By James D’Ambrosio

Recently I discovered a resource that could help nonprofits increase revenue while promoting their cause or mission at the same time. With a reasonable investment in time, planning, technical know-how and creativity, it could be a worthwhile endeavor.


Zazzle Community Giving is an online venue where nonprofits create their own ‘store’ of products — posters, cards, T-shirts, prints, stamps and more — with their own unique branding. An agency sets prices, products become available for sale in the U.S. and internationally, and the nonprofit receives 10 percent of proceeds. The program is open to nonprofits in the U.S. free of charge, and has design tools to help create your products. There’s no listing fees, minimum sales fees, management or maintenance fees. In addition to generating revenue, agencies can increase their name recognition when people wear T-shirts, use coffee mugs or other products displaying unique agency branding.


Agencies receive a minimum of 10 percent of the sales value for purchases at their store. Zazzle then sends a check to the nonprofit reflecting the amount of royalties generated through sales. Agencies can receive proceeds monthly, quarterly, or when a set amount is reached, whichever they prefer. An additional 15 percent can be earned on sales referred through an agency’s Web site. However, a nonprofit must join Zazzle’s Associates Referral Program to receive this extra revenue.

Purchases from your store by your agency are discounted 20 percent. Since you receive a discount on your own products, you cannot collect royalties on those sales. Additionally, Zazzle recommends consulting legal counsel, noting that nonprofit fund-raising activities are highly regulated and subject to numerous state and federal laws. Like many business activities, due diligence is required to avoid potential problems.


Zazzle Community Giving members have access to a message board, journal, homepage notes and calendar as part of their custom store. You can also share a story with the Zazzle community by submitting a news item (causes are spotlighted on the Zazzle Giving landing page). Accounts can be configured with a link from your Web site to help drive traffic and sales. Click the links below to learn more and/or register your nonprofit.

Click here to learn more about Zazzle Community Giving   

Register your nonprofit here



A) What do you think of Zazzle Community Giving?

B) Is it a viable option for your agency’s fund-raising efforts?

Direct-Mail Letters:Brief is Better

 By James V. D’Ambrosio

Have you ever opened a direct-mail solicitation from a charity only to find a 4-6 page missive you know you won’t read? These letters are destined for the wastebasket. This is  a terrible waste of time, money and effort. No matter how eloquent your letter or noble your cause, if no one reads it, what’s the point?

As the giving season begins (the majority of contributions occur from October- December), it is wise to re-visit direct-mail efforts. In today’s wired world where people are constantly bombarded with messages — Internet, cell phones, texts, instant messaging, e-mail, and 24-hour TV news outlets — attention spans have grown shorter. People simply won’t spend much time reading a letter.

The answer is to be brief. Solicitations must quickly grab a reader’s attention, demonstrate an urgent need, and make the ask. Using a human service agency as an example, the following approach — a concise, one-page one-sided letter — is far more likely to be read and considered:

Opening Paragraph: Briefly describe your organization’s mission/history, emphasizing  dedication to the cause, helping people in need, etc. Then talk about a specific program and briefly describe services provided.

Second Paragraph: Provide a specific example of a person in need (use a generic name),  how difficult things are, and how your agency has positively impacted their life. Imply a strong need for continued intervention to minimize hardship/suffering.

Third Paragraph:  Discuss how donors’ generosity has made a macro impact. Then mention what a specific gift, say $50, will provide. For example, a disaster relief agency might say that $50 provides three meals a day for a month for a family of four left homeless from an earthquake. This provides donors concrete evidence of how their contributions help. You have to paint a clear picture — people won’t know unless you spell it out.   

Closing Paragraph: Emphasize your agency’s efficient use of resources, if indeed, it’s the case. For example, if 90 percent of your revenue goes directly for programming, say so, it’s an excellent selling point. Then make the ask, within the context that a contribution allows your agency to continue providing essential services to those in need.

To be sure, there is no easy way to consistently raise money, especially during today’s prolonged economic uncertainty and limited budgets. Further, nonprofits can ill afford to spend a lot of money on direct-mail campaigns that yield marginal results. Therefore, keeping direct-mail pieces short and compelling — with donors’ interests  in mind — can help maximize returns on direct-mail. The above example can be tailored to your agency’s specific strengths and selling points.   

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