Looking for ways to make your nonprofit stand out from the pack? Ready to use branded promotional items but not sure where to start? The fact is, whether you’re trying to spread the word about a hospital foundation or a food bank, promotional items matter. When chosen correctly, promotional items can be great marketing tools. So to help you make the most of promotional items for your nonprofit, consider the following suggestions.

Here are five tips to follow to find relevant, creative and on-brand promotional items:


Remember the purpose

Promotional items are about more than checking off an item from your marketing to-do list. They’re about building brand awareness, helping people remember your cause, saying thank you to donors and more. So the first step to selecting specific promotional items is to make sure you know what you’re looking to achieve.

There may be a difference in the kind of products that are good for giving away at events and the kind you award to donors who support your organization. When you’re trying to reach hundreds of people with a memorable marketing item, you’ll probably want to look for budget-friendly choices. When you’re looking to reward donors for their contributions, you might choose a more premium item. Think through your goals and then select promotional items accordingly.


Know your audience

Think about the people you are trying to reach. What are they like? What do they need? What will they use and be happy to receive? Research from the Advertising Specialty Institute showed that people over the age of 55 are the ones who like pens best, and younger consumers (age 21 to 34) are most likely to own a promotional T-shirt, for example. Understanding your audience goes a long way toward picking the right products.


Consider your organization’s mission, values and brand

It’s so important that your promotional items align with your organization’s overarching values and the values of your supporters. A health organization that gives out candy can come across as inauthentic and off-message. An environmental agency that uses excessive packaging or products made of environmentally harmful materials will alienate supporters fast.

Likewise, your promotional products should line up properly with your organization’s personality: do you want to be seen as fun or edgy? Authoritative or open-minded? Take time to consider the message you want to convey, and make sure your products line up accordingly.


Think outside the box

Instead of doing the same old bumper stickers and tchotchkes that define tired business swag, think outside the box with promotional items your audience will want to use regularly. The best items are legitimately helpful, enough so that people will find themselves keeping them and using them for months or years to come. Remember, the longer they use your swag, the longer they promote your brand. Here are some ideas to consider:

Car Magnets
In today’s world of promotional products, bumper stickers are out and car magnets are in. That’s because, while bumper stickers often cause damage to a vehicle, car magnets do not. Easy to place on a car and easy to remove, car magnets make a great, safe alternative for loyal supporters who want to promote your message wherever they go.

Custom Awareness Bracelets
Another promotional item people can wear is bracelets — and custom-branded bracelets are especially powerful, as they give your supporters an easy way to call attention to your cause.

Mobile Chargers
Hand out branded mobile chargers at your next event, and you hand out a marketing tool that people will love. People on the go often need a way to charge their devices while traveling, and with your charger, they’ll think of you every time they plug their cellphone in.

Reusable Water Bottles
Eco-friendly and incredibly useful, water bottles or pouches/bags are a great gift to hand out and meet a real need while also promoting your organization.

Seasonal Gear
Promoting your nonprofit at a summer event? Hand out flip-flops or beach towels branded with your name. Working in an area known for heavy rainfall? Hand out umbrellas or plastic rain ponchos. From winter hats in snow season to Frisbees in summer, giving people branded, seasonal items makes your products relevant and immediately useful.

For fresh inspiration beyond these ideas, take a look at what other organizations are offering. What works well for other nonprofits? What do your supporters seem to respond to? Search Google or Pinterest for new promotional product ideas and see what grabs you. When you feel like you’re always offering the same old items, it’s time to drum up some new possibilities.


Revisit the ‘usual’ items if they make sense

While these items may not seem out of the box, they are practical and still some of the most used promotional items out there.

T-Shirts or Hats
Even if the only place they use them is around the house or in the yard, many people will appreciate something they can wear — so why not give them a T-shirt or hat that sports your organization’s name? These items give people something they can actually use and that advertises your cause wherever they go. Other apparel options include sweatshirts, tank tops, jackets, etc.

Pens, Notepads, Custom Tote Bags
The fact is, most people will need a pen or a notepad from time to time, and tote bags are always helpful. Usually economical to produce, these promotional items are another way to showcase your brand.


What promotional item is your organization using already, and which ones are you planning to try soon? The bottom line with the promotional products you select is that you want to find items that appeal to your supporters and potential supporters. By knowing your goals, your audience and some of the top, reusable product options available, you’re on your way to the kinds of promotional products that really work!


Todd Turner
Todd Turner is the President of LogoMagnet, a custom design magnet company that produces and distributes magnets for schools, non-profits, sports teams and more.
Todd Turner

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