Quick Shot: 8 Ways to Market Your Nonprofit Thrift Store

By Mindy Sherfy, VP/Strategy, Regional and National Accounts

As a young fundraiser, you likely learned the importance of diversifying your revenue streams (i.e., don’t put all your eggs in one basket!). For many nonprofit organizations, especially Rescue Missions, one revenue stream they’ve introduced is social enterprises, such as thrift stores. But how do you effectively market your nonprofit thrift store and ensure it makes a profit? 

Did you know? 62% of Gen Z and millennial consumers said they look for items secondhand before buying new. 

With over 25,000 resale, consignment and not for profit resale shops in the United States, how do you effectively market your nonprofit thrift store to create buzz without breaking the bank? Here are 8 ways to market your nonprofit thrift store and draw shoppers to your store at little to no cost.

1. Social Media

Using organic social media is a great way to market your nonprofit thrift store. Leading up to your store’s opening, post two or three times a week on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and TikTok. Make sure to tailor your posts to the audiences on each platform. 

Don’t forget to…

  • Spotlight volunteers and staff sorting through donations and putting together displays
  • Highlight merchandise that makes your store stand out
  • Announce grand opening sales and events
  • Tell how sales from the store support the work your ministry does

TIP! Be visual. A picture really does paint a thousand words. Photos and videos will capture the attention of potential shoppers and people who will donate their gently used goods to keep your store stocked. 

2. Email Marketing 

Another effective strategy to market your nonprofit thrift store is by sending weekly emails to your organization’s email list. Be sure to include donors and non-donors, businesses, churches, individuals, vendors, advisors… you get it – send to all email addresses you have. 

Use email to update your contacts on the store progress, invite them to a sneak peek event before the store opens and include a discount for the grand opening. Be sure to include testimonies of people in your programs and community members who need quality used clothing, furniture and other items to care for their families.

3. Website

Create a splash on your website with a banner image on the home page that links to a new thrift store landing page. Again, use lots of photos to highlight unique merchandise, great buys and sales. Consider adding a lightbox or sticky bar on your homepage to announce the grand opening event and location.

TIP! Be sure your website has information for donors, too – this is a key part of marketing your nonprofit thrift store! Share which items you accept, where and how to drop off donations and if you offer pickups.

4. Digital Media

Update your search ads (Google, Bing, etc.) with keywords that will drive thrifters to your website where they can learn more about your store. If your budget allows, run display ads to retarget these website visitors.

5. Outdoor

Consider purchasing ads at bus stops or billboards to market your nonprofit thrift store within the community. 

Don’t have funds to cover these costs? Here are a few ways to market in a cost-effective way: 

  • Identify a business partner who would cover the cost or share part of their digital billboard impressions. 
  • Hang a “COMING SOON” banner at your new location and a “VISIT OUR NEW THRIFT STORE” banner on the side of your organization’s main building.
  • Buy booth space at community yard sales and swap meets, both to sell and to promote your business.

6. Media

If you have a limited budget, you may think radio, TV and newspaper are off limits. But there are ways to get free or significantly discounted advertising to market your nonprofit thrift store if you build relationships with your local media. Here are a few ideas:

  • Send a press release to smaller community papers. Pitch a human interest story that highlights the importance of learning job skills – and how the thrift store will provide this vital experience for those you employ. 
  • Include local network news in your press release distribution. With the right kind of grand opening event, you may capture their attention!
  • Consider a radio spot for your grand opening event, if budget allows. Be sure to negotiate ads leading up to the event and for the week after the event. Pro bono PSAs may also be available.

TIP! Ads in free papers are sometimes more affordable than traditional media. Look for ad space in homeowner and condo association newsletters or college campus newspapers, too.

7. Direct Mail

Thrift store success is based on having dedicated donors who provide merchandise and savvy shoppers who walk through your doors. Postcards are often an affordable and effective way to market your nonprofit thrift store to these specific audiences. Your newsletter also offers prime real estate for introducing your donors to your new thrift store.

8. Grassroots

In addition to the marketing opportunities above, putting on your tennis shoes and hitting the pavement is another great way to market your nonprofit thrift store. Here are a few ideas:

  • Take gift baskets to businesses and organizations that neighbor your thrift store, and invite them to a sneak peak event the night before the grand opening.
  • Establish “discount days” for educators, first responders & health care workers, city employees, etc. and provide them with fliers to promote at their locations.
  • Include a blurb like “Check out our new thrift store” in your email signature.
  • Post fliers on bulletin boards at local grocery stores and restaurants, charities, social service agencies and churches.
  • Print an insert to include in your thank you letters to donors.
  • Host events such as DIY furniture painting, upcycling or a fashion show. 

The ways to market your nonprofit thrift store are limitless. If your organization has a thrift store, I’d love to hear your ideas. And if you have questions about implementing any of the strategies I shared above, please don’t hesitate to email me – I’d love to help! 

Check out last week’s Quick Shot – “3 Steps to Giving Great Feedback on Fundraising

  • Mindy Sherfy

    Mindy Sherfy, Vice President, Client Strategy – Regional and National Accounts

    Mindy Sherfy brings to the table more than 30 years of experience in direct marketing and strategic nonprofit fundraising. She has had the opportunity to work with many Rescue Missions, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Eternal Word Television Network and The Salvation Army. Prior to joining Brewer Direct, she served as a Senior Account Director at The Lukens Company.

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