Many organizations looking for the right merch solution immediately turn to print-on-demand, assuming it’s a panacea that will solve any problem. This is partly because plenty of merch suppliers will offer any item emblazoned with any logo, cheaper than dirt with two-day shipping.
The truth is, for nonprofits, unions and political campaigns, it’s not always the remedy. Yes, it has a specific application that can help you leverage your fundraising budget to maximum effect. But it’s easy to make mistakes that negate the benefits.
Here’s how to maximize your print-on-demand program while maintaining the standards you stand for.
How Print-on-Demand Maximizes Your Budget
Printing-on-demand is a smart, strategic choice because it minimizes your risks while optimizing the funds you can collect.
There are three main benefits a print-on-demand solution provides:
1. Smaller Financial Risk
The most common reason campaigns and nonprofits choose a print-on-demand solution is that it lessens the financial risk of investing in bulk inventory. When you have leftover items that there’s no longer any demand for, they become a financial drain.
Instead of ordering 250 t-shirts using size estimations and demand projections, you simply purchase what you need as you need it. Campaigns and nonprofits are already familiar with thin margins — printing on demand can help reduce this burden.
2. Lower Overhead Costs
Beyond lessening the financial impact of wholesaling, printing on demand offers a way to lower overhead costs — all costs unrelated to purchasing the merch itself. For example, when you wholesale, you need to store your items.
When space is at a premium, as it often is for organizations like yours (especially on a campaign trail), you might consider storage facilities or larger offices that can store boxes full of items. In addition, you need to spend time and effort sorting, packing, shipping, unboxing, sorting yet again, sending packages to different campaign stops …
Print-on-demand has a lower overhead cost because you truly get only what you need when you need it.
3. Less Material Waste
Last, print-on-demand results in less material waste. Since estimating and forecasting demand aren’t a part of the ordering process, you’ll never end up with boxes of irrelevant merch that finds its way to the landfill en masse.
These benefits don’t mean print-on-demand is always the best choice. Sometimes ordering in bulk is the best way to ensure your whole campaign has the merch they need for onsite events or national campaign efforts. But when you have specific offerings on your web store, and aren’t ready to invest in the behind-the-scenes infrastructure, let’s talk more about printing on demand.
Not All Print-On-Demand Services Are Created Equal
Print-on-demand solutions are particularly excellent for grassroots organizations and fledgling political campaigns with small budgets. That’s because you can basically rub two nickels together and turn them into quarters.
For example, during her first campaign, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had a shoestring budget but a significant need for merch that would help mobilize her supporters and increase fundraising efforts. Print-on-demand was the perfect solution. In her case, there was almost zero financial risk. The risk instead came from choosing the wrong suppliers.
A pro-labor, progressive congresswoman like AOC needed to raise funds and do it ethically. Choosing F.I.I. allowed her to access the only union print-on-demand solution.
Worx Printing Cooperative is F.I.I.’s partner for all our print-on-demand offerings. While the inventory selection is vast, and the print techniques are high quality and sophisticated, the most important aspect to nonprofit organizations and campaigns is the union bug.
Labor unions like Worx can print a union bug because they adhere to the highest ethical standards throughout the whole supply chain, like fair wages and safe working environments.
So I can get what I need when I need it and still adhere to the ethics our organization believes in? You might be thinking this is the answer to all your merch problems. Just because it’s easy doesn’t make it the right choice for every situation, though.
Don’t Make These Print-on-Demand Mistakes
Printing on demand gives you access to an expansive catalog of products you can customize with a few clicks of a button. That’s quite a rabbit hole you can fall down. Don’t let these pitfalls hinder your merch efforts.
Creating a Confusing Web store
With access to a nearly unlimited inventory, it’s a fine line between stocking the right goods in your store, and simply stocking anything in your store. More inventory does not actually increase demand. In fact, the more you have, the more overwhelming your store can be for the shopper.
If you are leveraging print on demand as part of a web store or as the sole goods in your store, consider how you can curate your inventory to ensure it’s a good user experience and aligned with your mission.
Flying Solo on Design
In the same vein as failing to curate your inventory, when the world is at your fingertips, a lot of mistakes can also be made by your fingertips. Have you ever noticed a typo in an email after it’s been sent? We all make that mistake, and no one usually cares too much.
However, if something is off with your merch, you will care about it. Most of you probably don’t tack designer onto your title. So, working with a partner that offers design services and product proofing ensures your design is always exactly how you want it. From sizing logos and pairing the right designs with the best format (embroidery vs. screenprinting, for example), a partner helps your merch look polished and professional.
Discounting Your Mission with Cheap Merch
Many print-on-demand solutions, unfortunately, don’t use sustainable or ethical business practices. When it’s a DIY effort through organizations like Printful, your supporters get what they pay for. A t-shirt. When you choose a print-on-demand solution like the one F.I.I. provides, you get more than a t-shirt.
You get a garment that stands for something — environmentally-friendly, ethical domestic manufacturing. When your campaign is on the line, it’s vital that you communicate your mission through every possible medium, including your merch.
Partner Up for Best Print-on-Demand Results
F.I.I. was founded to help nonprofits, unions and political campaigns raise money and support. That’s evolved to include the strategic use of merchandise — whether it’s a web store, a sustainer program, or by making use of print-on-demand, the goals are always the same.
Raise money. Garner support.
Print-on-demand is an awesome service that has amazing benefits. But it works best when you have help curating, designing, and ensuring your merch speaks for itself. When your nonprofit or campaign lobbies for progressive values, so should your merch.