Fundraising Tech

How technology is allowing every team dealer’s customers to have a fundraising store.

Looking for a money-making service every one of your clients will line up for? You don’t have to look far. It’s fundraising – and through the technology that is available to every team the process is simple and straightforward … and profitable.

Yes, this certainly isn’t a new sales and marketing opportunity for team dealers. However, as everyone deals with a business radically changed by the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re watching dealers rev up their fundraising efforts in a different way — and you can do it, too.

During the height of the coronavirus lockdown, decorators such as Andy Holst of Embroidery & Screen Works, Mike Cho at Impress Printing, Jared Chubb at Parkway Printshop and countless others launched online fundraising stores — to date, they’ve sold hundreds of thousands of dollars of custom T-shirts to support local businesses and their shops.

Experts predict a touch-and-go buying climate well into 2021. But your shop can tap into the power of people’s desire to “support local.” You’ll counteract the uncertain economic conditions created by COVID-19.

Here’s where fundraising 2.0 waxes a little different than in the past. In this climate it’s all about generating good business karma in an age of social responsibility. “If we all start jumping on this, we’re going to shine,” Holst says. “If we don’t do it now, when will we do it?”

In 2020 and beyond, this fundraising pitch will be a major growth engine for team dealers. Fundraising programs can help an organization raise money and generate awareness with high-quality branded merchandise.

Four Reasons Why Fundraising Is Here to Stay

We see a huge shift toward fundraising as an income stream. Here are four reasons why.

1. Traditional fundraising as we know it may never be the same.

We’ve watched galas, dinners, auctions and live events cancel across the board. Since we don’t know how long we’ll be in this new normal, galas or big live events might phase out for a while.

2. Fundraising won’t be a maybe — it will be a universal must.

Most public and private organizations will continue to work with smaller operating budgets, especially for marketing. That’s why they’ll need all the help they can get to fundraise for extra funds and cost-effectively promote their organization.

3. People really want to help, so let’s activate them!

When the going gets tough, the human spirit rises up. We rally to help in times of need. In 2018, despite a tough economic climate, Americans gave $427.71 billion to charitable causes. That’s why lots of groups gladly purchase branded merch to help local businesses, schools and special causes.

4. We all love branded products.

Yes, we all have that T-shirt from our yoga studio. Whether it’s logoed apparel or hard goods such as pens or water bottles, branded promo products serve a purpose way beyond a fundraising cause: They promote and convey identity, branding and messaging.

For example, T-shirts and jackets become walking billboards, scoring a business or organization a lot of impressions during the garment’s lifetime. And the marketing cost per impression (CPI) of a branded product can be as low as 1/10 of one cent.

Hot Tip: The top five most popular branded items that people report as being the most influential in terms of swaying opinions are USB drives, outerwear, drinkware, writing instruments and performance wear, ASI reports.

Technology Helps Launch Fundraising

You’ve probably heard of the grassroots Here for Good movement, brainchild of Monster Marketer at St. Louis-based Tiny Little Monster. Now active in more than 30 states, screenprinters imprint T-shirts with local businesses’ logos and part of the proceeds go to support the local business and the other half helps keep the dealer afloat.

After watching that success, dealers are launching fundraising as a full service, using the same principles. You build and host the online store. Then, you fulfill all printed merch orders. Every time a buyer makes a purchase, the technology behind the process automatically allocates the profits behind the scenes. Dealers keep a portion of the proceeds and then send a check for the other portion to their customer.

When you approach businesses or organizations about setting up a free fundraising store, here are three best practices:

• Actively promote a zero-risk, no-labor, turnkey fundraising campaign offering that you manage completely. Your messaging should be, “We do all the work! We set up the online store. We upload your artwork. We stock the inventory. We collect and process orders. We print and deliver awesome branded T-shirts to your supporters. Then, we send you a check for your cut of the profits.”

• Realize that you’ll need to overcome a skeptical objective from prospects, “Wow, if this seems too good to be true, it must be, right?” That’s why we recommend offering a free fundraising consultation to potential customers to show them exactly why there are zero risks if they sign up.

Seven Ways To Benefit

Still waffling about offering a regular fundraising service to your customers? Here are seven reasons to pitch a fundraising program to literally every client.

