Adding eCommerce for your nonprofit (501c3) organization is easy and smart.
What is your why?
Many 501c3 organizations are founded with a basic goal in mind: to improve the world around them in a meaningful way. Many of their objectives can be reduced to the basic concept of helping real people with real problems needing real solutions. That’s really the heart of most nonprofits — to have a heart.
Many organizations consider themselves to be primarily mission-driven who are focused on delivering services to their constituents to make a real impact in the world.
But as altruistic and well-meaning as they may be, they still face the harsh reality that they need funding to survive and grow. Without adequate funding, it’s awfully hard to succeed with a cause, no matter how noble.
Every Nonprofit Needs a Little Breathing Room
An organization’s cash-flow (for profit and non-profit) has been aptly likened to it’s oxygen supply. Obviously, without a healthy supply of oxygen, there is zero chance of survival. The need to raise funds is clearly an integral component of every nonprofit’s operations.
The ways in which nonprofit organizations secure this much-needed funding varies widely. Some choose to focus on grant writing, while others raise funds directly from tax-deductible member contributions, whether in the form of cash or asset based donations like vehicles, real estate, etc.
Nonprofits struggle in fundraising when taking a singular approach to addressing their cash-flow needs. Instead, a multi-pronged approach is more effective. The wisdom of developing multiple streams of income applies directly to the nonprofit world every bit as much as it does in the for-profit world.
Unfortunately, a number of very well-meaning and big-hearted people working in the nonprofit sector can take the dangerous view that fundraising for the organization is somewhat of a “necessary evil” and, therefore, avoid tackling the issue like they should. Often to the direct detriment of the organization’s short and long term cash-flow needs.
Limited thinking, when it comes to fundraising methods, leads to limited funds on hand. Organizations often bring in just enough to get by for the year hoping and praying that they’ll somehow miraculously have the funds to be able to keep the doors open again the next.
Nonprofits and eCommerce
Many people working in the nonprofit sector often say “We’re a nonprofit, so we can’t sell things” which is not exactly true. In fact, many large and extremely well funded 501c3s have adeptly integrated some form of eCommerce into their fundraising efforts. Ever bought something from the local Goodwill store? They also happen to have a very popular online store.
It’s important to point out here that nonprofit organizations are still a business. Although 501c3s have different rules and reporting requirements, they still must abide by reporting income.
Even though there are some genuine constraints in how 501c3s organizations raise funds, there are also common misconceptions regarding exactly what they can and can’t do to generate funds.
A Feel Good Way to Funding
Incorporating eCommerce can be as simple as adding a “Donate” button on an organization’s website. But investing in more advanced eCommerce capabilities can yield significantly better results.
Adding an eCommerce component to a nonprofit’s fundraising methods can not only increase funds for the organization, but it can also be a great way to allow members to promote the organization with branded materials. A basic online store that sells branded t-shirts, hats, and mugs may not bring in enough funds to replace the need for grant writing, but it helps the organization get more exposure in the community.
Offering branded merchandise is a great way for members to feel more connected with the organization. Every time they use that mug, or wear that t-shirt out in public, they’re proudly proclaiming to everyone around them that they’re a supporter. That kind of connection creates a real sense of belonging and good will toward the organization. This ultimately leads to more opportunities to reach potential members and contributors.
Modern consumers have also come to expect the ability to transact online. Forward-thinking nonprofits are making it easy and convenient for individuals and organizations to contribute directly through their website. This can be done by collecting donations online or ordering something from their online store.
A Gift Makes a Way
If directly selling branded merchandise somehow seems unpalatable, there are many organizations who use their online store to reward contributors with gifts as a way of thanking donors for contributions. It’s all in the semantics, but the effect is the same. Nonprofits taking advantage of eCommerce make it easy for contributors to submit donations and feel like they’re part of the team when they enjoy the branded swag.
If you’re looking for a new way to help spread the word — and help improve the oxygen supply for your nonprofit — consider adding an eCommerce component to your fundraising methods. Every little bit adds up.
Vendor Fuel and Nonprofits
We are committed to helping your 501c3 organization incorporate eCommerce into your fundraising operations. If your organization is looking for a new way to generate funds, let us know and we’ll do our best to help you succeed in adding eCommerce for your 501c3 organization.