Whether you include them in your digital marketing materials or print them out, well-designed flyers can pique supporters’ interest and lead them to learn more about your fundraiser. Make sure to include a link or QR code that supporters can use to learn more about your program and download the app.

When marketing your shopping fundraiser, remember that many of your supporters may never have participated in one before. This means that your nonprofit will need to educate supporters about what shopping fundraisers are, how the fundraiser can benefit supporters, and how participation works.

Nonprofit shopping fundraisers are an easy way for your supporters to contribute to your cause, and they’re also simple for your nonprofit to run. If you spread the word effectively, track your progress, and partner with the right online fundraising program, your nonprofit will be able to bring in contributions from this fundraiser all year long.

Korri Piper, Sales and Marketing Consultant & Director of Vendor Relationships at ShopRaise

Relationship director, project manager, writer and general life enthusiast. Let me tell you how online shopping can solve the world’s problems.

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