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Online Shopping Fundraiser FAQ

How do online shopping fundraisers work?

Online shopping fundraisers are a low-cost, creative way to raise funds that many fundraising organizations are unfamiliar with. This means it’s normal to have questions, such as who exactly is making the contributions to your nonprofit or how are contribution percentages set.

Fortunately, online shopping fundraisers are ultimately relatively straightforward. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at how online shopping fundraisers work:

  1. The program establishes relationships with retailers. Online shopping fundraising programs partner with many popular retailers and will negotiate these relationships for your nonprofit. Essentially, the online shopping program will work with retailers to determine what percentage will be contributed to your nonprofit when supporters make purchases, as well as which items qualify.
  2. Nonprofits sign up for the program. After researching different online shopping programs, your nonprofit can start your partnership and begin getting your shopping fundraiser set up. Your online shopping program partner should give your nonprofit access to their app or browser extension your supporters can shop through. Some online shopping programs will even create branded landing pages for your nonprofit so supporters will know they’re contributing to your organization when they shop.
  3. Supporters shop at participating retailers. Once your app and browser extension are ready to go, get in touch with your supporters to jump-start their participation. Provide supporters with information about which retailers are participating so they can shop at stores that will support your organization. Choose an online shopping program that is partnered with retailers your supporters already shop at so they can participate without deviating from their normal shopping habits. Plus, supporters can make use of discounts, coupons, and gift cards and still contribute to your nonprofit.
  4. Retailers contribute a percentage of supporters’ sales total to your nonprofit. When a supporter is ready to check out, a percentage of each of their items’ sales total will be contributed to your nonprofit. All of the revenue that goes to your nonprofit comes from the retailers, so your supporters won’t need to pay any more than they normally would.

Essentially, online shopping fundraisers are a win-win-win situation for your organization, your supporters, and the retailers. Your organization earns a steady stream of donations, your supporters get to help out without any extra spending, and the retailers get extra business from your supporters!

What are the benefits of online shopping fundraisers?

Online shopping fundraisers aren’t big fundraising pushes like charity auctions or galas, which earn most of their revenue in just one night. Instead, they accumulate funds slowly over time, which might initially seem like a drawback but actually goes hand-in-hand with many of their major benefits:

  • Reliable. Online shopping fundraisers are a great way to diversify your nonprofit’s revenue streams, providing a new, reliable source of income in addition to your regular fundraisers.
  • Can be run year-round. The holidays and end of the year are big giving seasons, as nonprofits receive approximately 17-22% of their total annual fundraising in December. This means many big fundraisers are highly dependent on the time of year, but online shopping fundraisers can be run year-round, providing a steady source of revenue between your major campaigns.
  • Easy to get started. While shopping fundraisers are not a set-it-and-forget-it type of fundraiser, they are exceptionally easy to get up and running and maintain. Once your nonprofit partners with an online shopping program, all you’ll need to do is regularly promote your program to your supporters.

Plus, as mentioned, online shopping fundraisers are a way for your supporters to donate for free! If your nonprofit has moderate supporters who want to give but are hesitant to increase their monthly spending, an online shopping fundraiser is a convenient way they can give without reaching back into their wallets.

Who uses online shopping fundraisers?

A wide variety of organizations use online shopping fundraisers! This includes:

  • Nonprofits. Reach out to your supporters, volunteers, and staff members to encourage them to join your online shopping fundraisers.
  • Schools. Schools can get their whole communities involved in shopping fundraisers, whether school is in session or not.
  • Teams and clubs. Sports teams and recreational clubs can generate extra income by having their members (and their members’ friends and family) participate in a shopping fundraiser.
  • Churches. Reach out to your congregation to have them sign up and start shopping for your fundraiser.

To run an online shopping fundraiser, your organization just needs a reliable group of supporters and a program that is happy to work with you. From there, all you need to do is regularly promote your fundraiser.

How to Get Started with an Online Shopping Fundraiser

Launch your online shopping fundraiser in 3 easy steps

As mentioned, it’s easy to start your online shopping fundraiser! In fact, you can get started and effectively run your online shopping fundraiser with just three easy steps:

  1. Research online shopping fundraisers. Explore your options! As mentioned, the right online shopping fundraising program partner for your nonprofit will be an organization that has relationships with retailers your organization’s supporters already shop at. This can include department stores, as well as restaurants, specialized stores, and even classes and access to resource archives like stock photos.
  2. Promote your program. Let your supporters know about your program. Many of your supporters probably aren’t familiar with online shopping programs. When you reach out to them, explain your program’s basics along with links to your app and browser extension so they can sign up immediately.
  3. Follow-up with supporters. As your supporters start shopping through your program, your nonprofit will be able to track your revenue slowly accumulating over time. Be sure to thank your top earners for all the support they’ve shown through your program!

Since online shopping fundraisers are year-round fundraisers, your nonprofit will only need to launch your program once. From there, you’ll just need to keep promoting your program to help new supporters get started and remind your current supporters to keep shopping.

Additional Resources

Want to learn more about online shopping fundraisers? Check out these resources: