How to Customize Your Product Fundraiser for Your Donor Base

Debbie Salat

June 23, 2022

About the Author

Debbie Salat

Debbie Salat is the director of fundraising activities and product development at ABC Fundraising(r) - Debbie joined ABC Fundraising(r) in 2010 and is responsible for launching over 6500 fundraising campaigns for schools, churches, youth sports teams and non-profit organizations all across the USA. With over 20 years of fundraising experience, Debbie knows the path to success for fundraisers which she shares with groups on a daily basis so they can achieve their fundraising goals.

Product fundraisers are undeniably popular for organizations looking to raise money—from elementary schools and churches to growing nonprofits. This is because product fundraisers produce amazing results. Schools, for example, raised more than $1.5 billion selling products in 2021, according to Crowd101’s statistics reports.  

But beyond the hard numbers, product fundraisers are also a lot of fun for your donors because they get a little something in return for their generosity and dedication to your cause! After all, it’s hard not to love making a difference for an organization you care about when you also receive a small treat like a chocolate bar. 

Despite all there is to love about product fundraising, some organizations still struggle to find their footing with these types of campaigns. One of the most common problems nonprofits encounter is that their donors don’t feel connected to the campaign or product they’re selling. 

This is why it’s so critical to customize your product fundraiser for your donor base. Designing a campaign around your donor data will ensure you generate the excitement and support needed to push your campaign across the finish line and achieve your fundraising goal.

In this guide, we’ll give you a leg up by detailing four steps for customizing your product fundraisers:  

  1. Analyze your donor data. 
  2. Examine your previous campaigns. 
  3. Select a product your donors will love. 
  4. Leverage a multichannel marketing strategy. 

As you work to improve your strategy with product fundraising, remember that the product fundraising program you partner with will make all the difference. Look for a dedicated product fundraising company that can make the selling experience as easy as possible in your efforts to raise money for your cause. 

Ready to go above and beyond with your next product fundraiser? Let’s jump in! 

1. Analyze your donor data.

It’s impossible to customize a product fundraiser for your donor base if you don’t understand your donors. This is why your first step should be to review your donor data. Use your organization’s CRM to better understand who your donors are and how you can best connect with them through a product fundraiser. 

Here’s what you’ll want to look at as you review the information you have about your donors: 

  • Average age: Different generations have different preferences when it comes to charitable giving. For example, if your donor base is made up of mostly older people, that may affect what product you choose to sell or the marketing channels you use to promote your campaign. 

  • Typical donation method: Take a closer look at how your donors usually give to your nonprofit. Do they frequently use your online donation form? Mail in donations? Write checks at your fundraising events? This information can guide your fundraiser’s format, helping you determine whether you’ll be selling in-person, online, or both. 

  • Average donation size: Your organization’s average donation size can also help you determine what products your supporters might respond to best. If your donors typically give hundreds of dollars at a time, they might be more likely to buy a large product, like a mattress or high-quality holiday decorations. But if your organization is fueled by many moderate donations, a small product that you can sell a lot of (like lollipops or chocolate bars) will probably be your best bet. 

  • Values and interests: You’ve likely collected some qualitative data in your CRM as well that can help add needed depth to your strategy for engaging donors. Review your data to learn about their shared values and interests. For example, if your donors value quality time spent with family, you might sell a product that can be enjoyed as a group, like popcorn. Or, if your donors love to drink coffee, selling branded coffee mugs or gourmet coffee beans might be a great campaign pick. 

Once you’ve examined your donor data, try creating a donor persona that can guide the rest of your product fundraising planning. Coming up with an imaginary person that can act as a representation of your donor base can be helpful as you plan out your marketing strategy, selling tactics, and thank-you efforts. 

2. Examine your previous campaigns. 

Analyzing the donor data in your CRM will give you insight into who your donors are and how they interact with your organization. But you’ll also need to take a look at your organization’s past campaigns to get a feel for what has worked and what has flopped. This can guide you in designing a product fundraiser that will get results. 

