New Best Practices in eCommerce For Nonprofits May Surprise & Delight You

Make no mistake about it, your donors are ecommerce buyers even if they are not currently buying from you.

According to comScore, a recognized global leader in cross-platform measurement of audiences, advertising and consumer behavior, one in six discretionary retail dollars is now spent online with mobile commerce capturing 20% of all ecommerce.

Introducing Reader-Related Revenue

The emergence of online reader-related revenue can be a boon for nonprofits. The theory of the reader-related revenue revolves around creating an enthusiast audience. In other words, a very passionate, engaged and dedicated online audience that trusts you.

If your online visitors like and trust you, they are likely to take your recommendations for what to buy.

Being very intentional about nurturing your enthusiast audience can create new reader-related revenue and expand your network of supporters and advocates — people who not only share and support your organization’s values but who will also champion all the good you do on a regular basis.

What to Offer

What products or services you offer will depend on your organization, mission, and audience. The strategy here should be three-fold: To further your mission, simultaneously grow your enthusiast audience and increase revenue.

Here are a couple of best practices as defined by Shopify, the ecommerce platform leader, for your nonprofit to consider starting with:

Productization of Program or Project Based Gifts

Let’s say your organization feeds children and helps families in need. Your online store can offer creative ways to effectively tell the story of the service provided and encourage its purchase as a gift for a loved one.

Here’s an example from World Vision: Goat & 2 Chickens

With a pair of chickens and a goat, your gift of $110 will provide a steady supply of eggs, milk, and protein to feed children and help families in need.

In World Vision’s online store, visitors can choose from 10 of their most popular projects like Goat & 2 Chickens. The product page has a brief description of why should choose a specific project and the impact the donation will have. They also send a card to your loved one explaining the gift they are receiving.

Advocacy Resources

Take a page from the Joni and Friends International Disability Center playbook and provide your online visitors with the option to add advocacy resources to their order. These materials can include DVDs, books, brochures, posters, stickers, or any item that helps your online visitors share your cause in their communities.

Here’s an example from Joni and Friends: The Irresistible Church Book Series

You can offer these items for free like Joni and Friends does through their Irresistible Church Book Series or charge a fee to cover production costs like they do with their 5-packs of 14 page glossy pamphlets. Aside from a potential revenue stream, the underlying benefit here is the brand and disability awareness they created by making these materials available in their store.

Is it time to rethink your online ecommerce strategy?


Marc is Co-Founder and Principal Advisor of The Global Center for Nonprofit Excellence. For the previous 12 years, Marc served full-time as executive and practitioner in three significant yet very different Nonprofits overseeing extensive domestic and international operations.