Sales by nonprofits nosedive

David McKee

In yet another blow to the bruised nonprofit sector, in-store and online sales of merchandise by charities have fallen dramatically, a new study says.

Retail sales of merchandise by nonprofits, including products such as wristbands and coffee, fell to $305.4 billion in December 2008, down from $326.2 billion in January of 2006, says the NonProfit Times survey.

And only 23 percent of survey respondents say they bought something from a nonprofit, compared to 43 percent who did in a similar survey conducted in 2006.

More than a quarter of women say they are more likely to buy from nonprofits this year, the study says, compared to a fifth of men who say they plan to make a purchase.

About one in three households making $75,000 to $100,000 reported purchasing nonprofit-related products in the most recent survey, more than any other income
group, while fewer than one in four households making more than $100,000 made purchases.

However, purchase amounts fell among all income groups.

Nonprofit purchases made at special events plummeted 63 percent between the two surveys, compared to an overall retail fall of 44 percent.

In addition to the economy, cause-marketing fatigue may be contributing to the decline in sales, some say.

To combat the downward trend, charities should boost the quality and quantity of their company partnerships, the study says.

“I think the key to fundraising is multiplying yourself through others,” David McKee, interim CEO and chief operating officer of ALSAC/St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, says in a statement.

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