The Fundraiser - Practical advice and insight for the charity sector

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3 merchandising hacks to maximise your fundraising efforts

The NSPCC, The RSPB and CLIC Sargent all know that the right branded merchandise can go a long way in building awareness, driving donations, and increasing return on investment…

With rising costs and tougher competition for fundraising pounds, charities need to strike the right balance between managing expenditures and generating income. Charity product sales can be a great way to raise funds and visibility for your charity, while keeping costs in check.

Cost is an ongoing concern for charities today. Even the largest, most established charities must make decisions when it comes to using their time, budget and resources smartly. This poses a persistent challenge for today’s fundraisers: raising significant funds, while limiting spend.

Fundraising is a major activity for charities, and a crucial source of income. According to the UK Civil Society Almanac, the charity sector spent a staggering £4.9 billion on generating funds in 2012/13. Since then, the cost of raising funds has slowly increased, yet fundraising income has remained relatively static.

1)    Charity badges: a fundraising favourite

It’s no surprise that charity badges are amongst the most popular, and effective, fundraising merchandise items. Badges are extremely low cost to produce compared to their high donation value and overall visibility. Notably, they also are one of the few fundraising wearables that are exempt from VAT, which translates into even more savings for your charity. These tiny collectables have become increasingly popular over the past several years, both amongst charities and their supporters.

One charity that has successfully tapped into the fundraising power of charity badges is The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (The RSPB). The RSPB, the UK’s largest conservation charity, launched its first set of four enamelled pin badges - the Bittern, Bullfinch, Puffin, and Red Kite - in 1997 to celebrate the milestone of reaching one million members. The covetable pins proved incredibly popular with supporters and quickly became a collector’s item.

Building off the back of the campaign’s success, The RSPB released four more bird badges the subsequent year, and three more the following year. The trend continued, with many new badges being commissioned each year and every design carefully selected based on declining numbers or popularity amongst supporters. To date, the charity has produced more than 250 different badge designs, ranging from birds and animals to bugs and flowers.

Today, The RSPB continues to add to and enhance its special collection of fundraising badges. New badge designs are released three times a year for the spring, summer and winter seasons. Not only has the long-standing campaign raised significant awareness of the precious species The RSPB works so tirelessly to protect, but it’s also helped raise thousands of pounds to help the charity carry out vital conservation efforts. In 2016/17, sales of The RSPB’s badges brought in almost £570,000 in profit, with 70p of each £1 raised going towards to their conservation work.

The continued success of The RSPB’s pin badge collection even led the charity to establish The RSPB Pin Badge Collectors Group. For a small fee, members can receive exclusive information on upcoming badge releases and access to rarer badges, providing The RSPB with another avenue for generating income.

2)    Charity wristbands: popular, stylish and wearable

The immense popularity of charity wristbands began with the iconic Livestrong yellow silicone band, of which 87 million were reportedly sold between 2004 and 2013. The allure continues today. Charity wristbands have become a tried-and-true favourite among many of the UK’s leading charities due to their profitability and popularity. Wristbands are inexpensive to produce, command a high donation value, and have become surprisingly stylish to wear.

Take for example, the fashionable limited-edition charity bracelets Look Good Feel Better, an international cancer support charity, designed to coincide with Feel Better Week. The colourful fabric bracelets, each featuring a print by designer Matthew Williamson, were sold exclusively through Debenhams Beauty Halls for £2, with 100 percent of the proceeds going back to the charity. The in-store sales of the limited-edition bracelets helped grow and strengthen the partnership between the charity and its retail partner and helped contribute to more than £130,000 funds raised for Look Good Feel Better. 

Another example is CLIC Sargent’s highly successful Band Against Cancer campaign. In 2018, CLIC Sargent, which supports children and young people with cancer, teamed up with supermarket giant Morrisons to release three exclusive - and collectable - Band Against Cancer wristbands. These brightly-coloured woven bracelets were made available for purchase in Morrisons across the country and coincided with World Cancer Day (4 February). Bracelet sales helped raise more than £320,000 for CLIC Sargent, the largest ever fundraising event total raised by Morrisons.

As these campaigns illustrate, charity wristbands can be a powerful way to raise significant funds, with maximum return on investment.

3)    Charity keyrings: practicality meets point-of-sale

Charity keyrings are another smart merchandising choice for today’s charities. These relatively low-cost products are incredibly practical and help ensure that your charity’s message gets into the right hands, quite literally. A well-designed keyring can be sold at a very profitable price point and ensure your message stays top-of-mind with recipients.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), the UK’s leading children’s charity, recently teamed up with family fashion retailer Matalan to build awareness and funds for its PANTS campaign through the sale of an exclusive Pantosaurus keyring. The keyring sold for £1.50, with all proceeds donated to the NSPCC. Matalan promoted sales of the keyring on their social channels, as well as with in-store fundraising events and activities. To date, Matalan has helped raise more than £10 million for NSPCC.

These are just a few of the many examples of how charities have tapped into smart branded merchandise choices to raise funds and visibility for their special causes. Selecting low-cost, high value and practical merchandise can go a long way in maximising your fundraising return on investment, while spreading the message of your charity far and wide.

By Veena Dookoo, Director of Rocket Charities Fundraising Merchandise

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