As a nonprofit or charity, you want as many pennies as possible to go towards your cause. That’s why the idea of spending money on promotional products may seem downright crazy!

Don’t knock the idea quite yet! Nonprofit promotional items can go a long way in helping you raise funds. In fact, there’s proof that this marketing strategy works.

Without further ado, let’s dive into all the ways promo products can help your nonprofit or charity.

How Can Nonprofits Use Promotional Items?

There are a million ways your nonprofit can use promotional items. Here are some ideas.

free gifts with donation

Free Gifts With Donations

If you give, people are likely to give even more in return. Offer a gift to anyone who donates a certain dollar amount to your cause, or for frequent donors who give every year.

prizes

Prizes

Contests and raffles are awesome ways for your nonprofit to get more donations. Put together branded gift baskets for a fundraiser, or host a social media contest and offer your merch as prizes.

gift shop swag

Gift Shop Swag

Your supporters will proudly rock your logo, whether it’s on a shirt they wear on weekends, or on a coffee mug they sip from every morning. For that reason, you should sell your nonprofit branded merch in an online gift shop.

fundraiser freebies

Fundraiser Freebies

Everyone loves a free goodie bag! Put your nonprofit swag in custom tote bags, and give one to every person who attends your live fundraiser.

volunteer gifts

Volunteer Gifts

Do you want to thank your volunteers for their hard work? Give them cool promo items from your nonprofit or charity. You can even pair the gift with a heartfelt note.

Nonprofit promotional items may seem expensive, but there are plenty of products that start at under $1 each. If you use these items wisely, you can easily raise more awareness and increase the number of donations you get every year.

Which Nonprofits Use Promotional Items?

Seeing is believing! The following nonprofits and charities have successfully used promotional items:  

  1. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
  2. Livestrong
  3. American Heart Association
  4. Girl Scouts of America
  5. The World Wildlife Fund

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

st. jude's free notepads
@ABRAMS Kids, Twitter

St. Jude has an extremely successful online shop full of branded merch. They also mail free promotional items like these notepads to past donors. It costs $1.4 billion to run St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital every year, and thankfully, every cent earned from their branded merch goes toward research and operation costs

What you can learn from St. Jude: Successful marketing is all about the give and take. Offer your customers a few promo items for free, while also selling more stylish, high-end items in an online gift shop.

Livestrong

yellow Livestrong bracelets
csmonitor.com

Do you remember the yellow wristbands that Livestrong offered in the early 2000s? According to their website, the nonprofit received about $100 million in donations as a result of these simple promotional bracelets. It just goes to show the power of branded promotional items.

What you can learn from Livestrong: Keep your finger on the pulse of what’s trending. For example, kids were obsessed with pop-it bubble fidget toys in 2020. Your nonprofit should offer items that people are talking about and loving.

American Heart Association

American Heart Association clothing
https://www.goforredwomen.org/en/

The American Heart Association has a ton of cool branded merch as part of their “Go Red for Women” campaign. This includes: custom socks, water bottles, jackets, and even cookbooks! The money raised goes toward supporting women like Holly Weigle who survived three heart attacks and is a proud advocate of the organization

What you can learn from American Heart Association: Creativity pays off in spades. The weird promotional items, like message socks, are unique enough to get attention and cool enough to be purchased.

Girl Scouts of America

Girl Scouts of America selling cookies
https://trailhead.gsnorcal.org

There’s nothing sweeter than Girl Scout cookies. From Thin Mints to Peanut Butter Sandwiches, all of the money earned from these promotional cookies goes back to the troops to pay for supplies and uniforms.

What you can learn from the Girl Scouts: There’s value in consistency. The Girl Scouts of America have offered yummy cookies since 1917. You can’t think of their organization without thinking about these treats!

The World Wildlife Fund

The World Wildlife Fund online gift shop
https://gifts.worldwildlife.org/

The World Wildlife Fund sells a ton of promotional items in their gift shop, but their branded coloring books are some of the best. They’re designed for both adults and children, give a brief bio on the organization, and provide fun facts about the animals. It costs $55 to adopt an animal from WWF, but a simple purchase from their gift shop is another way to contribute to their cause.

What you can learn from WWF: The best nonprofits know the value of storytelling. Your promotional products should tug at people’s heartstrings and encourage them to feel connected to your cause.

Your non-profit can host shoe drive fundraisers, collect money to cure an illness, be dedicated to education, or work with animals. There’s no wrong way to use promotional products. Just learn from the non-profits and charities listed above!

Be giving, stay trendy, tell a story, and remain creative and consistent. It doesn’t matter what your cause – there’s a way to incorporate nonprofit promotional products into your marketing strategy.

What Are the Best Nonprofit Promotional Items?

custom heart stress balls

21% of non-profits have an annual budget of less than $50,000. TV commercials and podcast spots are expensive, but promotional items are very affordable. You can easily incorporate them into your marketing.

