As a nonprofit professional, you’re likely familiar with the search for fundraising ideas. Maybe you’re hoping to boost participation in a virtual event or attract new donors to an in-person fundraiser. You might ask volunteers for suggestions or reuse previously successful fundraisers. If your brainstorming sessions spur ideas about product fundraisers, you’re on the right track!

Product fundraisers, which raise money for organizations through product sales, are an advantageous fundraising strategy because of their simplistic setup. However, just like planning a large capital campaign or a charity gala, nonprofits still must thoroughly plan these fundraisers to get the best results from them.

Using the four steps in this guide to prepare a product fundraiser, any nonprofit can increase donations and supporter participation. Let’s begin!

1. Define your fundraising goal

Any effort to raise money for your nonprofit starts with a need. Your fundraiser’s goal should be clearly established before requesting donations for three reasons:

  • Efficiency: A clearly-defined goal will guide the efforts of everyone on your fundraising team.
  • Transparency: When supporters know exactly what they’re funding, they’ll be more inclined to give and more trusting of your fundraising efforts.
  • Performance tracking: Your organization will only know the success of its fundraising efforts if it has a clear goal to achieve.

Set a SMART goal for your fundraiser by giving it a specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely objective. A distinct goal with achievable standards and a hard deadline will be more likely to succeed because the goal itself lays out an approach to success.

As an added bonus, clear goals can cultivate a sense of teamwork as your supporters rally to raise money to support the specific goal. Your nonprofit will see an improvement in donor retention not only because of the fundraiser’s creativity but also because supporters will be loyal to your nonprofit when they feel like they’re part of your team.

2. Choose a product

The clear direction provided by goal setting guides your product fundraiser’s next steps, such as product choice and promotion. For example, a nonprofit aiming to raise brand awareness might choose to sell branded merchandise and tell the organization’s story in the campaign’s marketing materials.

Consider these popular products that you might sell in a product fundraiser:

  • Branded merchandise: As mentioned in the example above, merchandise with your nonprofit’s logo and brand elements can spread brand awareness and turn donors into advocates for your nonprofit. Consider creating and selling t-shirts, hats, water bottles, or a variety of these items with your organization’s branding.
  • Food: Snacks and sweets are instant crowd-pleasers that can earn a significant profit. For example, a cookie dough fundraiser set up through ABC Fundraising can yield a 50-80% profit, depending on the number of tubs sold.
  • Seasonal items: Around the holidays, many supporters plan to purchase seasonal items. For example, Christmas wreaths and tree ornaments are likely on their December shopping lists already. Your organization can sell these items to raise money for its campaign. That way, supporters will check something off their shopping lists and give their money to a good cause at the same time.

If you’re not sure which product would best align with your fundraising goal, choose one that will most appeal to potential donors. You might send out a survey or conduct a poll with different product choices. This not only shows donors that you value their opinions but also raises excitement by suggesting which products might be coming soon.

3. Market your fundraiser

Once you’ve chosen a product to sell, it’s time to take your fundraiser to the public! Start with a pre-fundraiser sneak peek of your product to pique supporter interest, then release important information about your sales through various communication channels, such as:

  • Social media. Certain social media platforms are visual-heavy, which is especially helpful for sharing enticing photos of your products. For example, a close-up of the salt crystals on a fresh pretzel might tempt social media followers to order a delicious treat from your nonprofit.
  • Direct mail. Don’t let modern marketing strategies fool you—direct mail still has the power to capture donors’ attention! You might mail physical catalogs and order forms, or flyers promoting your online product fundraiser. Some supporters will prefer to order this way and others will be happy to see something in their mailbox that isn’t a bill.
  • Email blasts. You might regularly update supporters on fundraising initiatives and your organization’s projects through email newsletters. Include some basic information about your product fundraiser (and images to show off your products) to let readers know what you’re currently working on and how they can help.

Be sure that every channel points back to the main source of information about your fundraiser. Whether your fundraiser’s information and order form are hosted on your nonprofit’s website or a separate online web store, provide the link so donors can find it easily.

4. Illustrate your fundraiser’s progress

As mentioned earlier, your nonprofit can only track the success of its fundraiser if it establishes a clear campaign goal. As you prepare to launch your fundraiser, determine how you will track your fundraiser’s progress and share it with your supporters.

For example, you might use a fundraising thermometer to visualize the amount raised from product sales in relation to your overall fundraising goal. This illustration helps your organization track donations and significant milestones, and also creates a sense of urgency for supporters to buy your products and raise the thermometer’s temperature.

Product fundraisers are only as successful as their preparation. After you launch your fundraiser, you’ll be able to watch as your goal becomes more and more achievable. Track your progress so that you can adjust your plan as needed for future fundraisers.