How to Create Nonprofit Merchandise That Sells

At Bonfire, we know that custom merchandise can be a game-changer for your nonprofit, with the potential to transform your fundraising strategy, engage your supporters, and sustain your impact year-round – and we’re here to help make it all happen. From designing compelling apparel to launching successful campaigns and effectively reaching your supporters, we’ve got you covered. This 9-step guide will provide you with everything you need to turn your ideas into impactful, revenue-generating campaigns. Let’s go ahead and get started! 

Here’s what we’ll cover:

1. Create a Design That Reflects Your Organization

When it comes to creating your merchandise, remember that the design you choose isn’t just about aesthetics; it’s about echoing your mission and making a lasting impression in the hearts and minds of your supporters. To achieve this objective, make sure your design aligns with your nonprofit’s core values. 

What to Consider When Creating Your Design

Visual Identity: Be consistent with your visual branding elements – such as logos, color schemes, fonts, and imagery. Your merchandise should incorporate these elements to reinforce your nonprofit’s identity, as well as build trust and recognition among your contributors. Make your design simple, keep any messaging straightforward, and try to avoid clutter. 

Message Amplification: Custom merchandise is often seen by a broader audience than just your immediate community. The goal of your design should be to unify existing supporters and attract new supporters. Use your merchandise to inform people about the issues your nonprofit is addressing, as well as the solutions you are working toward.

Long-term Impact: People who purchase and wear your items become long term advocates for your cause, continuing to promote your nonprofit’s message over time. Focus on creating a design that everyone will want to wear again and again. 

Emotional Connection: Custom merchandise is a creative way to tell your nonprofit’s story. When people feel a strong emotional connection to a cause, they are more likely to actively engage, contribute, and advocate for the organization. Choose a design that will resonate with your audience.

Design Tips and Tricks

Use High-Contrast Colors: Utilizing high-contrast color combinations in your design will not only make your merchandise stand out but will also ensure that any messaging is easily legible. It can be as simple as putting a dark design on a light shirt or a light design on a dark shirt. Remember to use colors that align with your branding. 

Typography Matters: Choose legible and complementary fonts. Ensure that any text on your merchandise is easy to read and conveys your message effectively.

High-Quality Artwork: Invest in high-quality artwork and graphics. If possible, work with a professional designer to create eye-catching and visually appealing designs.

Unisex and Inclusive Designs: Create designs that are inclusive and suitable for all genders and age groups. This broadens your potential customer base.

Need some help with your design? Bonfire has over 800 design templates for you to customize! Or if you’d like, you can be paired with one of the designers in our concierge design service, Bonfire Studio to bring your design vision to life! 

Helpful resources:
Uploaded Artwork & Preferred File Types
How to Use Design Templates on Bonfire
How to Work With a Designer to Create a Custom T-Shirt
The 25 Best Fonts for T-Shirts

When you’re a verified nonprofit on Bonfire, you’ll have access to a suite of nonprofit fundraising tools and features that are customized for organizations just like you. We strive to make it as easy as possible for nonprofits to fundraise on our platform. 

Nonprofit Fundraising Tools and Features on Bonfire

Reduced Donation Fees: Once your nonprofit is verified, processing fees on additional donations to your campaign are reduced from 8% to 3.5%.

Verified Nonprofit Badge: A verified nonprofit badge will appear on the t-shirt image on your campaign page. In addition, a green heart with a checkmark will appear next to your nonprofit’s name on your campaign page. These icons are symbols of trust for your community and let them know that all proceeds will directly benefit your programs and initiatives. 

Customizable Organization Profile Page: This is your nonprofit’s home to tell your story, highlight active campaigns, and show off your fundraising stats. 

Downloadable Supporter Information: Grow your donor database with supporter information.You’ll be able to easily export the contact information of your supporters across all connected campaigns in a .CSV format.

Access to Platform Integrations: You can maximize your fundraising efforts by integrating your Bonfire campaigns with other fundraising platforms like Classy, TeamRaiser (BlackBaud), Neon Fundraise, and Donor Drive. 

Receive Direct Payouts From Giving Campaigns: The funds you raise from merchandise sales will be sent directly to your organization, and the same applies when members of your community launch Giving Campaigns on your behalf. When they link your organization to their fundraising campaign, all the money they raise will also be sent directly to you.

Send Personalized Thank You Notes: You’ll be able to thank the people who launched giving campaigns on your behalf by sending them a thank you email from your Campaign Dashboard. 

