Robert Glazer is a guest contributor for Nonprofit Hub and the founder and managing director of Acceleration Partners. He is a customer acquisition specialist with an exceptional track record in growing revenue and profits for fast-growing consumer products and services companies. His clients include adidas, eBay and Target, among many others.
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We’ve all done a little fundraising in our lives. For most of us, it happened in grade school—when our kids were in grade school. One day, they returned from school with orders to sell anything from popcorn and candy to gift wrap and magazine subscriptions; as parents, we were left to do most of the legwork.

Today, fundraising is a little different. Instead of hiring door-to-door salespeople, organizations now rely on the Internet. In 2013, online fundraising grew by 13.5 percent and accounted for 6.4 percent of all charitable giving.

As more and more fundraising moves online, organizations are always looking for new ways to raise funds, and digital merchants are looking for ways to capitalize on this interest. Affiliate storefronts are a great way for both to take advantage of the online fundraising trend.

If you’re unfamiliar with affiliate storefronts, here’s how they work: A business partners with an organization—often a nonprofit or school—and creates a co-branded digital storefront on its website. Then, the organization taps into its support system and drives traffic to the storefront. Each time someone makes a purchase from that particular storefront, the organization earns a commission while the business earns a sale. The organization acts as an affiliate, raising money through commissions without a paid intermediary.

Storefronts are a streamlined way for schools, teams and even clubs to capitalize on their networks’ buying power. For merchants, they offer a way to contribute to a cause and access new customers. Affiliate storefronts are a perfect example of a mutually beneficial relationship.

Uncover the Joint Benefits of Affiliate Storefronts

For an organization seeking funds, the most obvious benefit is the commission itself. But storefronts have other advantages as well:

  • People already like them. An organization no longer has to ask people to buy products they don’t need. Rather, it’s giving them the opportunity to buy products they want (and from companies they might already be familiar with), which could increase the overall amount of funding brought into the organization.

  • They save time. Once an affiliate storefront is set up, all the organization needs to do is direct people to the website. No other staffing is required, which frees up time for other fundraising efforts such as donor relations.

  • They expand the organization’s reach. Supporters can share the storefront’s URL with their personal and professional networks, increasing the organization’s reach.

  • They provide real-time reporting. Affiliate storefronts offer live reporting so the organization knows how much money is coming in at any given time. If the organization isn’t close to reaching its goal, it can respond accordingly with an increased effort. And direct deposits from the merchant or affiliate network make collecting money easy.

Here are three ways that a merchant can benefit from affiliate storefronts:

  • They expand the merchant’s reach. By partnering with an organization, the merchant has an opportunity to target new customers without spending money on traditional marketing efforts like advertisements or direct mail. Supporters of the organization are now aware of the brand and may choose to do business with it in the future.

  • They improve brand image. Consumers like to do business with merchants that support the community. Affiliate storefronts demonstrate a merchant’s commitment to making the community a better place and serve to enhance the brand’s image.

  • They simplify the partner process. The affiliate network handles all tracking, payments, reporting, etc., so from a technical standpoint, affiliate storefronts can be fairly hands-off for merchants.

My company recently worked with Tea Collection, a San Francisco-based children’s clothing company, to convert schools into affiliates. The company already had a school fundraising program in place, but it saw affiliate storefronts as a great opportunity to manage and track the program and mitigate its coupon “leakage” problem.

The company offered schools free shipping and 15 percent off sales for a full week. In that week, the total number of affiliates in the program grew by 17 percent, and the conversion rate for schools was 44 percent higher than the affiliate program average. The schools raised nearly $30,000 in a two-week period.

Affiliate Storefronts Are a Growing Industry

While charities and schools are the most active organizations capitalizing on the benefits of affiliate storefronts, they’re not the only entities that can benefit from these programs. Nearly any organization, cause or professional can be turned into an affiliate.

For example, if a sporting goods company wanted to create an affiliate storefront program, it might partner with personal trainers and build storefronts on its website for them to refer clients to. Any time a client made a purchase, the company would make a sale while the trainer would earn a commission.

Other potential storefront affiliates include youth sports teams, professionals, clubs and PTAs. There really isn’t a limit to who or what can be a storefront affiliate.

By driving extra traffic to a merchant’s site, potentially increasing sales and making it easier for schools, clubs and other nonprofit organizations to raise money, affiliate storefronts are a valuable asset for any merchant or nonprofit.

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Robert Glazer, founder and managing director of Acceleration Partners, is a customer acquisition specialist with an exceptional track record in growing revenue and profits for fast-growing consumer products and services companies. His clients include adidas, eBay, Gymboree, The Honest Company, ModCloth, Reebok, Shutterfly, Target, Tiny Prints, Warby Parker, and zulily. Read more from Robert on affiliate storefronts in his blog post.