It may be helpful to identify the types of campaigns your donors have responded well to in the past. Ask yourself these questions: 

  • What past campaigns have generated the most excitement and the most donations? 
  • What formats have our most successful campaigns taken (hybrid, in-person, virtual)?
  • How did most people hear about our past successful campaigns?
  • What do’s and don’ts have we learned from our past campaigns that can inform how we plan our upcoming product fundraiser? 

Taking the time to learn from your past successes (and failures!) is a valuable exercise. Throw open your old calendars and take a look at the events, online fundraisers, telefunds, social media campaigns, peer-to-peer campaigns, and in-kind donation drives that you’ve previously conducted. 

As you do so, you may notice that it would be beneficial to combine two or more different types of campaigns. For example, you might know that your supporters love to attend events. You could then use this knowledge to plan a product fundraiser around a fun event, like a carnival where you sell cotton candy or a Family Field Day with pizza or discount cards for sale. You could also add a peer-to-peer fundraising component to your carnival, encouraging your staff and volunteers to share their own customized donation pages in the weeks leading up to the event to generate more support. 

To use this strategy, try browsing roundup-style lists of ideas in addition to looking at your data. For example, ABC Fundraising’s list of ideas includes inspiration for all types of different products, events, organizations, and formats. Resources like these can get your creative juices flowing, helping you to identify effective ways to secure donations now and retain support in the future

3. Select a product your donors will love.

Once you’ve done your research to get to know your donors and determine what your product fundraising campaign should look like, it’s time for the fun part—deciding what you’re going to sell! 

The type of campaign you’ve chosen might lend itself to a natural product choice. For example, a beach-themed dance-a-thon would be a great occasion for selling flip-flops, while a virtual Family Movie Night could be the perfect fundraising event to pair with a popcorn sale.  

Still, you might need to dig a little deeper to find a product that your supporters will be excited to buy. Look for a product that is: 

  • Fun or useful. Sometimes when you go grocery shopping, you get something practical, like broccoli and bananas. Other times, you get a treat, like rocky road ice cream. Donors are the same way! Sometimes they want fundraising products that are pragmatic, and sometimes donors like to treat themselves! Keep this in mind when you try to decide between products like a discount card or a tub of cookie dough. 

  • Of high-quality. If it’s food, does it taste great? If it’s a household item, does it work well? If it’s customized clothing, does it look great and reflect your brand? 

  • Going to catch a donor’s eye. Your product should be something that stands out. Maybe it’s because of the price (“Wow! $10 for that much cookie dough? What a great deal!”) or perhaps it’s because the product is exclusive in some way (“This sweatshirt with the nonprofit’s logo is so cool, and they’re only selling it today at this 5K!”). 

Picking your product is a big decision that can make or break your campaign, so choose it carefully! And whether you’ll be launching a cookie dough fundraiser or selling flower bulbs to celebrate Earth Day, get ready to incorporate your product into your marketing strategy to drum up excitement. 

4. Leverage a multichannel marketing strategy. 

To participate in your product fundraiser, your donor base has to hear about it first. And, more importantly, they have to hear how excited you are about your product fundraiser! But remember marketing is never one-size-fits-all, and you’ll need to use what you’ve learned about your donors and past campaigns to make your marketing campaign a success. 

Start by reviewing how your donors have heard about past fundraisers. Are they checking your organization’s website on a mobile device? Do they see posters in the community rec center? Do they check your social media profiles on a regular basis? 

You should also segment your donor base by preferred method of communication to increase your chances of reaching the most people ahead of your product fundraiser. An older group of your donors may prefer direct mail, while a younger group may respond better to email marketing. 

It’s important to meet your donors where they are. This will make your outreach feel more personal and will encourage people to show up for your product fundraiser, whether they’ll be ordering snacks online or answering the door when a volunteer shows up with an order form for holiday decor. 

Product fundraisers can be a lot of fun for nonprofits, but they’re also tricky to get right! By following these steps to customize your product fundraiser for your donor base, you’ll get results that help you move your mission forward and connect with your donors. 

As you plan your product fundraiser, take careful notes! The outcome of your campaigns now can continue to inform your fundraising in the future so you hit the mark every time. Good luck!