When setting up your campaign, simply set the campaign type to “Fundraising”, and select that you wish to send your payout directly to a 501(c)3 nonprofit. Next, type your organization name or EIN into the search bar and select your nonprofit. This process connects your organization to your campaign and automatically configures it to send all proceeds directly to your account. 

Helpful resources: 
Nonprofit Verification
Nonprofit Campaigns on Bonfire
Introducing Giving Campaigns: A New Way to Raise Funds for Nonprofits
How to Customize Your Organization Profile Page

3. Choose Products Your Supporters Will Love

When selecting products to include in your campaign, prioritize choices that you believe will resonate with your audience. By demonstrating an understanding of their needs and preferences, you not only boost their engagement and the likelihood of them making purchases, but also inspire them to share your campaign with like-minded individuals in their communities.

Best Practices for Choosing the Perfect Products

Survey Your Supporters: Conduct surveys or polls among your existing supporters to learn about their preferences. You can ask them what types of merchandise they would be interested in, what colors they’d like, etc. You can even ask what designs or slogans they’d like to see.

Consider Your Demographics: Take into account the demographics of your supporter base. Different age groups and demographics may have varying preferences for merchandise. Curate your product selection to match the interests of your target audience.

Research Trends: Stay informed about current fashion and merchandise trends. Look at what’s popular and consider how those trends align with your nonprofit’s mission and values. 

Collaborate with Supporters: Involve your supporters in the creative process. Host design contests or ask for ideas from your community. This way you can ensure that your merchandise fits their interests.

4. Set Your Product Prices

While you want to generate funds for your cause, it’s equally important to price your merchandise so that it remains accessible and appealing to your target audience. 

Pricing Your Products With Purpose

Fundraising Goals: Think about the fundraising goals of your organization and then determine how much revenue you need to generate from merchandise sales to support your programs and initiatives. Be specific about how merchandise sales fit into your fundraising strategy. 

Transparency: Communicate to your donors how their purchase will contribute to your nonprofit’s mission. Provide updates throughout your campaign to keep them informed on how proceeds are being used to make a positive impact. 

Market Research: Research the typical price range for similar merchandise on the market. This will help you understand the pricing expectations and comfort level of your target audience.

5. Enable Donations at Checkout

By offering supporters the option to donate at checkout, you bolster your fundraising capabilities, allowing you to raise more funds and broaden your reach. To enable this feature, toggle it on in the third step of the campaign setup process, or while editing your campaign. 

Easy and Seamless Giving: Checkout donations make the giving process easy and convenient. Supporters don’t need to navigate separate donation pages or processes, which can reduce friction and increase the likelihood of contributions.

Enhancing Supporter Engagement: Including a donation option at checkout reinforces the message that your organization relies on the continued support of its community. This fosters a sense of shared responsibility among your benefactors and helps to deepen their connection with your organization.

Opportunity for Micro Donations: Some people may not have the financial means to contribute large donations. Checkout donations allow them to make small, spontaneous donations that add up over time. 

6. Get Ready to Launch Your Campaign – Then Do It!

Now that your campaign is built and ready to go, it’s time to finalize launch details! When choosing a launch date, consider the season, any upcoming holidays/awareness days or months, and any events you might have on your calendar. By taking these things into account, your nonprofit can choose the best launch date to maximize your fundraising efforts. Up until you launch (and then the entire run of the campaign) you’re going to want to generate excitement among your supporters. 

Leading Up to Your Launch

Social Media Teasers: Post teaser content on your social media platforms regularly. Use captions and hashtags to build anticipation and create a buzz. 

Countdowns: Create a countdown timer on your website or social media profiles to remind your supporters of the approaching launch date. Update it regularly to maintain anticipation.

Virtual Launch Event: Consider hosting a virtual launch event on platforms like Facebook Live or Instagram Live. You can use the event to showcase your merchandise, share stories, and engage with your audience in real-time.

After You’ve Launched

Monitor Social Media: Once your campaign is live, keep a close eye on your social media channels for customer comments, questions, and engagement. Respond to comments you receive and engage with your audience throughout the day.

Celebrate Milestones: If you reach specific milestones during launch day, such as a certain number of sales or a fundraising goal, celebrate these achievements on social media and in your communications!

Analyze Performance: Keep track of key performance metrics, such as sales, website traffic, and social media engagement, to evaluate the success of your launch day strategies.

7. Promote Your Campaign Across Social Channels

Promoting your merchandise campaign on your social media channels is the best way to reach a vast and diverse audience. Social media platforms provide you with an opportunity to engage both existing and potential donors, driving sales and raising awareness for the cause. 

