10 Tips for Setting up a Merchandise Program for your NGO

A collection of folded T Shirts

We often get calls from non-profits wanting to get branded products (“merchandise”) to sell as fundraisers. It’s a great idea in theory, but like most things in life, reality can be cruel. We’ve crafted a list of 10 things to consider before launching into a merchandise program to help smooth the bumps along the way.

These points are designed for organizations considering merchandise sales – either directed at end consumers (retail style sales) or directed at internal buyers (e.g. setting up a bulk purchasing program for your different chapters or departments).

You might not have all the answers to the questions posed below – BUT between your organization and the merchandising partner you choose, make sure you  have all the answers or you’re bound to hit a few hurdles along the way.

1. Define the Purpose of the Program

2. Create a Business Case

3. Identify Your Audience/Customers

4. Figure out your Assortment & Products

5. Create a Marketing Plan

Yellow sign on red wall saying 'Fundraising'

6. Understand your Order Management

7. Figure out who is taking care of Fulfillment & Logistics

8. Identify who’s in charge of customer service and returns

9. Find ways to managing risk & leverage the program

10. Timelines and Deadlines

Merchandise programs can be tricky, but they can also be a valuable source of income for your non-profit. The point is you need to make sure the program is organized and delivered effectively. If you would like some assistance, we know just the people…us! We’ve supported a number of merchandise campaigns for groups such as the David Suzuki Foundation, AVEDA and Canadian Federation of Students. I’m happy to share our lessons learned. Give me a call at 1.604.732.3247 (toll free 1.866.606.3247).

In the meantime, here are a few good resources to consider:

Enterprising Non-Profits – provides grants and resources to non-profits organizations for technical assistance along the entire business development path.

Social Enterprise Business Plan Software – designed for non-profit organizations as an easy-to-use blueprint for planning a successful earned income venture, or social enterprise.

Social Enterprise Alliance – advocate for the field, hub of information & education, and builder of a vibrant and growing community of social enterprises