18 Jan 2019

How Print-on-Demand for Charities & Non-Profits Can Raise Awareness (and funds!)

If you’re considering print-on-demand for charities then we’ve written this article for you!

H. G. Wells is perhaps best known for his novel War of the Worlds, which infamously caused quite the stir when it was adapted as a radio play by Orson Welles in 1938.

By that time, H. G. Wells had been diagnosed with diabetes and co-founded the British Diabetic Association (BDA). Radical from the very beginning, the association had a bold mission:

to ensure that everyone in the UK could gain access to [the newly-discovered] insulin, whatever their financial situation.

A couple of decades later, the forward-thinking charity gathered a group of medical charities together to discuss the coordination of selling charity cards at Christmas to raise money. Nowadays, it’s common to see charity Christmas cards everywhere. It’s the perfect way to spread Christmas cheer and support a worthy cause at the same time.

But the season of goodwill isn’t the only time charities and nonprofits should look to raise awareness and funds by selling products. This can (and should!) be a year-round endeavour and print-on-demand merchandise, from cards through to t-shirts, is the perfect mechanism to help charities and nonprofits generate awareness and much-needed funds.

The Problem with Traditional Merchandising

As a charity with an important mission, you want to remain razor-focused on delivering your core service-offering. So it doesn’t make much sense to get side-tracked into the intricacies of setting up and running a complex ‘traditional’ merchandising operation.

By tradition, we’re referring to the old school method of designing your products and then purchasing bulk from a printer. There’s all of the stock to hold, maintain and replenish, then you need to handle fulfilment, and mailing orders. Before you know it, your volunteers are spending all of their time handling merchandise orders when they could be out there spreading the message about your cause.

Enter Print-On-Demand (POD)

If the above sounds like a headache you’d like to avoid, then a POD store can help!

With print-on-demand, you can reap all the benefits of selling merchandise, without the time and effort of the traditional model.

In this article, we’ll be looking at what print-on-demand is, why it is a great fit for charities, and how you can set up your very first store!

What is Print-on-Demand?

Print-on-demand works particularly well for charities by allowing you to have a range of branded and themed products that resonate with your charity’s audience, that are only printed, packaged and shipped on the completion of the purchase.

For example if you were selling charity branded apparel, this means that you don’t have the usual upfront costs related to ordering bulk stock in all the different sizes and colours that you’d usually need to cater to your audience.

You simply upload your designs, add them to products (virtually) and then publish them to your online store.

You can test different designs and introduce a huge range of awareness raising products to your audience, without spending a single penny of your nonprofit’s funds upfront on stock.

When a sale is made, the POD technology takes care of everything – your order is automatically sent to the printer/supplier who then manufactures and prints the product, packs it neatly and ships it to your customer’s door. Your charity pays the wholesale cost and keeps the profit.

The best part? Apart from adding designs to products and publishing to your online store – you don’t need to lift a finger.

Setting Up Your Store

When it comes to setting up print-on-demand for your nonprofit, we always recommend using a dedicated eCommerce platform like BigCommerce or Shopify.

This will allow you to create a branded store with all the bells and whistles (aka functionality) – you’d expect from a leading eCommerce store.

They are super powerful and economical to run and will save your charity a fortune in trying to develop eCommerce capability from the ground up.

You then easily add a print-on-demand App, like Kite.ly, to your store which you’ll then use to publish your pod products and make them available to sell to your audience.

These eCommerce stores can then be added as a sub-domain to your main charity website. E.g. if your website is www.pawsforcause.org your shop could be on www.shop.pawsforcause.org (Note. your web developer can assist with setting this up.)

To show you how easy this is – we’ll walk you through a very high level view of setting up a store on BigCommerce. You can also use Shopify, to learn how – check out our walkthrough here.

We’ll be using a fictional charity we’ve named ‘Paws for a Cause’ and will be using this logo:

BigCommerce:

  1. Visit bigcommerce.co.uk and sign up (you can take advantage of a 15-day trial if you want to test it out before you commit).
  2. Pop in a few details including the name of your new store!

