How to Make a Difference While Shopping: 3 Consumer Tips

How to Make a Difference While Shopping: 3 Consumer Tips

Have you ever heard the phrase “vote with your dollars” before? Essentially, it means that when you buy a product, you’re supporting the organization behind it, and you can “vote” to support good causes. As a responsible consumer, you’re likely aware that making a difference while shopping is definitely possible, but does require a bit of planning and forethought. 

Fortunately, there are a variety of ways to support good causes while shopping. For instance, you can donate directly to a nonprofit, and then also help them out by buying a new mug or t-shirt from their merchandise store. Or, you can support your local school by buying cookie dough, popcorn, and other items from their most recent product fundraiser. 

However, it’s unlikely that you’ll need a new branded t-shirt every week. But there are a few strategies that you can use to continue making a difference during your regular shopping. To help guide your next shopping trip, this article will walk through three tips for consumers:

  1. Sign up for an online shopping fundraiser. 
  2. Participate in grocery store shopping programs. 
  3. Research brands before buying. 

Remembering all of these tips while you’re in the middle of shopping can be a bit of a challenge. Help yourself out by writing down specific reminders and downloading apps that will help you look up brands and retailers. Then, you can look up what you need fast and get back to shopping. 

1. Sign up for an online shopping fundraiser. 

Online shopping has become a part of many consumers’ routine shopping practices. If this is true for you, you can support your favorite nonprofit through an online shopping fundraiser. 

Essentially, online shopping programs raise funds for nonprofits by having the retailer make a contribution based on participating shoppers’ sales totals to a nonprofit. Plainly put, all revenue raised comes from the retailer, meaning you can support the nonprofit of your choice at no additional cost.

To get started, ShopRaise’s guide for how to shop for a cause walks through the basic steps:

  • Download an online shopping fundraising app. First, download either the app or browser extension for your nonprofit’s online shopping program. Some online shopping programs offer both desktop and mobile support, meaning you can make purchases from your home computer or while on the go. 
  • Shop at participating retailers. The right online shopping fundraising program will have partnerships with retailers you likely already shop at. Occasionally, you might need to try a new retailer to shop that is a participating business, but you also might be surprised at the number of major retailers that are already part of your program. This means that many consumers who join an online shopping fundraiser won’t need to change their shopping practices at all!
  • Track your results. As you shop for your cause, you can monitor how much you’ve earned through your shopping fundraising app. The funds you earn will accumulate slowly, so what might seem like small purchases at first can add up to create a significant impact over time. 

You might be curious why retailers participate in these fundraising programs. For many businesses, joining an online shopping fundraiser is part of their philanthropy program and also helps their marketing. After all, if shoppers know that their purchases help support good causes, they might be inclined to spend a little more. This makes online shopping programs a win for nonprofits, a win for businesses, and a win for consumers. 

You can help out your favorite nonprofit even more by spreading the word about their online shopping fundraiser on social media. Let potential supporters know that joining is free and participating is easy. All they need to do is sign up and remember to log in to the app or browser extension to make their online purchases. 

2. Participate in grocery store shopping programs.

There are a few other ways to passively support nonprofits outside of online shopping. For instance, while a significant number of people have experimented with online grocery shopping options in recent years, many still prefer to go in person. But with grocery store fundraising programs, you won’t miss out on supporting a good cause. 

Grocery store fundraising programs allow you to raise revenue for nonprofits, schools, churches, and other charitable organizations while you shop for groceries. While different programs vary in how much they give, most programs work like online shopping fundraisers where a percentage of your total purchase is donated at no additional expense to you or the nonprofit you’re contributing to. 

Follow these three steps to get started with a grocery store fundraiser: 

  • Research your local grocery store’s programs. Grocery store programs will differ based on what retailer you’re shopping at. Additionally, after a program launches, it’s not unheard of for it to change its requirements or cease its activities after a certain amount of time. Look into your local grocery store chains to see what programs they currently offer that you can sign up for. 
  • Sign up for an account. Once you’ve done your initial research, fill out their application to get started raising funds. For those who purchase their groceries online, instead of signing up with a grocery store directly, you can look into online shopping fundraising programs, allowing you to make all of your charitable purchases from one account. 
  • Shop and raise funds. Like with online shopping fundraisers, grocery store fundraising programs earn revenue for nonprofits over time. You can make a greater impact by regularly shopping at retailers with fundraising programs and making sure that your purchases are being counted towards the grocery store fundraising program, whether that’s done by using a specific members card or logging into the same account online. 

Grocery store fundraisers support all kinds of nonprofits but are especially popular with local schools. If you want to make a difference for schools in your area, check to see if there is a local grocery store that promises a percentage of sales will go to them. 

3. Research brands before buying. 

You can support nonprofits’ missions through buying from retailers and brands with a commitment to social responsibility. These organizations support charitable organizations and often have philanthropic missions of their own. For example, a clothing brand may contribute to several environment-focused nonprofits and have their own internal commitment to using recycled materials. 

Before shopping, take the time to research brands so you can support organizations whose business practices advance your favorite nonprofit’s mission. Of course, making ethical shopping decisions can be tricky if you’re not sure what to look for. Here’s a quick guide to a few product labels to keep an eye out for when shopping:

Use organization labels to see if a product is ethical before buying.


  • Fair Trade labels. Fair Trade Certified and Fair Trade Foundation labels signal that a product meets or exceeds environmental, economic, and social standards for how it was produced. Be on the lookout for Fair Trade Certified when buying produce and Fair Trade Foundation for other goods.
  • Certified Vegan and USDA Organic labels. Certified Vegan and USDA Organic provide a seal of approval for a products’ contents and how it was produced. Primarily, these are relevant to agricultural items, but Certified Vegan can also appear on clothing, furniture, and other items that can typically include animal products. 
  • Environmental protection labels. Environmental impact is a major topic today when it comes to how goods are produced. This means that there is a wide range of labels that verify what specific environmental protection practices have been taken into concern and used, ranging from protecting birds to using recycled materials. 

Businesses know that partnering with nonprofits and creating ethical products is beneficial to their continued success, as 90% of companies believe partnering with a charitable organization improves their reputation. This means that many businesses do offer ethical products and services, and you can find them through a little research. 

When you first commit to making smarter and more ethical shopping decisions, it can be a bit tricky to know where to start. Fortunately, there are many programs and online resources you can explore to get the information you need. From online shopping fundraisers to ethical brand guides, with a little research and a few downloads, you’ll be able to start making a real difference every time you shop.