1. Give customers a “can’t say no” reason.

A no-risk fundraising service that puts money in their pockets – and creates brand awareness for clients – adds immediate value to your prospects. In fact, online giving grew by 12.1 percent over the past year, so people are ready to support businesses they like.

Hot Tip: Feature your fundraising program prominently in your marketing mix — and include success stories from your client mix. Consistently post fundraising messaging and promotions on your website, social media messaging, newsletters and in your guerrilla marketing efforts, like cold pitching. Do this consistently!

2. A “free”offer lets you maintain retail pricing on printed goods.

Position fundraising as a zero-risk, free service to your direct clients. When you tout the “no-risk benefits” correctly, you build tremendous value in a no-cost, turnkey fundraising program. It’s okay to maintain a fundraising campaign service retail price, to protect and maximize the profit potential.

Hot Tip: When it’s a fundraising effort, people will be happy to purchase products to support a local business, church, school or organization. Plus, using the word “free” in your marketing efforts means that you don’t need to discount.

3. “Support Local” and align with your community.

Sparked during the early days of the lockdown, the Here for Good fundraising movement proved that decorators can serve their communities better than large online e-tailers. As a team dealer, you’ve cultivated the relationships and connections to uniquely drive local support and do good.

Hot Tip: During coronavirus – but really any time – you can push “We support local” messaging in your marketing efforts to create an inducement to partnering with your business versus a big online retailer. Anyway, 61 percent of people prefer supporting small and local retailers because they offer more unique products. Secondly, these shoppers want to support their local community and small businesses.

4. Generate lots of goodwill and a massively positive reputation.

Fundraising automatically creates goodwill and helps to bolster your local business reputation as a shop that gives back. This reflects positively on your brand and helps foster word-of-mouth marketing results and referrals.

Hot Tip: After you partner with a new local business to fundraise, don’t be shy about sharing your results. You’ll score more publicity for you and your client. Use storytelling in your content marketing efforts to show how you’re helping a local business or organization raise awareness with branded goods and raise money. Every fundraiser has an important story. Share them.

5. Yes, press and social media exposure scores you and your client more support.

We watched so many customers get featured in their local news and media for their Here for Good fundraising campaigns. People love fundraising stories: They’re human interest and feel good, and create lots of social sharing opportunities. Your local media outlets – a free source of advertising and exposure – help generate even more new leads and brand awareness, for your team dealer business and your clients.

Hot Tip: Reach out to producers, editors and reporters at your local news stations, as well as print and digital publications. They’re always looking for impactful, positive community stories. Again, we can’t stress enough the power and cost-effectiveness of press coverage as free advertising. For a wider reach, encourage your fundraising customer to actively promote your program via their networks to gain even more local traction.

6. Create a lead-generation engine and expand your wallet share.

A fundraising program also acts as a lead-generation engine. First, after your fundraising customers see the power of printed products, they’ll probably extend their business with you into other areas. You’ll also attract new customers when they see how well fundraising efforts work for other businesses and organizations.

Hot Tip: Once you’re up and running with a new fundraising program, ask for referrals. If a client benefitted from your free, no-risk fundraising program, they’ll be more than happy to recommend your service to others.

7. Realize reduced marketing costs and fast and direct access to consumers.

No doubt, your fundraising customers will actively promote their online store to their audiences: members, patrons, supporters, customers, employees, students, team members and more. The upside for you? You’ll get instant and free access to a customer base via your existing customers.

Consider that gaining a prospect’s trust is one of the most difficult, time-consuming and expensive parts of the marketing and sales cycle. Yet, referral business closes and converts more than 70 percent of the time. When your fundraising customers promote your efforts, you’ve fast-forwarded the sales cycle with their valuable and weighty introduction to their buying base.

Hot Tip: Don’t leave anything to chance! Give your fundraising customers turnkey marketing resources to easily promote their fundraising campaign with you. Supply them with best practices and a simple plan to maximize their fundraising goals. This is your chance to help your fundraising client make even more sales, and for you to reach new customers for free.

JP Hunt is co-founder of InkSoft, a software company that offers a complete e-commerce sales platform. InkSoft online sales tools include online stores, an interactive online designer and proposals solution to build and send sales presentations. He can be reached at 800-410-3048;

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