Top Ideas and Strategies on the Best Things to Sell for a Fundraiser

Top Ideas and Strategies on the Best Things to Sell for a Fundraiser

Nonprofits rely on grants and fundraising events to bring much-needed cash into the organization. Grants will only take the nonprofit so far, and they probably won't cover all the operating expenses the organization needs for its annual operating costs. 

So, most nonprofits turn to fundraising events to bring in more revenue for the organization. Fundraising plays a critical role in a nonprofit's success. Failing to plan a schedule of events during the year will dramatically impact revenue opportunities, causing the failure of the organization. 

There are several ways nonprofits can bring in the revenue they need through fundraising events. One of the most popular options is to sell products. The Western world is a consumer-based society. We’re driven to spend money, and this spending forms the backbone of the economy.

So, why not leverage this economic activity and plan a product fundraiser? Typical fundraising events operate on the generosity of donors. In many cases, they’re a dinner or a fundraiser drive that doesn't offer anything for the donor other than a tax receipt that benefits them when filing season rolls around.

However, selling products gives the donor a tangible item that adds value to their experience. People are more likely to part with their money when the perceived value they get from the donation is as high as what they’re giving away. 

So, product fundraisers offer a pragmatic strategy for nonprofits to use to boost their revenues and achieve their mission and goals. This post unpacks everything your organization needs to know about product fundraisers. We’ll discuss everything from sourcing your products to marketing the event. Are you ready? Let’s go!

Understanding Product Fundraising Strategies for Nonprofits 

The first place to start with product fundraising is by understanding the right strategy for your organization. The event you choose to host depends on the organization's theme. For instance, a dog kennel would need a different approach to an environmental protection group. 

There are several ways to pull it off. 

For instance, a charity, school, or church could use a market or fair to sell products like food and trinkets. A child welfare organization could use a silent auction to sell products to attendees. 

Understanding how your donors and supporters engage with your fundraising activities is essential to planning a successful event. Fundraising products are either high-ticket or low-ticket. This definition refers to the amount they cost the donor or supporter. 

For instance, an item retailing for more than $50 could be a high-ticket item, while a product, like a slice of pizza, might only cost a buck or two. You need to match your product selection to your attendees and the budget they have to spend during your event. That’s why research into your target audience and product offering matters to the event’s success.

Top Fundraiser Product Ideas for Sale Items

So, what do you sell at your fundraiser event? There are so many options, and you can find plenty of inventory online or through local business partners. The key to success with your fundraiser is to offer items that people find compelling and want to buy.

Just because you think something will sell doesn’t mean there’s a market for it and your supporters will want to buy it. Going down the wrong path with your inventory selection can be disastrous for the event's outcome. 

The last thing you need is for your event to be a flop. It’s hard enough building market momentum advertising your event, only to find you wasted that marketing budget on inventory that doesn't sell. 

Go online and reach out to other nonprofits who launched similar product fundraisers. They’ll be more than willing to share information on the products they stocked and those that sold well during the event. This tactic could save you from making the mistake of procuring inventory that doesn't sell.

When it comes time to procure your inventory, try to get it on consignment. There are plenty of businesses that are willing to stock your sale without you needing to pay for the inventory upfront. They’ll list all the items you take and charge you for what you sell. This tactic means you aren't left with a stockholding that you can't sell or need to carry to your next sale event

You can also ask your prospective visitors what they want to see at your event and capture product ideas through social media polls. Creating a poll on your official X account can give you plenty of engagement and loads of ideas on what people want to buy at your event. 

Fortunately, we took care of this for you. We curated a list of hot sellers for your campaign to give you a few ideas on what to offer your prospective customers. 

Here are a few examples of top-selling products for your fundraising event. These items are hot sellers, and there’s a reason why so many organizations focus on them when planning their inventory for the day.

Low-Ticket Fundraising Items

These items are great for fairs, markets, and live events. They’re affordable and offer excellent margins for bigger profits from your fundraising events!

