Getting Started with a Nonprofit Shopping Program

As a nonprofit organization dedicated to fulfilling your mission, sometimes your budget can be tight. Fundraisers are a necessary component of your nonprofit’s operations, but even the most active nonprofits will likely have lulls in their calendar as their fundraising team prepares for their next campaign. Fortunately, your nonprofit can still earn supporter contributions during these downtime periods by getting started with a nonprofit shopping program by joining an affiliate network.

Most people familiar with affiliate networks have likely heard of them in the context of for-profit organizations and businesses. Nonprofit shopping programs function similarly, allowing organizations like yours to diversify your revenue streams by slowly accumulating additional contributions over time when supporters shop through your affiliate retailer partners. Of course, even with this base understanding, it’s normal to have more questions about just what a nonprofit affiliate program entails. 

To help your nonprofit understand how joining an affiliate network can impact your annual revenue, this article will answer three key questions about getting started with a nonprofit shopping program:

  • What are nonprofit shopping programs?
  • How do affiliate networks benefit nonprofits?
  • How can a nonprofit get started with a nonprofit shopping program?

As you research nonprofit shopping programs, remember that your perfect partner will focus on making fundraising as easy for your organization as possible. After all, your affiliate partner of your retailers should support your nonprofit’s annual revenue without requiring your team to devote excessive time and energy.

What are nonprofit shopping programs?

Nonprofit shopping programs are a fundraising method that allows your supporters to contribute to your organization at no additional cost by shopping online through your affiliate browser, link, or app. Nonprofit shopping programs are open to a variety of organizations, including schools, clubs, charities, faith-based organizations, and other nonprofits. 

The contributions earned through nonprofit shopping programs come from the businesses your supporters shop at, making this a form of corporate giving. Here are a few common questions nonprofits might have about what goes on behind the scenes with at their affiliate networks:

  • Why do businesses give through affiliate programs? Businesses partner with nonprofit affiliate networks to boost their reputation and market their products. While many of your supporters will continue to shop as they normally would, others may feel incentivized to buy more, benefiting both your nonprofit and the business. 
  • Who handles the business partnerships in an affiliate program? Your affiliate partner should handle all interactions with the business partners, allowing your nonprofit to focus on promoting your nonprofit shopping program to your supporters. 
  • How can I know which businesses are part of my affiliate network? Your affiliate partner should have a list of businesses they are partnered with on their website. Be sure to research potential nonprofit shopping programs, and choose one that has businesses your nonprofit’s supporters already shop at. 
  • How much do my supporters’ purchases earn my nonprofit? The exact percentage of your supporters’ shopping will vary based on the business they are buying from and the specific products. These percentages can and do change, meaning your nonprofit will earn different amounts from the same business throughout the year. Most nonprofits will see revenue accumulate slowly over time as supporters buy from a variety of businesses rather than seeing a large contribution from just one business. 
  • Can supporters help nonprofits by shopping through methods other than a nonprofit shopping program? Corporate philanthropy can take many forms including charity credit cards, charity-specific product lines, and buy-one-donate-one programs. However, online nonprofit shopping programs tend to be the most convenient, as they allow supporters to contribute to your nonprofit without going out of their way or making purchases they normally wouldn’t. 

If you have additional questions about how your nonprofit shopping program will work, be sure to ask your partner before launching your service. The right affiliate partner will be transparent about the process, help you understand how you’ll receive revenue, and provide an updated list of their current business partners.

How do affiliate networks benefit nonprofits?

Joining an affiliate network allows your nonprofit to diversify your revenue and earn contributions between fundraisers. However, the benefits of joining an affiliate network don’t end there. In addition to providing your supporters with a convenient way to give, the right nonprofit shopping program benefits your nonprofit by:

  • Fundraising at no additional cost. Nonprofit shopping programs allow your supporters to shop for your cause without spending any additional money on their purchases. Supporters can also use coupons and purchase on sale items as they normally would and still contribute to your nonprofit through your nonprofit shopping program. 
  • Allowing supporters with less contribution capacity to support your nonprofit. Not all of your supporters have the means to give regularly, or in as large quantities as they would like to. With an online shopping program, they can help support your nonprofit through purchases they were going to make anyway, letting them lend a hand without worrying over their own finances. 
  • Providing unrestricted funds. Nonprofits need to take care when spending their supporters’ contributions, as most donations are restricted funds. By contrast, contributions raised through a nonprofit shopping program tend to be unrestricted funds, giving your nonprofit vital monetary resources to spend on overhead and other expenses. 
  • Accommodating year-round giving. Fundraising campaigns often benefit from being hosted at certain times of the year. For example, many nonprofits host their campaigns at the end of the year, when donations tend to be at their highest point. Nonprofit shopping programs generate revenue by accommodating your supporters’ everyday routines, meaning that your nonprofit should earn contributions from your online shopping program for the entire year.

According to Crowd101’s corporate giving statistics report, corporate giving is on the rise, and a majority of companies believe that supporting nonprofits helps improve their brand. For your nonprofit, this means that nonprofit shopping programs designed to support nonprofits have the opportunity to expand their partner lists even further, providing additional convenience and benefits to the supporters shopping for your cause.

How can a nonprofit get started with a nonprofit shopping program?

Getting started with a nonprofit shopping program isn’t hard. As online nonprofit shopping program ShopRaise outlines, after conducting basic research on nonprofit shopping program candidates, your nonprofit should select one that is designed to meet nonprofits’ fundraising needs. Then, it should be an easy three step process to raising money through online shopping:

  1. Sign up to join your affiliate network. Once you find the right nonprofit shopping program for your nonprofit, get in touch with their team to start setting up your branded web page and mobile app. If you sometimes end up stalling when implementing new software, look for a program that will set up your pages for you. 
  2. Spread the word. After setting up your program pages, get the word out to your supporters about how they can start contributing to your nonprofit through online shopping. Many of them may be unfamiliar with nonprofit shopping programs, so be sure that your marketing materials contain detailed instructions and direct links to download your mobile app and browser extension. 
  3. Track results. Once your supporters begin making purchases through your nonprofit shopping program, you can view your incoming revenue, top supporters, and other important metrics. Your nonprofit shopping program should take measures to protect your supporters’ privacy by not revealing the exact content of their purchases, but your partner should still provide you with enough data to identify meaningful trends and better promote your online shopping program.

Make sure to ask potential nonprofit shopping programs what tasks and responsibilities they’ll handle. The right partner will ensure your nonprofit can continue to focus on your other fundraisers and fulfill your mission, only needing to reach out to supporters to market your nonprofit shopping program. As mentioned, the right nonprofit shopping program will provide your nonprofit with additional revenue without hassle, so make sure you find a partner who follows through on that promise.

Nonprofits of all sizes may be unfamiliar with affiliate networks. However, those interested in getting started with one can discover the range of benefits included that allow them to raise funds without costing their nonprofit or their supporters any additional expenses. Start researching nonprofit specific nonprofit shopping programs to try a demo, get your lingering questions answered, and join your affiliate network.

About the author:

Korri Piper  is  the relationship director, project manager, writer and general life enthusiast at ShopRaise. Korri’s passion is to tell you how online shopping can solve the world’s problems.