Create Compelling Visual Content: Share high-quality photos and videos of your custom merchandise on social media platforms. Use eye-catching visuals that showcase the products from different angles and in various contexts.

Post Consistently: Maintain a consistent posting schedule to keep your audience engaged and informed about your merchandise and campaign updates.

Tell a Story: Use storytelling to explain the purpose and impact of your fundraising campaign. Share stories of individuals or communities that will benefit from the proceeds, creating an emotional connection with your audience.

Create Hashtags: Develop custom hashtags for your fundraising campaign and merchandise. Encourage everyone to use these hashtags when posting photos of their purchases. This creates a sense of community and makes it easy for you to track user-generated content.

Highlight the Impact: Clearly communicate with your supporters how purchasing your merchandise contributes to your nonprofit’s mission. Share stories, statistics, or graphics that show the positive outcomes of your fundraising efforts.

Cross-Promotion with Other Nonprofits: Collaborate with other nonprofits to cross-promote each other’s merchandise and fundraising campaigns. This can help you reach new audiences with shared interests.

Gratitude and Acknowledgment: Publicly thank your supporters on social media for their purchases and contributions. Recognizing their support can encourage even more people to participate in your campaign.

Helpful resources:
How to Sell Merch on YouTube
How to Sell Custom Merch on TikTok
How to Promote Your T-Shirts on Facebook to Increase Sales
How to Promote Your T-Shirt Campaign on Instagram

8. Market Your Campaign via Emails

Promoting your merchandise through an email campaign is a great way to communicate with your donors in a direct and personalized way. Donors who have subscribed to email updates are often more engaged and interested in the nonprofit’s mission, making them likely purchasers. 

Email marketing serves as a versatile tool to boost sales, tell compelling stories about merchandise, nurture donor relationships, and diversify fundraising streams while maintaining cost-efficiency and trackable outcomes.

Highlight the Merchandise: Showcase your custom merchandise prominently in the email. Use high-quality images and provide a brief description of each product, including its features and benefits.

Use Clear CTAs (Call to Action): Include clear and compelling CTAs that guide recipients on the action you want them to take, whether it’s making a purchase, sharing the email, or visiting your online store.

Create Urgency: Encourage action by incorporating urgency into your emails. Use phrases like “Limited Time Offer” or “Act Now” to motivate readers to make a purchase.

Follow Up and Thank Supporters: After a purchase, send a follow-up email to thank advocates for their purchase and provide additional information about your nonprofit’s mission and impact.

9. Encourage Engagement From Your Supporters

Encouraging engagement from your supporters is essential to the success of your merchandise marketing strategy. Engaged supporters not only boost sales and revenue, but also contribute to building a loyal community and expanding the reach of your nonprofit. 

Ask Questions and Encourage Comments: Ask questions in your captions that are related to your merchandise or campaign. Encourage followers to share their thoughts or experiences in the comments. You’ll gain valuable insights and your supporters will feel heard and appreciated!

Leverage User-Generated Content (UGC): Encourage your buyers to share photos of themselves wearing your merchandise, and don’t forget to include user-generated content in your posts. This not only adds authenticity, but also inspires others to do the same. Plus, featuring members of your community in your organization’s content is sure to bring them joy!

Share Stories and Testimonials: Post stories or testimonials from people who have purchased your merchandise and benefited from your nonprofit’s work. Real-life stories can be powerful motivators.

Tag Relevant Accounts: Alwaysmention or tag influencers, partners, or relevant accounts in all your posts. This can increase the visibility of your content and potentially lead to additional shares or collaborations.

Share Behind-the-Scenes Content: Give your followers a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes process of creating and selling your merchandise. Your supporters will love the opportunity to see some of the work you put into making your merchandise a reality. 

Creating nonprofit merchandise is a powerful way to generate support for your cause, increase awareness, and raise much-needed funds. By understanding your audience, designing compelling and meaningful products, leveraging your brand’s story, and implementing effective marketing strategies, you can create merchandise that not only resonates with your supporters, but also makes a lasting impact on your mission. 

Remember, it’s not just about the merchandise itself; it’s about the message, the community, and the shared commitment to making the world a better place. So, go ahead and design merchandise that not only looks good but also does good, and watch your nonprofit thrive as a result.

Ready to empower your cause with impactful merch?

Launch on Bonfire for free and start making a difference today.

Written by: Hayden Ireland / Content Specialist
Illustrated by: Madison Summers / Lead Marketing Designer

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