  1. Gourmet Popcorn - Delicious and nutritious. Who wouldn’t want to snack on buttered M&M popcorn sprinkled with gold leaf or exotic spices that tickle tastebuds in delight?
  2. Scratch Cards - Take a chance and scratch away. You never know; it could be a winner that changes your financial status for life!
  3. Discount Cards - Get discounts at local retailers and save on clothing, food, electronics, and more!
  4. Chocolate Bars - Get a chocolatier to create custom chocolate bars for your event that taste great! Offer exclusive chocolates from brands like Toblerone or Ferro Rocher.
  5. Cookie Dough - A favorite snack and an excellent treat to bake into cookies months after the event.
  6. Cookies - Let people nosh on tasty cookie treats. They’re easy to make and bake and provide a flavorful experience for event attendees.
  7. T-Shirts - Wear clothing from leading brands or POD-printed t-shirts with your nonprofit's logo to let your supporters show they stand by your mission.
  8. Shoe Donation Drives - Collect old shoes and donate them to the needy. Give underprivileged kids school shoes to help boost their educational experience. 
  9. Lollipops - A sweet treat that are great for any time of day and easy to carry around. It’s a great way to get some peace and quiet from the kids!
  10. Pizza - People gotta eat, right? There’s nothing like a deep dish Chicago slice or an NYC-style pie.
  11. Hotdogs - Nothing is more satisfying than gobbling down a glizzy when you’re hungry and on the move.
  12. Coffee Beans - Caffinate people's lives with exotic roasts and classics that help people start their day.
  13. Coffee - Sell it on-site to give your attendees a lift as they wander around the market or fair and gaze at the goods available for purchase.
  14. Coffee Mugs - Printed with your nonprofit's logo to keep your organization at the top of your supporter's minds as they sip on their morning cup.
  15. Water Bottles - Printed with your nonprofit's logo. Keep your organization top of mind with your supporters as they stay hydrated.
  16. Spice Collections - Variety is the spice of life, so bring it into the kitchen. Classy bottle and rack designs that suit contemporary and classic kitchens.
  17. Engraved Bricks - A great piece for the coffee or mantle piece or a fantastic paperweight for the office that acts as a conversation starter.
  18. Custom Memorabilia - Collectibles from influencers, sports heroes, cultural icons, and entertainers that people want to keep forever.
  19. Dog Treats - Get people something to treat their furry friend when they deserve an organic, nutritious snack. 
  20. Stuffed Animals - Bunnies, bears, giraffes, sharks, and other toy wildlife that's fluffy, cuddly, and cute.
  21. Kids Toys - Great for birthday and Christmas gifts or when parents want to treat their kids to something special. 
  22. Virtual and Physical Coupon Books - Offer savings from local businesses and service providers. Email them to virtual attendees or offer physical books on-site.
  23. Calendars - Great for the fridge. It’s an organizational item that every household needs. Print them with your nonprofit's logo to keep your organization top of mind.
  24. Pencil Cases and Stationery Items - Every kid needs these sundries for school. A print company can brand them with your organization's logo. 
  25. Phone Cases - Keep devices safe and secure with unique cases featuring your nonprofit's logo and brand identity.
  26. Trash Bags - Everyone needs bags. They’re high-profit margin items available in bulk from local suppliers. 
  27. Shopping Bags - Tote bags featuring construction with recycled materials and printed with your nonprofit’s logo.
  28. Doughnuts - Everyone's favorite kind of nut. These doughy treats come with so many options for toppings and glaze’s to snack on during the event.
  29. Churros - Another doughy snack that's a firm favorite with attendees and fills the gap while people walk around the event grounds.
  30. Wrapping Paper - A great traditional fundraising item ideal for the festive season. Have volunteers on site to help people wrap gifts they purchase at the event.
  31. Parchment Paper - Another kitchen classic that every home chef needs in food prep for a variety of meals.
  32. Mattresses - Everyone needs their eight hours a night. Sell memory foam mattresses or toppers that keep people comfortable while they get some rest.
  33. Sleeping Bags and Camping Equipment - Let people enjoy the outdoors and experience life outside the big city.
  34. Pretzels - There’s nothing like a cup of coffee and a soft pretzel to chaser away the hunger pangs. 
  35. Sticker Packs - Decorate the car or a laptop with stickers that promote your nonprofit and your mission.

