As a nonprofit professional, you’re always looking for innovative ways to fundraise. After all, you’ll only reach your fundraising goals if your initiatives stand out from the crowd and interest your supporters.
However, the key to long-term fundraising success is balancing innovation with sustainability. It’s important to supplement your annual giving campaigns and events with ongoing fundraisers that provide consistent revenue, allowing you to fund all aspects of your nonprofit’s work throughout the year.
One type of campaign that combines both of these characteristics is an online shopping fundraiser. In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about this fundraising method, including:
- What Are Online Shopping Fundraisers?
- Benefits of Online Shopping Fundraisers
- 3 Steps to Launch an Online Shopping Fundraiser
What Are Online Shopping Fundraisers?
Online shopping fundraisers allow supporters to contribute to your nonprofit while making everyday online purchases. The only difference is that shoppers use a fundraising app or browser extension when buying items from their favorite businesses. The app connects these purchases to a nonprofit of the supporter’s choice, contributing a percentage of their total at no additional cost to them or the organization.
It’s likely that your nonprofit was familiar with or even participated in Amazon’s Smile program—a well-known method of fundraising through online shopping—before its 2023 discontinuation. However, there are a number of alternatives to AmazonSmile that your nonprofit can still leverage. These programs also tend to offer higher commission rates, more flexibility, and a variety of other benefits that AmazonSmile didn’t provide.
Benefits of Online Shopping Fundraisers
One of the best things about online shopping fundraisers is that they benefit both your organization and its supporters. Some of the main perks for nonprofits include:
- Ability to fundraise year-round. According to fundraising statistics from Double the Donation, 30% of individual donations to nonprofits occur in December. Although this highlights the importance of year-end giving campaigns, it also means that your nonprofit needs to find ways to bring in revenue throughout the rest of the year. Online shopping fundraisers can be run all year long as a low-level, additional ask since supporters contribute by shopping as they normally would.
- Unrestricted revenue. While some of the donations your nonprofit receives are restricted—meaning they have to be used for a specific purpose—you can put contributions from your online shopping fundraiser toward any area of your nonprofit’s budget. This includes necessary but often underfunded operating expenses like rent and utility bills.
- Scalability. Organizations of any size can benefit from an online shopping fundraiser, whether you work at an enterprise-level nonprofit or a small community organization. As your organization expands, your fundraiser can easily grow with you.
Your organization’s supporters experience two main benefits by participating in your online shopping fundraiser. First, they can contribute without having to spend any extra money because they pay the same prices and have access to the same discounts they would otherwise. Second, they can shop more ethically at a wide range of popular online retailers.
3 Steps to Launch an Online Shopping Fundraiser
According to ShopRaise’s guide to shopping for a cause, online shopping is considered a passive fundraiser because conducting it is fairly hands-off. However, there are three active steps you need to take to make your fundraiser successful.
1. Partner With an Online Shopping Fundraiser Platform
To get started with your online shopping fundraiser, you’ll first need to partner with a platform that will provide the app and browser extension necessary for supporters to participate. The platform you choose should provide a user-friendly interface and be free to use for both supporters and organizations. Additionally, take a look at their retailer network to make sure they partner with a variety of well-known businesses.
Once you sign up, your online shopping fundraiser platform will walk you through a simple onboarding process and answer any questions you may have. Some programs will even provide marketing support for your fundraiser as well.
2. Spread the Word to Your Supporters
Once your fundraiser is up and running, one of the two activities you’ll need to do continuously is promote it. Supporters who are new to online shopping fundraisers will need instructions to get started, and experienced shoppers can benefit from regular reminders to use the fundraising app and browser extension as they make purchases.
To reach as many potential participants as possible, take a multi-channel approach by leveraging marketing methods such as:
- Your nonprofit’s website. Design an instructional page for your online shopping fundraiser with links to download the app and browser extension as well as to the landing page your platform develops for you so supporters can learn more.
- Email marketing. Create a series of emails introducing your mailing list to your fundraiser, then schedule periodic reminder messages to send to those who participate.
- Social media. Link to your fundraiser’s landing page across your organization’s various social media accounts, either in your bio or in the captions of all relevant posts.
- Digital ads. Both Google and Microsoft offer ad grant programs so that eligible nonprofits can promote their website content—including information about online shopping fundraisers—on search engines at no cost.
Make sure your nonprofit’s brand colors, fonts, logo, and messaging are featured consistently across all of these communication channels and your fundraiser’s landing page. Branding helps instill a sense of trust in supporters, so they can be confident that their contributions will actually go toward your organization’s mission.
3. Track Your Fundraising Results
The other hands-on aspect of successful fundraising through online shopping is tracking data. The platform you partner with should allow you to view real-time information on participation rates, contribution totals, marketing results, and more.
There are two main ways to apply this data to boost your fundraising success. First, you can hone your marketing strategy in response to the insights you uncover. For instance, you could create more content for the platforms that drive the most conversions or send more reminders at times when supporters tend to shop more, such as before the holiday season.
Second, you can thank your top participants individually when you know who is raising the most money through your online shopping fundraiser. Personalized communications let supporters know that your nonprofit values them, so make sure to address each supporter by name and include their fundraising total to date in your thank-you message. To protect shoppers’ privacy, their names and fundraising totals are the only supporter-specific information you’ll be able to see—only the shopper will know exactly what items they purchased.
Online shopping fundraisers are easy, engaging, and versatile for both your nonprofit and its supporters. While marketing and data tracking are essential to reap the many benefits of this fundraising method, the platform you partner with is the deciding factor in whether your nonprofit can truly level up its fundraising with online shopping. Compare commission rates, retailer networks, and user-friendliness to find the right online shopping fundraiser program for your organization.