Market To Market: Drumming Up Donations With Promotional Products


The pandemic has changed the way many people spend their money, but it hasn’t made them any less generous. In the United States, 77 percent of people say they now spend less on going out to restaurants, 70 percent spend less on travel and 26 percent spend less on hobbies, according to Statista. However, charitable giving is up.  

Human services charities, such as homeless shelters and food banks, saw a 68-percent increase in grants year-over-year, according to Fidelity Charitable, a public charity that works with nearly a quarter million donors. Many charities, such as Goodwill, St. Vincent de Paul and the Salvation Army, have struggled to keep up with donations, according to Today. Some thrift stores have seen a surge in donations of 20 to 40 percent since the beginning of the pandemic. 

Even during times of personal hardship, many feel compelled to give. Those who were laid off or furloughed due to the pandemic are among the most charitable, with 62 percent donating to charity, according to LendingTree. 

Among the tens of millions of Americans who received stimulus checks from the IRS, many donated all or a portion of their checks to those in need. Charity Navigator reported record-breaking traffic on its site and a 237-percent increase in donations the week stimulus checks went out. 

Gallup reports that about three in 10 people have assisted in COVID-19 relief efforts. While 30 percent of Americans indicated they suffered financially from the pandemic, most (66 percent) say they do not plan to scale back their charitable giving next year. In fact, 25 percent say they plan to increase their giving.  

The economy will determine whether people can fulfill their giving goals, but history points to continued generosity. Even after 9/11 and the Great Recession, individuals continued to open their wallets and give their time to help others. The United States is the world’s most generous country—and has been for the past 10 years, according to the World Giving Index.

Giving USA notes that in 2019, Americans donated nearly $450 billion to charity, with several sectors—education; public-society benefit; arts, culture and humanities; and environment/animals—seeing double-digit growth. With more than 1.54 million charitable organizations in the United States alone, there are abundant opportunities to give back and make a difference. 

Promotional products distributors can help charities large and small share their message and mission, cultivate donors and raise funds. From crowdfunding campaigns to programs targeting recurring donors, promotional items allow charities to get in front of their target audience and generate consistent donations. 

Read on for insight into charitable organizations today and how promotional products can help them become forces in philanthropy. 

The charity sector has been dealt a double-whammy of challenges brought on by the pandemic: increased need and decreased resources. Even though donors indicate they plan to continue giving, more than half of charitable organizations in the United States expect to bring in less money this year than in 2019, and an equal percentage expect the same to occur in 2021, according to the Foundation for Philanthropy. 

Social-distancing recommendations or mandates mean many charitable organizations have missed out on or adapted critical in-person events such as gala fundraisers and food drives. Vulnerable populations still need essential services, but volunteers are often in short supply. With one in five charitable organizations forced to lay-off staff, charities must learn how to do more with less.  

Donors recognize need both locally and globally, but many aren’t sure where to contribute. In fact, in the United States, 45 percent of the wealthiest donors say their greatest challenge is identifying causes they care about and choosing where to donate, according to Bank of America. Some donors (16 percent) have halted their giving because an organization did not sufficiently communicate its effectiveness. 

Promotional products can help in several ways, from reminding previous donors of how they can give to engaging new volunteers who are eager to serve their communities. More than anything, promotional items help charitable organizations stay top of mind, which makes all the difference when charities need an infusion of cash and helping hands.  


WalletHub examined 19 key indicators of charitable behavior, ranging from volunteer rate to monetary donations. Here’s how states stack up in terms of charitable involvement. 