High-Ticket Fundraising Items

Great for super silent auctions. Have bidders compete to set the highest price and add more value to your fundraising revenue goals.

  1. Luxury Vacation Packages - Exclusive stays at the wolds most desired vacation spots in the Hawaiian Islands or the Beverly Hills Hotel.
  2. Fine Jewelry - Gold, silver, platinum, diamonds. It’s all about high-value, desirable items people are willing to bid on or buy outright for a good markup.
  3. Gourmet Dining Experiences - Let people treat themselves and their friends to an exclusive dining setting at a one-star or three-star Michelin restaurant. 
  4. Private Wine Tastings - Wander vineyards and enjoy tastings of exclusive rare vintages and natural wines you can’t find in the average liquor store.
  5. Artwork from Renowned Artists - Add a taste of flair to your offerings with refined artwork like paintings, sculptures, and limited-edition prints for a cultural experience.
  6. High-End Electronics - OLED 4K/8K TVs, movie projectors, 7.1 sound systems, and the latest iPhones and Apple products like the Apple Vision.
  7. Designer Fashion and Accessories - Exclusive drops from luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Coco Channel, Gucci, and more!
  8. Luxury Watches - High-end timepieces from brands like Rolex, Patek Philippe, or electronic versions like the latest edition of the Apple iWatch.
  9. Sports Memorabilia - Signed NFL helmets, baseballs, trading cards, and exclusive memorabilia from legends of the game.
  10. Celebrity Meet and Greets - Tickets to red-carpet events and a chance to meet the stars and renowned influencers.
  11. Private Cooking Classes - Learn how to cook like a Michelin Star chef. Share meals with celebrity chefs like Gordon Ramsey.
  12. Adventure Experiences - Experience the thrill of skydiving, a romantic hot air balloon ride, or scuba diving trips to an underwater paradise.
  13. Spa Retreats - Wellness and beauty packages that give buyers a chance to relax in the lap of luxury and comfort.
  14. Golf Packages - Hit the greens and tee off with celebrities, business moguls, influencers, and the PGA pros. 
  15. Private Concerts - Exclusive performances from top artists. Get a front-row seat for a once-in-a-lifetime private gathering.
  16. Luxury Car Rentals - Enjoy touring through America's most desirable roads and locations in high-end vehicles like Lambo’s, Bentley’s, and vintage classics like the original DB7.
  17. Sailing or Yacht Experiences - Take a private charter onto the lake or ocean with your own private captain and all the luxuries you need for an exclusive, fun time on the water.
  18. Helicopter Tours - See the city or national park/ heritage site from a birds-eye view and enjoy a thrilling experience as you soar through the clouds and over the land. 
  19. Theater and Opera Tickets - VIP admittance to exclusive musical events on Broadway with box seats for the high-rollers.
  20. Custom Tailored Suits - Get fitted for a suit from the world's most desired tailors, like Huntsman Savile Row and Antonio Liverano.
  21. Exclusive Club Memberships - Get VIP access to the most desirable private lounges and clubs with red-carpet treatment and a chance to mingle with influencers and celebs.
  22. Fine Dining at Home - Relax with friends while a top-rated chef prepares a gourmet 7-course meal, and waitrons cater to your every need.
  23. Original Movie Memorabilia - Exclusive merch like signed costumes, props, and scripts from the biggest Hollywood blockbusters.
  24. Tech Gadgets and Experiences - The latest tech, consoles, and gadgets for VR or gaming experiences like no other.
  25. Rare Book or Manuscript Collections - First editions and signed copies of cultural works that changed the societal landscape forever.

