If you’re a church leader, fundraising coordinator, or giving committee member, you’ve probably spent time thinking about what goes into a successful church fundraiser. However, the best giving initiatives are not just lucrative—they also make effective use of your team’s limited time and resources while engaging your congregation.

One engaging, resource-efficient way to raise extra funds for your church is by launching an online shopping fundraiser. While the individual contributions from this type of fundraiser are relatively small, they can quickly add up to make a significant difference for your church.

In this guide, you’ll learn all you need to know to get started with fundraising through online shopping, including:

  • What is an online shopping fundraiser?
  • Benefits of Online Shopping Fundraisers for Churches
  • Steps to Launch Your Church’s Online Shopping Fundraiser

According to ShopRaise’s faith-based fundraising guide, churches and other religious organizations have a unique advantage when it comes to fundraising—their supporters tend to be loyal to and invested in the organization as they build upon the value of generosity that their faith prioritizes. Keep these tendencies in mind as you plan and promote your online shopping fundraiser to effectively encourage supporters to participate. Let’s dive in!

What is an online shopping fundraiser?

Online shopping fundraisers allow community members to give to your church by making everyday purchases at participating e-commerce businesses. Once the transaction is completed, a portion of the shopper’s sales total goes directly to your church.

One of the best-known programs that ran on this model was AmazonSmile, which your church likely heard of—and may have even participated in—before its February 2023 discontinuation. However, there are a number of AmazonSmile alternative platforms that you can still use to run your church’s fundraiser. Plus, many of these other programs offer advantages that AmazonSmile didn’t, such as a wider range of retailer options and higher commission rates (up to 10 percent depending on the business, as compared to AmazonSmile’s 0.5 percent rate).

Benefits of Online Shopping Fundraisers for Churches

Online shopping fundraisers benefit both the organizations that launch them and the supporters who participate. Here are just a few of the perks your church can enjoy:

  • An additional year-round revenue source. Your church likely brings in the majority of its contributions during specific periods, such as the year-end giving season and during fundraising events. However, having ongoing revenue streams to supplement these heightened giving times provides additional financial stability, and an online shopping fundraiser can serve as one of these.
  • Unrestricted revenue. Some of the gifts your church receives (particularly the larger ones) may come with donor restrictions, meaning you have to use the funding for a specific initiative. The contributions from online shopping fundraisers have no such restrictions, so you can put the funding toward any area of your church’s budget that needs additional financial support.
  • Scalability. Online shopping fundraisers work for organizations of all sizes, from the largest megachurches to the smallest community churches. As your church grows, your fundraiser can easily grow with you to help engage new members and fund the additional expenses associated with expansion.

On your congregation’s side, the biggest advantage of an online shopping fundraiser is convenience. Members can contribute to your church by purchasing items they were likely going to buy anyway, so they don’t have to spend any additional money or take any extra time. Since many of them already give of their resources in other ways, such as tithing and volunteering, they can make an even bigger difference without you needing to ask any more of them.

Steps to Launch Your Church’s Online Shopping Fundraiser

The first decision you’ll need to make about your church’s online shopping fundraiser is when to launch it. Although you could start a year-round fundraising initiative at any time, the best month to begin this one is November. The spirit of generosity that increases at the end of the year combined with the likelihood that your community will purchase many Christmas gifts, treats, and decorations at that time makes online shopping one of the best holiday fundraising ideas.

Once you’ve decided on the timing of your fundraiser, follow these three steps to get started:

ShopRaise_The Effective Church Group_Online Shopping Fundraisers for Churches: The Complete Guide_Supplementary [alt text: This flowchart shows three steps to launch an online shopping fundraiser for your church, which are discussed below.]

1. Choose a Fundraising Platform

When your church looks for a platform to launch your online shopping fundraiser, keep these considerations in mind:

  • If it’s free to use for both organizations and supporters.
  • How user-friendly the interface is, including the level of customer support provided.
  • How many businesses are in its network, as well as whether the platform handles retailer negotiations for participating organizations.

In addition to hosting your church’s fundraiser, this platform also provides the app and browser extension community members will use to participate. Once you’re onboarded, the fundraiser will essentially run itself, with all contributions being automatically funneled to you.

2. Spread the Word

Just because the running of an online shopping fundraiser is hands-off doesn’t mean your church has nothing to do after launch. There are two areas where you need to be actively involved throughout the fundraising process, and the first is communicating with your congregation.

Leverage the following marketing channels to promote your online shopping fundraiser:

  • Your church’s website. Create a dedicated page explaining how to participate and include links where community members can download the app and browser extension.
  • Social media. Announce your fundraiser on all of your church’s accounts and encourage followers to share your posts to get their family and friends involved.
  • Email marketing. Send out an instructional email at the beginning of the fundraiser as well as recurring messages to encourage your community to keep shopping in support of your church.
  • Flyers. Hang flyers on your church’s bulletin boards or in other visible locations in your building so members are reminded to participate when they attend services.

The platform you partner with may be able to help with these efforts by designing branded email templates, flyers, and website banners to promote your church’s fundraiser—make note of this perk during your research.

3. Track Your Results

The other area of your church’s online shopping fundraiser where you’ll need to be actively involved is in evaluating your results. You’ll be able to view real-time data through your fundraising platform, which you can use for two main purposes. First, seeing your shoppers’ names and fundraising totals allows you to thank your top contributors individually and encourage them to keep up the good work.

Additionally, Double the Donation recommends using donor data to hone your marketing strategy. If you know which members of your church community are (and aren’t!) participating, you can tailor your promotional messages to their interests and choose which communication channels to prioritize, both for sending out reminders and for expanding your participant base.

Keep in mind that an online shopping fundraiser isn’t a replacement for your church’s other giving initiatives. Instead, it should serve as an additional revenue stream to put your church in a stronger financial position and keep your community engaged throughout the year. Consider your budget, needs, and community’s preferences as you decide whether this fundraising method is right for your church.