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How Do I Start an Online Store?

If you’re intrigued by this stellar fundraising idea but worried about the cost, let us put your fears at ease. There are several different ways that you could go about setting up your online store, each with its own cost and best practices to ensure that every team of every size can take advantage of the benefits of e-commerce.

No matter your organization’s bandwidth, you should be able to find a solution to start creating your own online store among these popular strategies.

How to Set Up Your Online Platform


Option 1: Use a Free, Open-Source CMS

If you want to save a bit of money and you have the time and patience to build out your online merchandise store (more or less) from the ground up, you might opt for a free Content Management System (CMS) platform like WordPress or HubSpot.

However, you don’t have to be a technical expert to make use of these platforms. In fact, many of them are quite user-friendly and come with different templates and tools to help you begin conceptualizing your e-commerce site or pages.


Option 2: Find a Customized CMS-builder

A decidedly more intuitive approach to your e-commerce needs, customized CMS solutions and website-builders include templates and capabilities that are tailor-made with specific organizations and teams in mind. For example, if you’re a part of a PTA fundraising team, you might consider a school website-builder with pre-made configurations and suggestions that have your needs front of mind. Or, if you’re a nonprofit organization, you might seek out the help of a nonprofit-specific web design firm to guide you through the creation of your site.


Option 3: Invest in a Dedicated eCommerce Platform

If you want to circumvent as much of the web design and creation process as possible and jump right into the sales phase of this fundraiser, investing in an e-commerce platform provider could be the option for you. Offering sites that are practically already up and running, just waiting for your designs, logo, and other details to be added, these niche software services allow teams that are willing to pay the moderate monthly subscription and usage fees with streamlined platforms that have already have the makings of sleek and professional e-commerce shops before you even boot them up.


Other Tools & Services to Keep in Mind


Payment Processor 

Once you’ve selected your preferred route for creating and hosting your unique online fundraising shop, you’ll also want to start thinking about what kind of payment processing solution will be used to facilitate online donations. 

While you might be tempted to just follow the crowd and opt for a general, third-party payment processor like PayPal, it could help you in the long-run to keep an eye out for a payment processing tool that’s even more safe, secure, and reliable. In particular, we recommend payment processing solutions that include:

  • PCI-compliance.
  • Anti-fraud measures.
  • Integration capabilities.

This will not only ensure that the online donations and payments flowing through your online store are secure, but it will also guarantee that donors will stay on your website throughout the entire payment process without being re-directed to a new domain.


Merchandise Service Provider

The beauty of this particular fundraising idea is that almost everything about how you create, host, and run this fundraiser is entirely up to you, and that includes how you go about creating and delivering merchandise. For best results, we recommend partnering with a third-party vendor or a specialized branded apparel service. In addition to physically producing and perhaps even delivering your custom products, some services will even include templates and additional expertise to guide you as you create the actual designs for your branded t-shirts, mugs, hats, or whatever else you choose to sell.


Marketing Your e-Commerce Shop

As you put the finishing touches on your organization’s online merchandise store, it’s time for you to start considering how you’ll go about getting the word out about your e-commerce fundraiser. In particular, be sure to leverage the following major platforms to promote your store and show off your beautiful products:

  • Social media
  • Email
  • SMS and text
  • Online advertisements

Using these channels, you should be able to maximize your fundraiser’s reach and expose as many current or potential supporters as possible to the exciting new merchandise your team is offering.


Top Branded Apparel & Merchandise Ideas

While there are seemingly countless different products to choose from as you start conceptualizing the stock for your online store, there are some tried-and-true choices that you should be sure to include. More specifically, take a look at some of the most dependable and popular merchandise ideas, including:

  • T-shirts, sweatshirts, and hoodies
  • Caps, beanies, and hats
  • Bracelets and wristbands
  • Water bottles and mugs

Of course, depending on your cause and target audience, there could be additional pieces of merchandise that your donors would love to buy. For instance, elementary school fundraising teams might add backpacks and binders to the list, while special associations or clubs might include elaborate pins and rings. 


However you build out your selection of custom apparel and merchandise, be sure to keep your audience in mind and create your products around their interests, stylistic preferences, and needs.

Additional Resources

Eager to learn more about web design and how to start selling branded merchandise? Check out these additional resources:


7 T-Shirt Fundraising Platforms. Explore Double the Donation’s resource on the top t-shirt fundraising platforms.

Top 14 Nonprofit Website Design Companies. Take a look at the best nonprofit web design firms that can elevate your online store.

6 Expert Web Design Best Practices For Tech-Savvy Nonprofits. Dive into best practices for enhancing your online site and web store.