Commerce can come in many shapes and sizes, from creating merchandise to selling donated goods through online marketplaces to showcasing products made by beneficiaries in a physical store. Charities have continuously shown they can be creative.
Peter Gilheany wrote in a piece for ACEVO that a successful partnership clarifies what you are setting out to achieve, takes you out of your comfort zone and builds on shared values.
This applies to charity commerce initiatives too – there needs to be clarity and creativity, and its effects are the strongest when they align well with your values and mission.
Some of the advantages of using commerce as an income generation channel are that you can:
- Build and engage a community by having tangible reminders of your brand
- Create brand awareness
- Amplify your charity to another partner’s audience with cobranded products
- Directly/indirectly benefit beneficiaries
- Further demonstrate your values
Examples of how charities can utilise commerce as an income channel
Hospice shops like Severn Hospice have networks of physical stores where they can sell donated or new goods to high-street consumers.
To combat the high costs of charity shops, collaborating with other retailers or charities like this new supermarket in Brent Cross may be the future for charity retailers.
With a much lower cost of entry – online charity shops like British Red Cross offer new goods, second-hand goods, merchandise, and virtual gifts.
With virtually no cost of getting started and no website to manage, online marketplaces help get your commerce fundraising up and running as well as get your products seen by their audience.
Ebay shops like St Andrews Hospice Grimsby’s can quickly sell donated goods through auctions.
The British Heart Foundation are using Depop to sell clothes.
Selling merchandise raises money but also provides buyers with a reminder of your brand and mission.
YoungMinds sell a variety of fun and giftable merchandise.
Tommy’s enable supporters to buy branded sports gear.
The Macular Society sell accessible merchandise, like this large print calendar.
Collaborating with artists or designers
Charities can work with artists on stationery products or merchandise that has the added benefit of expanding the reach of your products, showcasing both the artist’s and charity’s work.
Going one step further, selling art or merchandise can benefit beneficiaries directly by showcasing and supporting their talent – as CafeArt does in London.
The advantage of seasonal products like Christmas Cards is their popularity. Charities like Katharine House Hospice will have a dedicated shop for Christmas Cards.
Rather than selling everything and anything, focusing on one type of product or high-ticket items helps you become better associated with that method of donating and provides a more effective source of income.
Some charities and hospices have opened furniture hubs like Dr Kershaw’s Hospice.
Others, like Julia’s House, run their own bridal room.
You don’t have to have inventory at all. Online gift cards allow people to give to each other with your charity receiving the donation. For example, Beam has set up a page like this.
Again, instead of managing your own inventory, you could set up an affiliate storefront, for example, to curate a collection of books for your supporters to purchase and which will earn you some income by commission.