States Where Residents Are Most Likely To Give

  1. Minnesota
  2. Utah
  3. Maryland
  4. Oregon
  5. Ohio
  6. Pennsylvania    
  7. North Dakota
  8. Virginia
  9. Washington
  10. Maine

States Where Residents Are Least Likely To Give

  1. Texas
  2. Iowa
  3. West Virginia
  4. California
  5. Hawaii
  6. Rhode Island
  7. Nevada
  8. Louisiana
  9. Mississippi
  10. New Mexico


According to the 21st annual Forbes Top Charities List, these are the largest U.S. charities based on private donations received in 2019:


Here’s a breakdown of giving contributions by source along with where charitable dollars end up:


Throughout the United States, approximately 77 million people donate their time, talents and energy to support their favorite causes. Here’s how they typically volunteer:

36%Fundraising or selling items to raise money

34.2% - Collecting or distributing food

26.5% - Collecting, making or distributing clothing, crafts or other goods

26.2% - Mentoring youth   

Source: National Philanthropic Trust


As donors are increasingly using their smartphones and going online to give, promotional items can remind them how simple it is to log on and give back. See these recent stats for online giving:

  • The average online donation was $148 in 2019
  • Online donations comprised 8.7 percent of total fundraising in 2019
  • Among online donations in 2019, 26 percent were made using a mobile device

Source: 2019 Charitable Giving Report 


In addition to donating to charity, people are also stepping up to help others in various ways during the pandemic. 

  • 30 percent of people still pay for services they’re not receiving, like house cleaning, babysitting or gym memberships
  • 37 percent tip more than usual
  • 13 percent have sent money to a relative who lost a job
  • 7 percent have bought gift cards to help support local businesses 

Source: LendingTree


Raise More Money With Recurring Giving

Charitable organizations can bring in more funds and simplify giving by promoting recurring giving options. More than half (57 percent) of donors in the United States and Canada are enrolled in a recurring giving program, up from 46 percent in 2018. Most (94 percent) prefer to give monthly, while three percent like to give weekly, two percent annually and one percent quarterly. Here’s a breakdown of how much donors give:

$100 or less - 9%
$101-$999 - 38%
$1,000-$4,999 - 35%
$5,000-$9,999 - 11%
$10,000 or more - 7%

Source: 2020 Global Trends in Giving Report produced by Nonprofit Tech for Good


Charitable organizations can tell their story through luxurious neckwear such as scarves and ties. Pick from 100-percent silk or 100-percent polyester, which has the same silky feel but comes with the durability and affordability of polyester.  

Buffalo Bay  /  PPAI 111547, S4  /


Complete with 80 lined pages and a front pocket for stashing notes, the Keep It Notebook makes a thoughtful thank-you gift for donors. Choose from four colors with an imprint centered on the front.  

Crown/IMAGEN Brands  /  PPAI 113430, S10  /


The Bowie Midnight Softy With Stylus enables charities to promote their cause without exceeding their budget. Featuring a colorful stylus and soft-touch rubberized finish, this ballpoint pen will be a favorite among donors and volunteers alike.    

Goldstar  /  PPAI 114031, S7  /


Ideal for volunteer appreciation, the Manna™ Mocha Grip 16-ounce Tumbler features a single-hand operation sipper lid that makes it easy to lock and prevent spills. Drinks stay cold for 24 hours and hot for six hours in this stainless-steel tumbler.

Logomark, Inc.  /  PPAI 110898, S12  /


Inspire giving while spreading smiles with custom plush toys. Charities can delight donors with stock plush toys such as bears or lions or create totally custom plushies for specific campaigns or fundraisers. 

Soft Stuff Creations, Inc.  /  PPAI 413041, S2  /


Made from recycled water bottles, the Robin RPET Drawstring Bag helps charitable organizations spread their message in an environmentally-friendly way. The bag features a large main compartment and a zippered front pocket with an earbud port. 

Leed’s  /  PPAI 112361, S13  /


When affixed to laptops, phones or digital devices, the 3-Inch Round Device Decal allows donors to show support for their favorite causes. This full-color, digitally printed decal is available in six stock shapes and sizes and can be repositioned with no residue.

Fields Manufacturing  /  PPAI 111951, S9  /


Every year, the CHEO Foundation works with more than 500,000 patients and their families at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. And every year for the past 20 years, plush bears from Soft Stuff Creations have brought hope to pediatric patients. CHEO hosts an annual telethon fundraiser in which every donor receives a CHEO bear. In 2020, the telethon raised nearly $7.4 million. According to Soft Stuff Creations, the bears from over the years have become beloved collectors’ items. 

Source: Soft Stuff Creations Inc.


Audrey Sellers is a Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas-area based writer and former associate editor of PPB.

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