You’re only limited by your imagination. Host a session with your team to come up with product ideas. Sourcing your fundraiser products is more challenging than coming up with ideas. Get a team together and visit local businesses in your area to find out what they stock. 

The key to finding the right products for your fundraiser is in choosing items that resonate with your prospective attendees. For instance, if your organization is an animal shelter, you could sell dog toys and treats. Selling T-shirts and human food might not get you the result you want. 

However, the treats and dog food will fly off the shelves. You could add benefit to your organization by allowing your visitors to buy products not only for their pets but also for the animals at the shelter. For instance, when a customer buys a bag of food for their dogs, you can play on their emotions and ask them to buy a smaller bag for the shelter to help the organization out with its food costs. 

This strategy doubles your income. Not only are you making a profit from the dog food, but you're reducing the costs of running your shelter and relieving the financial pressure on your organization.

Tips for Procuring the Inventory for Your Product Fundraising Event

Many local businesses will offer you free products from inventory they didn’t sell during the quarter. In exchange, you can offer them advertising space in your marketing materials and during the event day. Or, they might provide items at their cost price, allowing you to make a healthy markup without charging your customers too much for the goods. 

You can also look for sponsors to donate to your fundraising event, giving you the cash you need to buy your inventory. If you require specific items for the day, such as kitchen equipment for making hotdogs, pizza, or cookies, look for local catering companies willing to offer volunteers or donate equipment for you to use at the event. 

If you present your mission and fundraising goals to the local business, they will likely help, especially if they know they’re making a difference for the community. Sure, not all companies will be keen, but that's where the marketing offer comes into play. They’ll be more willing to donate time, money, and resources if they think they’ll get something out of the event on the backend. 

If you’re looking for bulk items, like t-shirts, buy them from online providers on Etsy, Alibaba, or Amazon. If you buy large quantities, you’ll find plenty of distributors and manufacturers that give you deep discounts on items. Deeper discounts mean better margins and more profits during the event. 

It’s important to focus on items offering high profitability. Revenues are a matter of deducting your cost of sales from the money you make. You can’t turn a profit if your margins are too thin or if you’re selling products at a loss. 

Another huge cost component of the event is the premises and the people managing the stalls. If you’re a church or a school, use your grounds to host the event. If you’re a nonprofit with offices, you’ll need to find the right event premises to host the sale.

Use the same strategy outlined above and get in touch with venue providers where you can get a discounted rate on the premises or perhaps secure it for free. One of the benefits of using an online platform, such as a webstore is that you don’t have to worry about these physical costs.

The same applies to the human resources you need to run the event. You can put the word out to your volunteer base before the event date and secure their services for free, further driving down costs to improve margins. 

The key to hosting a successful product fundraising event is good planning. Don't leave things to the last minute. Get your team together and plan the event at least eight weeks before the date. This strategy gives you enough time to get everything together and ensure you have the right inventory and resources available on the day. 

Another great option to raise the capital you need for your event is through crowdfunding the costs. You can set up a GoFundMe or use a crowdfunding software tool like PayBee to set up a platform where your supporters can donate to the cause of funding the inventory and resources you need to hold the event.

There’s more than one way to skin a cat. It takes a fresh approach to the problem and some creative minds to find the right solution for your product fundraising problems. 

The Best Unique & Creative Fundraising Products to Sell

When people buy things from fundraisers, they want something that's unique and that they don't usually buy from online or offline stores. You can consider one-off or bulk items where they can justify the cost and love what they purchase. 

Going for unique items is the best way to drive interest and get you closer to reaching your fundraising goals. The best fundraising products are appealing to the senses and emotions of the buyer. To achieve this, you’ll need a product sourcing strategy that reflects this concept and helps you find the best fundraising products to sell.

