A Guide to Selling to Non-profits
BY MERYL KATLIN
A Guide to Selling to Non-profits
Decorators should know that nonprofits are a huge market, both at the national and local levels. Nonprofit organizations are brands that need nonprofit T-shirts and promo products for events and to send supporters.
Our shop caters to nonprofits because we also offer marketing and artwork suggestions to make the buying process a lot smoother. T-shirts for nonprofit organizations are one of the best promo vehicles for them to get their messages out there.
Here are five ways we’ve grown our nonprofit client list over the years, and keep them coming back for their nonprofit T-shirt styles and nonprofit T-shirt designs.
1. Present unique ideas to nonprofits
To earn their business, yes, you need to pitch T-shirts for nonprofit organizations, but you should also pitch killer nonprofit T-shirt fundraiser ideas. For example, we recommend virtual runs and bike-a-thons: People run or ride on their own, outside or using their personal gym equipment. They post photos of themselves on social using the event hashtag—wearing their $25 nonprofit T-shirt that we designed. This type of event works all year long, including in the early winter months when people want to get in shape.
We offer an ideal setup for nonprofits: We collect the nonprofit T-shirt orders, print the items, and then ship them to each participant or supporter. Finally, we donate stickers for participants’ water bottles or volunteer in some other way, so we’re also contributing to the cause as true partners. Remember, you need to stay profitable, but you also can donate your time or talents to the cause. Plus, when you take the time to volunteer, you attract attention from other potential clients.
2. Don’t forget that working with nonprofits is still transactional
Your goal should be to work with nonprofits that have the funds to purchase imprinted goods and services from you. While we recommend donating something to the effort—whether it’s the nonprofit T-shirt design, free stickers or a morning of your time at an event—your shop still needs to make money.
3. Pitch year-round merch stores
If a nonprofit is short on marketing funds, offer to set up an online store with nonprofit T-shirts and nonprofit T-shirt designs: Donors order and pay for the shirts; your shop decorates and fulfills them; and then you send the nonprofit their portion of the proceeds. That way, the nonprofit doesn't need to outlay any funds. They just need to approve the nonprofit T-shirt styles and nonprofit T-shirt designs, and then market the store link to their donors and supporters, since many have engaged lists. For example, each nonprofit employee can include that estore link in their email signature.
These merch stores can stay open all year, and you can add new nonprofit T-shirt styles and nonprofit T-shirt designs to match different seasons, holidays and events. Tip:This is a great print-on-demand business model that also works with other products like mugs, and for other groups, like school sports teams and PTAs.
4. Help them plan out their whole year with standout ideas
To win nonprofit clients, you need to be way more than an order-taker. Each nonprofit is unique, so they’ll love when you provide customized creative ideas and nonprofit T-shirt designs. Look at their cause and planned events—and then go further. Review the calendar and see where you can suggest special nonprofit T-shirt fundraiser ideas or events that tie into different seasons or dates.
Like our virtual run or bike-a-thon events, see if there’s a portable event model you can suggest for all of your nonprofit clients, and provide nonprofit T-shirts and nonprofit T-shirt designs. If you have a system that works, you can replicate it for your client list.
5. Remember, that you’re also selling your expertise.
People love being catered to, so pull out all the stops. If you’re pitching a virtual event, show your buyer a complete package of the nonprofit T-shirts and nonprofit T-shirt designs that will help them get their name out. Whether it’s in person, a special sample box just for your buyer, or a virtual experience, present people with actual kits of what you’ve put together for other clients. That can include nonprofit T-shirts and other products. We always say, “Hey, donors love this particular nonprofit T-shirt or water bottle.”
When you’re recommending an event calendar, you also can explain why two big events and four to five pushes throughout the year will create a good cadence for their efforts. In addition, if they hold fundraisers, you can recommend special gifts, like a sublimated high-quality nonprofit T-shirt, that donors will receive at certain donation amounts.
And finally, don’t think you have to go straight for the “big nonprofits.” If you’re starting out in this market, remember that you’ve got a lot of local nonprofits you can start building lucrative relationships with, right off the bat. National nonprofits probably get inundated with hundreds, if not thousands, of inquiries to work with them to print nonprofit T-shirts and nonprofit T-shirt designs. When I reach out to local nonprofits, it’s easier for me to have a conversation and get my foot in the door (with a coffee date), and they love the personal service.