Shop With Purpose: A Guide to Online Shopping Fundraisers

Shop With Purpose: A Guide to Online Shopping Fundraisers

It’s no secret that online shopping is rapidly growing in popularity. Research shows that e-commerce sales generated more than $856 billion in revenue in 2022, and approximately 2.64 billion customers are expected to make at least one online purchase sometime in 2023.

So, what do these statistics have to do with you, a nonprofit professional? They mean that, in your search for innovative fundraising strategies to engage your organization’s supporters and boost your revenue generation, you should consider tapping into the power of online shopping!

In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know to get started with an online shopping fundraiser for your nonprofit. Here’s what we’ll cover:

With the right tools on your side, you can turn an online shopping fundraiser into a lucrative year-round campaign for your organization. Let’s dive in!

Online Shopping Fundraisers: An Overview

An online shopping fundraiser allows your supporters to contribute to your nonprofit by making everyday purchases from participating e-commerce businesses.

To make this fundraiser work, you’ll need to sign your organization up with an online shopping fundraiser program. When supporters use the program’s app to shop online, a percentage of their total sale will go directly to your nonprofit at no additional cost to you or the shopper.

It’s likely that you heard of (or even participated in) AmazonSmile, one of the best-known programs that ran on this model, before its 2023 discontinuation. However, there are a variety of alternatives to AmazonSmile that your nonprofit can still partner with to run your online shopping fundraiser. Plus, these programs often offer benefits that Amazon Smile didn’t, such as higher commission rates and more flexibility in their retailer options.

Benefits of Online Shopping Fundraisers

Online shopping fundraisers benefit both your nonprofit and its supporters. Let’s explore some of the advantages from both perspectives.

For Nonprofits

Some of the reasons why your organization should consider launching an online shopping fundraiser include:

  • It’s easy to run. Once your partner program’s experts walk you through a simple onboarding process, your fundraiser will basically run itself. Then, all you have to do is promote the campaign and track your results.
  • It provides unrestricted funding. Some of the funds your nonprofit receives have to be used for specific programs or projects according to your agreement with the donor or grantmaker. However, the contributions from your online shopping fundraiser can be put toward any area of your nonprofit’s budget that needs additional funding, including operating expenses.
  • It helps diversify your nonprofit’s revenue streams. According to Jitasa’s nonprofit financial management guide, having multiple funding sources allows your organization to achieve greater financial stability. Online shopping fundraisers can be run year-round, making them a great way to supplement your nonprofit’s other fundraising efforts.

Online shopping fundraisers are also completely free for your organization to launch, and they work for nonprofits of all sizes and in all verticals.

For Supporters

Supporters can also benefit from your nonprofit’s online shopping fundraisers in multiple ways, including the following:

  • It’s a no-ask sale. Most other fundraising campaigns that involve buying items, such as product fundraisers or branded merchandise sales, require supporters to go out of their way to give to your organization. Online shopping fundraisers, on the other hand, allow supporters to contribute by purchasing items they were likely going to buy anyway, so they don’t have to spend any additional money to support your nonprofit.
  • It’s highly flexible. As long as the program you partner with has access to a wide network of retailers, supporters will have lots of options when it comes to shopping for your cause.
  • It allows them to shop more ethically. Shoppers can feel good about their online purchases when they know that they’re supporting an organization that makes a difference in their community at the same time.

Participating in an online shopping fundraiser can also be a great entry point for supporters to get involved with your nonprofit. If you review your fundraising data and notice that a brand-new supporter has just shopped for your cause, reach out to them with a welcome email series providing more information about your organization’s work and other ways for them to engage in it.

How to Launch an Online Shopping Fundraiser

According to ShopRaise’s guide to shopping for a cause, your organization can start its own online shopping fundraiser in just three easy steps. Let’s walk through the process in more detail.

1. Partner With a Fundraising Program

As stated previously, the first thing you need to do to launch your online shopping fundraiser is find a dedicated platform to launch your campaign. Look for a program that not only has connections to a wide network of retailers but will also handle all business negotiations for you. Additionally, make sure to ask about their commission rates and whether they can scale with your organization.

Once you’re onboarded with the program and they’ve created a branded landing page for your nonprofit, you’re ready to start spreading the word about your fundraiser to your supporters!

2. Market Your Fundraiser

Marketing is essential for a successful online shopping fundraiser, and leveraging multiple communication methods will allow you to reach as many supporters as possible. Provide instructions for how to participate in your fundraiser and reminders to continue shopping for your cause via the following channels:

The program you partner with can sometimes help with this step by creating email templates, flyer designs, and website banners advertising your fundraiser, all featuring your organization’s logo and brand colors.

3. Track Your Results

Through your online shopping fundraiser platform, you’ll be able to view real-time data on your nonprofit’s campaign. Analyzing this information serves two main purposes. First, you can hone your marketing strategy over time to prioritize the channels that drive the most conversions.

Second, you can recognize your top supporters individually. Send them personalized thank-you messages with their names and fundraising totals, and remind them to keep up the good work in shopping for your cause. To protect shoppers’ privacy, these two pieces of information are all your organization will be able to see—only the supporter will know exactly what items they purchased.

Online shopping fundraisers combine two societal trends—e-commerce and digital fundraising—to provide year-round funding for your organization. While it’s important to maintain your usual fundraising pushes, such as events and your year-end giving campaign, supplementing these efforts with online shopping makes it even more likely that your nonprofit will bring in the revenue it needs to further its mission.