The best products for your fundraiser could be gifts that the buyer thinks are great to give to the people they love. Don’t limit your ideas to a specific niche. Spread your wings and consider custom products that sell well. A good product for your fundraising event could involve something custom or generic but still carry an impression of uniqueness.

For instance, selling stuffed mushrooms, gourmet popcorn, and baked goods to assist with raising money for a soup kitchen. This strategy allows you to leverage your facilities for your fundraiser while creating sale items that people find interesting and want to buy and try. There are plenty of fundraising ideas for fast-selling products. Take time to sit down with your team and brainstorm to get you started.

Use a print company to produce T-shirts with your organization’s logo, coupon pages, scratch cards, and discount cards for services you offer or savings with collaborating local businesses. The key is to choose stuff that people want to buy and pique their interest over the items they can buy from online or offline retailers.

It’s important to consider the state of the economy when planning and marketing your product fundraising event. In 2024, we’re seeing the continuance of poor economic conditions in the Western world. That means families and donors have less to spend on their charitable donations and at the grocery or electronics store.

So, get around this by offering low-ticket items and focusing on selling volume and value more than increasing revenue and margin per item. For instance, your donor might not have the cash to spend $40 on a single item, like a hoodie, that gives you a $10 net profit.

However, they can afford to spend $5 on a six-pack of doughnuts because, hey, they’re going to eat anyway. The profit on the donuts is far greater than what you make on the hoodie, so everyone is winning in this product selection.

Software to Help You Sell More at Your Fundraiser Events

Getting the word out on your fundraiser helps organizers drive more traffic to the event. While many nonprofits choose to host physical fundraisers where they sell products, you can also do it online or create a hybrid event blending the physical and online marketplaces. 

Nonprofit software systems like PayBee can assist you with every stage of the event, from planning to execution. You can sell tickets or collect RSVPs to give you an estimate of the people arriving on the day and plan the quantity of inventory you need to satisfy demand.

Software can help with providing payment processors and sending tax receipts for your donors and shoppers. There’s so much functionality to it that it’s hard to put it into a few sentences. Get in touch with PayBee and arrange a demo to see how this powerful system can add value to your fundraiser. 

How to Choose Things to Sell at Your Fundraiser

Choose products that resonate with your organization's values. You need products that align with your aim and mission. 

For instance, if your organization focuses on sustainable local environmental practices, look for similar products like reusable shipping bags. If you’re a school, look at selling stuff for your students, like books, calendars, pencil cases, or food items like pizza, cookie dough, coffee, and lollipops.

Understanding your audience is key to finding the right fundraising products for your retail or online store. Consider your revenue goals when choosing the best things to sell. The item doesn’t need a logo or come from a well-recognized brand. It can be generic. Or you could find whitelable items like coffee beans that you can add your organization's branding to the packaging.

Low-cost products are great choices. Choose an item, like dog treats, coupon books, or chocolate bars, that are affordable to your donors and make for a quick purchase your supporters can collect on-site. If you’re selling online, think of items like virtual coupon books, 

If you’re a church, consider items that tug at your supporters' emotions and their children. Stuffed animals and engraved bricks from your recent building revamp are great products and ideas to get the ball rolling.

The key is to select things that sell fast to make a great fundraiser for your company, brand, or organization. 

Maximizing Profits from Your Product Fundraising Strategy

Just because you’re a nonprofit doesn’t mean your product fundraising strategy can't include high profit margins. The more profit you make, the better your chances of reaching your revenue goals and achieving your mission and goals.

Choosing profitable fundraising products is essential, but it’s how you market them that matters most. You're in this to raise money, and marketing and sales strategies should be your next focus after product selection. Effective marketing starts with understanding your audience. It’s no good having profitable fundraising products if they don't excite your supporters and lure them into buying.