The best promotional items for nonprofits are less than $1 each. You can get cheap giveaways such as:

  • Grocery tote bags
  • Personalized keychains
  • Custom ballpoint pens
  • Silicone bracelets
  • Lip balm
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Promotional stress balls
  • Custom sunglasses

If you have more room in the budget, it’s not a bad idea to also splurge on high-end items you can sell in an online gift shop for a profit. Clothing, tech gadgets, and drinkware are sure to be bestsellers!

How Promotional Items Help Nonprofits

volunteers giving away free gifts

Marketing a nonprofit can be tricky. You can print your awesome ribbon on mailers, host fundraisers, and keep up with social media, but what else can you do to put your cause on the map? The answer could be nonprofit promotional items!

Do you need proof that promotional products work for nonprofits? Take a look at these interesting facts and figures!

stats about nonprofits and charities

*Numbers based on 2022 data.

There are more than 1.6 million nonprofits in the U.S., and Americans are willing to spend upwards of $470 billion to support their favorite causes. 71% of them will even spend more if it means they’re giving back to an issue they care about.

So how can promo items help? Just look at the American Red Cross, which saw 9.5% more donations when they offered their donors a free gift. If the research in the Journal of Marketing is any indication, these people are also 20% more likely to talk about the Red Cross now that they received something for free.

Overall, freebies are just one way your nonprofit can use promotional items. It only benefits you to get your name out there!

How Non-Profits Use Corporate Sponsors

Another option for nonprofit funding is to look into corporate sponsors. A little boost from these organizations can go a long way and help you pay for your promotional items. In fact, 79% of customers would donate to a nonprofit associated with a trusted brand. Reach out to some local companies and see if they’d be interested in partnering with you!

Whether you order promotional items yourself or find some help from a sponsor, it’s well worth making branded items part of your marketing strategy. Every time someone carries one of your tote bags or writes with one of your pens, they’ll be thinking about your organization.

Final Thoughts

Promotional products never expire. People will hang onto these items for years, and in doing so, have a constant reminder of your nonprofit or charity.

Whether your supporters are using branded sticky notes at their desk, chowing down on delicious chocolates with your logo, or squeezing on a custom stress ball, these items will stand by their side as much as you stand by your respective cause. It’s time to make promotional items part of your nonprofit organization!  

References

Independent Sector. The Charitable Sector. Retrieved from, https://independentsector.org/about/the-charitable-sector/

Pala, S. 71 Percent of Consumers Will Spend More Money to Support a Cause. Here’s How to Pick the Right One for Your Company. Retrieved from, https://www.inc.com/serhat-pala/71-percent-of-consumers-will-spend-more-money-to-support-a-cause-heres-how-to-pick-right-one-for-your-company.html

National Philanthropic Trust. Charitable Giving Statistics. Retrieved from, https://www.nptrust.org/philanthropic-resources/charitable-giving-statistics/

Leonhardt, M. (2020, September 30). Nearly 3 Out of 4 Millennials Have Donated Money During the Pandemic. Retrieved from, https://www.cnbc.com/2020/09/29/more-millennials-donated-money-during-the-pandemic-than-other-generations.html

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. 5 Things to Know About Your St. Jude Donation. Retrieved from, https://www.stjude.org/about-st-jude/why-support-st-jude/five-things-to-know-about-your-donation.html

Livestrong. Our History. Retrieved from, https://www.livestrong.org/who-we-are/our-history

Sharp, A. (2018, October 29). Quad City Woman Shares Her Story After Surviving 3 Heart Attacks. Retrieved from, https://www.wqad.com/article/news/local/drone/8-in-the-air/quad-city-woman-shares-her-story-after-surviving-3-heart-attacks/526-ff12cfce-ade5-4f02-9c1d-93ecc8516357

Gauss, A. (2017, August 22). Infographic: Corporate Sponsorship 101. Retrieved from, https://www.classy.org/blog/infographic-corporate-sponsorship/

Zip Sprout. How Big Are Most Non-Profits? Retrieved from, https://zipsprout.com/how-big-are-most-non-profits/

NP Source. The Ultimate List of Charitable Giving Statistics for 2018. Retrieved from, https://nonprofitssource.com/online-giving-statistics/

Woodruff, M. (2011, December 5). People Are Much More Likely to Be ‘Charitable’ When They Get Free Goodies. Retrieved from, https://www.businessinsider.com/study-shows-people-more-likely-to-donate-blood-with-cash-incentives-2011-12

Qgiv. Fundraising Statistics: Incredible Insights to Raise More. Retrieved from, https://www.qgiv.com/blog/fundraising-statistics/

White, M. (2013, June 24). 5 Ways Companies Win By Giving Stuff Away. Retrieved from, https://business.time.com/2013/06/24/5-ways-companies-win-by-giving-stuff-away

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