How to make an intuitive, relevant online shopping program for your nonprofit
We’ve talked through all the reasons why an online shopping program is beneficial to your non-profit. TL/DR: it will diversify your revenue stream, solidify your dedicated donor base, meet donors where they already are doing what they already do, increase brand awareness, and make giving to your non-profit easier during lean times. It will also get you a piece of the ever increasing pie: Oberlo estimates in 2018 “1.8 billion people worldwide purchased goods online. In the same year, global e-retail sales amounted to $2.8 trillion.” We're sure any amount of those dollars would be helpful to your nonprofit.
Now that we’ve covered the why, let’s talk about the what and how.
We discussed the need to make your shopping program intuitive and contextually relevant. One of the most essential components to making that happen is understanding your audience: What ages are they? Where do they shop online? Which devices do they use? You’ll want a mix of tools to cover the spread.
Let’s start by covering the checklist of things you’ll need in the technology department:
Online mall – If you have a website, it’s easy enough to add a mall or shopping page to it. Keep in mind that you can’t expect it to drive traffic the way a retailer’s site would. You are asking people to take the extra step of visiting your site before they start their normal shopping trip. However, if they are dedicated donors they’ll be motivated to take the extra step. We call this audience Socially Conscious Shoppers.
Browser extension / downloadable software – Like honey, wikibuy, Rakuten and ShopRaise this tool provides a simple overlay reminder when a donor visits the participating retailer’s website. The bonus to this method is your donor doesn’t have to take the extra step of going to an aggregated mall, the downside is that not all retailers allow extensions (like Amazon) so it can be challenging to make an extension a stand-alone program.
Mobile app – If you have a mobile app for your charity you may already be working with a developer who can help build out this portion of your program. (If you don’t, read on for the work-around.) If a mobile app initially scares you, remember how much traffic you can capture with it: OuterBox says “79% of smartphone users have made a purchase online using their mobile device in the last 6 months.” That is a LOT of potential new donors.
There are two ways to set up an online shopping program. Do it yourself or use a provider to implement the program for you. The choice is up to you and really depends on the number of resources you have. Can you put together a team with your internal resources and manage it in-house? If so, go for it! If that thought evokes panic, best to work with a provider.
Setting up a program yourself – There are many affiliate providers you can choose if you want to set up a program yourself: CJ, Rakuten, and Skimlinks to name a few. Most of them provide enough resources for you to figure out if this option is feasible. From there on you have to build out and rely on your internal team to set up and run the program including:
Tracking, which typically includes connecting to an api. This segment generally requires a developer.
Managing retailer relationships and terms. This aspect is subject to frequent changes and consistent monitoring.
Creating and maintaining a website, browser extension, an app, and the retailer links. These components can be spread across several full-time employees.
Setting goals and benchmarks. These responsibilities are generally owned by one role with contributions from all departments.
Taking the DIY route is manageable if you have staff with knowledge of how these systems work as well as the ability to be agile and shift gears quickly.
Manage it for Me
Using a provider – This option allows far more time for you to focus on your core mission while also reaping the benefits of a shopping program. When looking for programs, be sure to check to see if there are associated costs. At ShopRaise, we respect that nonprofits have to run lean. That’s why we built our platform to handle all aspects of your program at no cost to you including:
Marketing materials - We customize pieces with your branding to get hurdles out of your way.
Program management - We provide you an editorial outline so that you know when to send which messages to your donors.
Analytics - We provide you with a custom dashboard to show you how well your program is performing.
Support - We are real people with real phone numbers for you to call with help when you need it.
ShopRaise provides the tools, technology, and industry know-how to implement your shopping program. We are here to get your donors ShopRaising so you can fulfill your mission and vision.