3. Your store will be created in a matter of minutes!

4. You’ll be greeted with your dashboard, and will need to check/change a few details before you can get your store up and running.

5. Change your store settings if required, such as dimensions, status and timezone.

6. Create your store profile with all of your information.

7. Add your preferred payment methods.

8. Manage your shipping zones, carriers and rules you want to offer your customers within the checkout.

9. Set your default currencies. Adding more than one can allow overseas customers to pay in their own currency.

10. Upload your logo.

11. And finally, edit the theme of your store to get it on brand.

12. You then need to visit the App marketplace and install the Kite plug-in. (this is what allows you to add print-on-demand products to your store)

Simply search for “Kite” in the app marketplace and install.

13. You’re now ready to upload your designs, add them to your choice of products and publish them to your storefront.

For a more detailed walkthrough of setting up your print-on-demand merchandise on BigCommerce please see this guide.

The Benefits of Print-on-Demand

  1. Reinforce your Mission

A principal driver of offering branded merchandise is to reinforce your mission as a charity. Not only can this be used to raise much-needed funds – it can raise awareness.

With so many good causes that need supporting, all in need of donations, people can be reassured by providing clarity as to where their money goes.

Remind your customers that by purchasing your merchandise, they are in fact doing a good deed by letting them know how much of the profit goes towards your charity and also what that money can fund.

Just like these examples from Alzheimer’s UK, Unicef and The Royal British Legion:

2. Turn Website Visitors into Buyers who raise funds for your cause

Visitors to your website who are aligned and interested in your cause may be looking for ways to support you – but aren’t sure how. Maybe they don’t just want to donate cash, or maybe they don’t have time to volunteer, but they still want to feel part of the good work that you do.

By giving them merchandise to purchase, you’re not only providing an easy way for them to generate funds for your cause, but also a way to show their support.

3. Switch up your Designs

Working with a POD provider allows you to switch up your designs regularly, this can be especially useful for charities. Take advantage of the flexibility that print-on-demand gives you to jump onto current trends and occasions easily.

You can create different designs for different seasons and fundraising campaigns, and switch them in and out easily.

You never have to worry about shifting stock if the design doesn’t take off, as everything is only printed to order (i.e. if a sale is made).

For example, take a look at this seasonal range from the Royal British Legion:

4. Sell and Promote on Social Media

In addition to having your online shop (either stand-alone or as a subdomain on your website), you should also widen your reach and use leading social platforms as sales channels.

Check out our guides on marketing your products on Instagram and Facebook.

In addition to marketing your products on social media did you know that your Facebook page can have a dedicated shop tab that you can easily and very quickly publish all of your POD products to?

This is easily done by integrating your Shopify or BigCommerce store to your Facebook page. It allows your customers to find your products quickly, without having to leave the social media platform! Here is an article on how to set up your Facebook Shop.

Alzheimer’s Society has their shop at the top of their facebook page. This could influence people to purchase something, even if that wasn’t their intention when visiting the page.

It’s a cynical thing to say, but people like to show off when they have donated to charity! So wearing a t-shirt, using a mug or carrying a bag that represents their donation is exactly what they’re after.

For example, take a look at these Instagram posts:

Benefits of promoting and selling on social media include – lots of traffic, easier to convert, being able to encourage your fans and followers to share your content.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to offering charity merchandise as a means to raise additional revenue for your cause, print-on-demand is in our opinion the best way forward.

With practically no upfront costs (apart from design) and no need to hold any stock or manage fulfilment, charities and nonprofits big and small can create custom merchandise to sell to their supporters quickly and efficiently.

Print on demand is a perfect match for raising much needed revenue for charities and non-profits.

eCommerce Merch Plugin

Our merch plugin is free to use and works with BigCommerce and Shopify. Contact us for assistance in getting set up!