How to make the most of your online charity store
Online charity stores are the new way for nonprofits to maintain sustainability and keep afloat. This is the age where technology drives everything. COVID19 has proven that even further and with donations shrinking due to the global economic setbacks, many nonprofits have turned to run online charity stores as a long term sustainability strategy without having to depend on outside sources to keep afloat.
If you’re looking to maximize revenue for your nonprofit, e-commerce can do wonders for your popularity and reach. Some advantages of selling products and services online include;
- Convenience: people do not have to be physically present to support your cause and buy products at a trade fair or exhibition like it usually is. It saves both you and your supporters time and resources.
- It helps you strengthen relationships and build a sense of community around your cause.
- Affordable: Fundraising events are an intimate way to connect with your supporters but they can be costly. E-Commerce is a cheaper, less time-consuming alternative for nonprofits.
Many charities have taken advantage of seasonal selling trends by selling charity Easter/ Christmas cards, Fair Trade products among others.
So, before we proceed into how to go from beginner to pro, what should you look for in an eCommerce platform?
Choosing a tool for your e-commerce platform depends on what organizational outcomes you are hoping to achieve.
For instance, if you’re a small organisation who just wants a web store to sell branded merchandise or your beneficiaries’ products, then you can opt for a platform that focuses on ease of use for web design, has more all-round features and comes with great support. On the other hand, if you have a giant catalog and want to deliver highly personalized communications that tie into your platform of choice, you might need something more complex.
Below are some of the best platforms used by nonprofits around the world to integrate with their websites.
- Shopify Lite
Shopify Lite spares you from a mess of features and integrates with either an existing website or social media platform.
It lets you sell through the Facebook Messenger and embeds Buy Buttons on an existing website. Furthermore, it comes with a card reader for accepting credit card payments.
Snipcart comes with plenty of features for a member-driven organization, including recurring subscriptions, inventory management, invoicing, digital goods, tax management, and many more features.
It is not just limited to WordPress. Snipcart can be implemented on Drupal, Umbraco, Joomla, and any other platform to make your site fully transactional.
All this should not worry you if you outsource an expert team of web designers and developers. They’ll advise you best on what to go with. Besides those two, there are more complete e-commerce platforms you can explore.
Now that we have some knowledge of how e-commerce sites work, let’s share with you some expert tips to help take your nonprofit e-commerce store to the next level.
In any business venture, you must add value in order to succeed. Yes, you’re selling art pieces that the children you’re helping made but why should people buy?
Motivate them to buy through a couple of compelling success stories. Take us through a child’s journey- where you found them, how they overcame their challenges, the skills they have acquired since you took them in and the kind of products they make. Video is most ideal for this one because it evokes the right emotions that encourage people to want to support your cause with ease. In fact, have a web page specifically for these kinds of stories with calls to action that lead web visitors to the e-commerce site.
Stay on Brand
Heifer International is a great example of an organisation whose e-commerce catalog is still very much aligned with its overall vision and goals which is to train farmers and grow their incomes. Their catalog ranges from sustainable baskets to selling livestock, trees, biogas stoves for people living in poverty.
Choose profitable products to promote your cause
Finding profitable products to sell within the nonprofit sphere can be tricky, as many organizations sell homogeneous products– crochet mats, t-shirts, dresses, etc. These products typically have very low profit margins.
Consider products that people need in their everyday lives, that’s of importance for example furniture pieces, farm products, kitchen utensils, house decorations and alike. To add value to your products, consider investing in a good designer for unique customisations or featured messages. It will increase your opportunity to turn web visitors into real-time buyers.
Take a look at these products by World WildLife. As an environment enthusiast brand, they strive to make reusable products that are eco-friendly but at the same time, useful to people in their everyday lives.
Offer charity bundles and discounts
Ever heard of bundling? It’s basically grouping your ecommerce items together under one package with a special discount so as to boost sales.
If, for example, you run a charity that trains young mothers in small-scale farming and you want to help them sell their potted plants, you can offer something like a buy-one-get-one-free deal. It can bring in more sales as people feel they’re helping make a much bigger impact.
It’s not enough to build your website e-commerce platform and sit back. Take advantage of other platforms like Facebook and Instagram to set up shops there too.
For example, set up a Facebook ecommerce site using Facebook’s Marketplace Platform.
When setting up shop on Facebook and Instagram, make sure you link everything to your main site so that you avoid creating confusion. With internet traffic coming from many different sources, you can raise revenue enough to help your charity keep afloat all year.
Use Google Analytics to measure impact
Use tools such as Google Analytics to analyze visitor behavior and see if you’re drawing the right engagement for your cause. Aside from tracking sales from your e-commerce store, you will also want to ensure that this extra traffic is drawing in the right kind of engagement with your cause.
Nonprofits are embracing more tools in the digital world. Especially now that people are socially distanced and large public events are banned for now due to COVID19, make use of social media to advertise your e-commerce web page to help raise funds for your organisation. If you haven’t actively thought about it yet, now is the time!
Tess Hazel is the copywriter at era92 Creative. She loves to read novels and runs a personal blog about poetry and creative nonfiction short stories.