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4 Reasons Non-for-Profits Need Quality Garments

If you are reading this you are likely involved in a non-for-profit organization where you come into contact with people who truly care about the same cause as you.  Together you are focused on getting the word out about your cause.  The ways to do this are endless, but no doubt you recognize the importance of spending time and money where it does the most good.

Could branded apparel fill a niche in your marketing agenda?  To answer this question, I reached out to some of our non-for-profit customers, particularly in the animal rescue segment.  I’d like to share their responses coupled with some insights gleaned in the past 21 years of business.  Here are four reasons your non-for-profit organization (NFP) needs quality garments.

1. Make Money

Making money for the organization is probably the first benefit that comes to mind.  Most NFPs do make some money on the garments they sell, the amount varying depending on the product and purchase price.

Vicky Meluso of IAMRA (Illinois Alaskan Malamute Rescue Association) says, “It does help us raise funds, which are always much-needed for any rescue operation. Supporters get a cool shirt, and rescue gets a few bucks to help save lives – it’s a win-win.”

Although this is an important and a highly motivating reason to make branded apparel available, interestingly our customers reveal this is not the biggest benefit of the garments.

Patti Miller, Adoption Desk Manager at West Suburban Humane Society adds, “We do make a little money from each garment sold, but that is not our main objective and is just a bonus.”

Kelly Lambert, President of Raven’s Husky Haven and Rescue, says that they use the product as an incentive for donations.  For example everyone who signs up for their monthly donation program gets a special edition member t-shirt.  Apparel is also used as auction items at events.

But, Kelly tells us honestly, “While we make some money off the product, it isn't the primary reason we do it.”

So if making money isn’t the primary reason to offer apparel, what better reasons could there be?  These three tell us.

2. Allow Supporters To Show Their Pride

You already have supporters who care about your cause and would love to help it grow.  Providing quality, fashionable apparel branded with your logo, mission statement, cause, etc. will give them an opportunity to show their pride.

Patti says regarding her volunteers, “The volunteers love having a shirt with our logo on it. They are proud of the work they do and enjoy showing it off.”

Kelly also shares, “Our already followers like our product, because it is great quality.  Our volunteers also wear it proudly.”b2ap3_thumbnail_RHHRHoodie.jpg

In a recent blog post I reasoned that people wear garments that promote causes they care about.  You can read the entire article at this link (Why Wearables Should Be Part of Your 2016 Marketing Plan), but I’d like to quote the portion that applies most to this discussion:

“We don a printed tee or embroidered sweatshirt because we relate in some way to the message it sends.  Often we are associated with the business, group or organization it represents.  And in many cases, we are proud of what it stands for. 

This makes wearables a very powerful marketing tool, because when someone sees an “advertisement” being worn it not only increases the brand recognition, it makes a statement about your brand.  The person wearing your brand helps enhance the promotion without saying a word.  The silent message is: I CHOSE to wear this garment which means I like what it represents.”

This leads to the third reason.

3. Advertise Your Cause

Advertising budgets for NFPs can be very minimal.  They may rely heavily on free solutions like word of mouth and social media postings and shares.  What could be better than a walking billboard?  A powerful statement is made when we see people we know wearing branded apparel that supports a cause, but even if we don’t know them it can have an effect.

Vicky tells us, “We love our IAMRA shirts! For most rescuers and dog lovers, “dog shirts” are a huge part of their wardrobe.  Wearing one is always a great conversation starter, which helps bring about awareness.  There are many people out there, even with all the electronic “connectedness” these days, that don’t know that rescues exist.”

b2ap3_thumbnail_IAMRABeanie.jpgPatti adds, “Many of our staff and volunteers wear their apparel outside of the shelter which is great advertisement for the shelter. I have personally had people stop to ask about the shelter and the animals available for adoption when I've been wearing mine.”

Kelly agrees, adding her experience, “It has worked as a great marketing tool for us.  People have adopted dogs and/or learned about the rescue as a result of one of us wearing our Raven's wear.”

4. Promote Professionalism

If you chose garments with a uniform look or color, this can help you be recognizable in the community and promote team building among volunteers and employees.

Patti finds this most valuable and shares, “I think having the apparel with our logo and the same color makes us look more professional. Visitors to the shelter can easily identify who can help them. It also makes it easier to identify staff and volunteers as new volunteers start.”

She adds, “Mainly, I feel it creates a sense of cohesiveness and belonging among the volunteers and staff. I know the volunteers enjoy seeing me and other staff wearing the same shirt they are wearing.”b2ap3_thumbnail_WSHSApparel.jpg

Final Thoughts

If you are part of a NFP that has not yet harnessed the power of branded apparel, I suggest you seriously consider it.  Start with something simple like the t-shirt – a true staple of NFP apparel.  Once you realize you can connect in a greater way with your supporters and generate new interest in your organization, branch out by offering higher quality and varied apparel like sweatshirts, jackets, caps and bags.  Often employees and volunteers are willing to pay a little more for a quality garment they can wear with pride.

Feeling overwhelmed and need some suggestions?  Feel free to email me and I’ll help you get started.

Nikki Stine

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