I love promotional products. And I love them even more when they are used to generate real income for nonprofits instead of just as marketing giveaways. I also think selling products is a great way to introduce your nonprofit to Millennials; and the only reason I think this is because last year I was making a donation to World Wildlife Fund and selecting what animal to sponsor, when the Millennial girls in my office went crazy when they saw the cute stuffed animals you get when you donate and all decided to donate….purely motivated by the stuffed animals, which was literally the last thing on my mind!
1. Sell something that has the potential to be used regularly and seen by others. A Christmas ornament or a shot glass aren’t likely to be used as often as a t-shirt or a bracelet. Smaller things are also not as likely to be noticed by other people – like a mousepad or keychain or pen.
2. Make the products appropriate for your constituents. Imprinted shot glasses and flasks may not be appropriate for your nonprofit (although I love the sparkly pink flask sold by the Kennedy Center). It’s cool to try to tie in products to your mission i.e. a health-related nonprofit selling pedometers but all the products do not need to tie in directly with your mission or services in any way, they just need to fit in with whatever image your nonprofit wants to portray and not go directly against your core values. It’s your message on the products that will tie that product to your nonprofit.
3. Which brings us to what should go ON your products. Unless you have the coolest logo ever, the focus of the design on the product should be on a message – whether it’s your tagline, or a specific campaign or event message. Your logo alone is not likely to drive people to buy the product. It needs to really look good and have an important message that people relate to. It also needs to be uniquely yours – which means not buying a standard white shirt and slapping that logo up, but creating a piece of art that someone wants to own and show off to the world.
Check out the examples of popular products below from other nonprofit’s store and for information on how to set up an online store, check out this article from Tech Soup: 10 Ways Nonprofits Can Use an Online Store
Vintage / Retro
Who doesn’t love anything retro? Those of us in the Gen X and Baby Boomer categories have the spending power and love to shop online AND reminisce about the good old days!
Isn’t everyone tired of those rubber bracelets by now? For guys – don’t they pull on your arm hair? They may make great giveaways, but think about these lovely alternatives…
Beanies & Scarves
Love the winter-wear items – and Millennials love beanies!
Notice that the bags don’t have the nonprofit’s logo as their main focal point; the Tenement bag uses recycled materials to create a really interesting look, the Civil War Trust uses a great campaign logo and message, Corazon de Vida brilliantly uses a part of their logo as the O in Love, I Had Cancer uses their bag as a motivational piece, (RED) has a very creative bag to showcase their message and the American Heart Association uses the giant heart to showcase their message of healthy eating as a piece of art!
Tank Tops & T-Shirts
If you really want women to get excited about wearing your tank tops and t-shirts, make sure they are flattering to women! Which means trying to avoid the boat neck, man-sleeve variety – EVERYONE looks good in v-necks or a deeper round neckline – they elongate you! And again – focus on a great message, not your logo…
I am really surprised that license plate frames are not used more often – what a great way to showcase your message where a lot of people will see it! Far more noticeable and less in the way than a window cling…
Let’s face it -water bottles can be a really boring thing to imprint, which is why you have to go BIG and make it look good with your own unique design (that still goes with your brand).
Other Stuff to Wear
You don’t have to stick to t-shirts for wearable items – here are some creative examples!
People spend a LOT of money on their pets and you don’t have to be a pet-related nonprofit to sell pet products…