AMPERAGE Marketing & Fundraising

One-Minute MarketerFundraising Efforts Are Rethinking T-Shirts

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Fundraising Efforts Are Rethinking T-Shirts

There is nothing really new about having a T-shirt as part of a fundraising campaign, but today, the simple T-shirt is being reborn. It may become the strategic edge to your campaign — and raise a lot of money.iowa public radio

In fact, more than T-shirts can generate much-needed profits through online stores. An online store cannot only raise funds, it can also help build your brand. Merchandise may engage donors in a way never thought possible.

I love my state bird T-shirt, but I feel even better about the shirt knowing it came because I supported Iowa Public Radio. I contributed enough to get the shirt for “free” (see blog that Americans are bad at math).

If you do decide to go into the merchandise business for nonprofit fundraising, here are few thoughts before you launch:

  • Retail. This is retail, not a “fun” giveaway.
  • Logistics. Logistics are important: shipping, returns, wrong sizes.
  • Spoilage. Don’t invest or print a bunch of merchandise. Print in batches when you have enough orders. Your costs per piece will rise a bit, but your overall investment will drop with no spoilage.
  • Logo bloat. No one wants to pay top dollar for a logo-riddled shirt.
  • Make it cool. Make the shirt or merchandise valuable by having it designed. Have an artist or designer develop your shirt. “Your logo here” is not what I want to buy.
  • Transparent. Tell people how much will be donated to the cause. Maybe they will buy two or three items to get to a giving level.
  • Goals. Tell buyers/donors what each shirt does for your organization. For example, each shirt you buy provides 100 meals to starving children.

Selling merchandise diversifies donor contribution options, but just like retail, people will want new merchandise each year. You may find some repeating items that are associated with events or holidays, but keep pushing new. Only bring back popular items to sell the next year.

There are some legal concerns around the income-generating activity that is not directly related to your mission. Be sure to check with your accountant and legal resources to make sure you do not jeopardize your tax-exempt status and that you file the proper IRS forms. Otherwise, time to turn over the open sign on your e-commerce store.

Written by:

Mark wrote his first direct-mail fundraising letter in 1981 for the University of Iowa Center for Advancement. The effort raised a few million dollars in undiscovered wills and legacy gifts. From that day forward Mark discovered a love of the big idea that moves the needle. After 12 years at KWWL, Mark became a business owner as a co-founder of ME&V — rebranded as AMPERAGE in 2015. After 25 years of leading creative teams in video production, graphic design, PR, writing and web development, Mark transitioned out of ownership in 2021. Today he serves in an employee role as special projects consultant. He is creatively ambidextrous — son of an artist and engineer — and famous for distilling complex ideas down to a few words and a few visuals. Mark is a writer. When he found that many nonprofits struggled with complex branding puzzles, he wrote the book, “NonProfit-NonMarketing .” He also wrote a novel called “Reenactment.” Mark is an active blogger OneMinuteMarketer® with nearly 1,000 readers each week on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. One of his most popular YouTube videos is on “How to Look Good on Zoom.” One of Mark’s fondest business memories was being named to INC 500 two times and attending the INC 500 conference with other winners. Mark is considered by some a Civil War expert (and that explains his novel). Mark also served as an adjunct professor in the business and in the communications departments at Wartburg College. Mark is a graduate of the University of Iowa and is currently vice president of the University of Iowa Journalism and Mass Communications Advisory Board. Mark is married to state Sen. Liz Mathis, and the two love to travel, even when it means being trapped by a volcano in the Czech Republic for three weeks.