Your community wants to make a donation to your organization, and they’ll buy your stuff, but they can't do it if they never discover your campaign. You need to give them the opportunity to part with their money. Product fundraising strategies must include a robust marketing drive to bring awareness to the campaign and drive sales, and it starts with an online marketing drive to engage your community.

Build an Online Store

Social media platforms offer independent sales fronts to help you market your products. Or use dedicated webstores like Shopify to create your listings. 

Use Social Media

Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram are powerful tools to help you spread awareness and market your products. Build out attractive visual posts and use the captions section to describe the product and motivate your supporters to buy.

Leverage the Ad Manager

The FB and IG ad managers offer a suite of campaign goals. Choose the right strategy to market your product and increase conversion. Use a budget you can afford that's in line with your marketing spending.

Use Retargeting Campaigns

Some prospects might not buy your current product selection, but they might be interested in other products. Don't write them off. Use the retargeting campaign to send them other products they might be interested in buying.

Try Custom Audiences

Use the custom audience feature in FB ad manager to find prospects in your email list or in lists you buy from lead generation companies. The more eyeballs you have on your campaign, the more sales you’ll make.

Email Your List

Build an email drip campaign counting down to the sale and use it to drive traffic to your online sales platform. Email your list and keep pushing with a weekly email notifying the prospects of new additions to your online store.

Build Funnels with a CRM

A CRM allows you to capture conversion data and track your metrics. This tactic gives you important data on how your prospects interact with your products. It shows you insights on top-selling products, top products sold, and those that don’t sell well, allowing you to optimize your inventory holdings.

Drive Traffic to Offline Sales Strategies

If you’re hosting a product fundraiser at a physical location, use social media and email marketing to get more foot traffic at your event.

Best Things to Sell for a Fundraiser - FAQs

Q: What are the most profitable fundraising products?

A: We’ve discussed several in this post, but here’s a few more ideas. Choose products with a high margin. Do your research and look around the market for products offering excellent margin rates.

Low-ticket products offer the best opportunities because they sell in high volumes. For instance, selling a coffee mug gives you a good margin, and it's cheap enough to allow all your supporters to purchase it. Think in terms of high-volume sales and wide margins to boost profitability. 

Q: How can we choose a product that aligns with our organization's values?

A: Choose products that cater to your target market demographic and their financial status. These products can boost awareness of your nonprofit's brand, mission, and goals. For instance, if your organization raises funds for climate change or environmental initiatives, think of posters of forest landscapes with quotes.

Or try selling sustainable coffee mugs to reduce the impact of cup waste on the environment. Metal straws and clothing manufactured with sustainable hemp materials are great choices and do away with the chemicals used in traditional clothing manufacturing processes. Get creative with your ideas. 

Q: Are there any low-cost products that yield high profits for fundraisers?

A: Yes. There are dozens of low-cost products to help nonprofits maximize revenues and lower the cost of sales. Consumables like coffee mugs and t-shirts are good choices. They have great markups and give your nonprofit branding opportunities to extend awareness of your organization and its mission. 

Read through our review, and you’ll see our top choices for low-cost products with excellent margins. These products sell well and in large volumes because they’re affordable and allow your supporters to dip into their pockets to offer their financial support for your organization.

Q: How can we effectively market our fundraising products?

A: A fundraising marketing product strategy should incorporate the use of social media and email marketing. Social media is a visually rich platform that inspires buyer emotions. Instagram is a great tool for this purpose. 

Posting images and carousel images are excellent tactics to draw buyers' attention. IG also has features where you can connect to a Shopify store or use the built-in nonprofit tools to advertise and sell your products directly through the platform. 

Funnel your leads through your nonprofit CRM system to drag them into your sales funnel. Facebook and IG allow you to use the ad manager to extend your reach into your target market. The retargeting and custom audience tools within the ad manager also present great opportunities to continually market to your prospects.

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