Written by: Debbie Salat
Reading Time: 4 minutes

In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, nonprofits are looking for new ways to garner support for their causes and show their thanks to generous donors.

Especially as your supporters will have different comfort levels for events, it’s important to offer engagement opportunities that don’t require in-person attendance. In the wake of these changes, product fundraisers present an easy, fun, and effective way to engage all of your supporters.

This guide will take you through the process of making a product fundraising campaign work for your nonprofit. 

  • What Is a Product Fundraiser?
  • 5 Great Product Fundraising Ideas
  • Wrap-Up: How to Succeed With a Product Fundraiser

However, before jumping into our favorite product fundraising ideas and best practices for a successful fundraiser, let’s talk about what a product fundraiser is and how it can benefit your nonprofit.

What Is a Product Fundraiser? 

Simply put, a product fundraiser is an impactful way for not-for-profit organizations to boost funds and supporter engagement by providing a product in exchange for donations. 

In your path to enacting social change, this type of fundraiser has three major benefits in addition to raising money for your cause:

  • Converts new supporters. A product fundraiser can be a great way to garner interest and introduce people previously unaware of your organization to your cause. For these donors, take this as an opportunity to share your mission, the impact of their donation, and other opportunities for them to get involved.
  • Engages existing supporters. Let your volunteers take the reins and fundraise on behalf of your organization. Enlist your key stakeholders, beneficiaries, and volunteers to sell your fundraising product. As a result, they’ll feel more connected to your mission and impact. In addition, this redistributes your work and allows you to focus on planning more extensive, long-term fundraising campaigns.
  • Shows supporters your appreciation. For existing donors (who donate no matter the reward), you can frame these products as a token of your gratitude for their support. Product fundraisers can also give these donors a reason to increase their regular donation or donate multiple times throughout the year.

Moreover, product fundraising can adapt to different organizations, situations, and causes. If you decide to host a product fundraiser, spend time determining who will lead the initiative, the timeline for the campaign, and exactly what product or products you’ll offer.

5 Great Product Fundraising Ideas 

Product fundraising isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Just as your donors have a range of interests and needs, there are a variety of product fundraisers to match. And with product fundraisers, the sky’s the limit. 

Double the Donation’s guide to product fundraising ideas suggests fundraising with the following products: 

  • Popcorn. People love fancy popcorn! Your supporters will be particularly interested in trying unique, out-of-the-ordinary flavors such as cinnamon toast, strawberry shortcake, and dill pickle. 
  • Candles. Candles make great gifts for friends, family, and ourselves. Every time a supporter lights a candle from a product fundraiser, they’ll think of your cause. 
  • Trashbags. Trash bags aren’t the most eyecatching item, but that’s what makes them an extraordinary product fundraiser. Most supporters use trash bags daily. Why not support a good cause in the process!
  • Holiday decorations. Schedule this product fundraiser around relevant holidays for the greatest impact. Consider pairing this with an in-person or virtual event—such as “design your own ornament”—to add value.
  • Branded merchandise. Products branded to your organization, such as t-shirts, mugs, hats, or masks, allow donors to rep their support and offer your organization free, continued publicity. Look for manufacturers who allow you to design and sell your customized merchandise without any upfront payment.

When deciding on the product for your fundraiser, get input from your target audience. Ask a sample group of trusted supporters these questions: What products do you want? What products don’t interest you?  

For example, a coffee fundraiser—even with the best coffee in the world—would likely fall flat if your supporters only drink tea. But if you know your supporters love a good deal, a discount card fundraiser might be just the thing. Ultimately, the most successful product fundraisers will give you supporters a product they’ll love, use, and enjoy.

Wrap-Up: How to Succeed With a Product Fundraiser 

Once you’ve decided on the product you’ll offer, you should take several additional steps to support the success of your fundraiser and reach as many people as possible.

  1. Set a goal. One of the biggest mistakes organizations make with product fundraisers is not setting a fundraising goal. You should know how much you want to raise, how many donors you wish to reach, and how many products you want to sell. Part of setting your goal should also include determining how the raised funds will be used and the impact they’ll have. 
  2. Determine your timeline. How long you run your fundraiser will depend on the type of product you choose. For example, ABC Fundraising suggests a cookie dough fundraiser last for a period of two to three weeks. If you’re hosting a seasonally-specific product fundraiser, make sure to time it to allow enough time for products to ship and arrive by the appropriate time.
  3. Reach out to supporters. Your supporters will only donate and spread the word if you tell them about your fundraiser and why it’s important. Share your fundraising campaign across a variety of channels, including your website, social media, by direct mail, and at any in-person events you host. Keep supporters updated on how close you are to reaching your fundraising goal and how they can continue to get involved.
  4. Take it online. Selling your products online is an easy way to engage donors who are not in your geographic area and those unable to make in-person purchases. However, be deliberate and thoughtful as you move your fundraiser online. One of the biggest reasons donors choose not to donate is a confusing website and convoluted donor journey. Optimize your website and product fundraiser web store to make it easy for supporters to buy your products and share your fundraiser.

Don’t overthink it! A product fundraising campaign should be easy and fun to set up and manage and require little investment of time or resources from your organization. If you follow these steps and choose a product that people want, your product fundraiser will be a hit.