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Which is The Better Cause Marketing Fundraiser, Merchandise or Paper Icon?

A local grocery store is selling paper shamrocks for MDA starting at $1. The local Cinemark theater is selling lapel pins for $3 that support the Variety Club. Both MDA and the Variety Club are august charities that in the main serve children. Both approaches have advantages to recommend them and shortcomings to overcome.

Here’s a short list of the pluses and minuses of each:
  • A box of 100 of either the lapel pin or the shamrock is probably about the same size, meaning they take an equivalent amount of counter space.
  • Sales of both the paper shamrock and the pins will eventually go stale. But whereas most retailers wouldn’t have many qualms about throwing the leftover paper icons in the recycle bin, it wouldn't be so easy to do the same for the Variety lapel pin because they have a higher perceived value.
  • Paper icons, if they’re displayed in the store or theater, can have such impact that they drive more sales. But they can also make a visual mess of your establishment.
  • Both are supported by their own activation; Variety Club produces a movie trailer that runs in the theaters where they’re sold. The MDA does a lot of PR and social media in support of the paper shamrock.
  • The pins are tied to characters from the Pixar movie, Monsters, Inc. and have the veneer of being collectable.
  • Both Variety Club and MDA have local affiliates. But the MDA has more affiliates in more markets, a much tighter organizational structure, a more easily recognizable mission, and is the better marketer.
  • The paper shamrocks probably cost less than a penny a piece to produce. The pins in bulk are probably a few dimes each. So MDA’s margins per unit sold are almost certainly higher. However, because of its higher sales price, the amount raised per unit will be higher for Variety Club lapel pin.
  • The lapel pins are made in China, so the lead time is much longer. MDA will use the same paper icons next year, so their lead time is really short.
  • The lapel pins almost have to be sold in theaters because they are themed to a movie. The paper shamrocks could be sold in a store, a bar, or a theater.
  • The lapel pins come with a note of explanation about the Variety Club. The paper shamrocks have only the pictures of the kids and a call to action.
So which is best? It depends on the charity’s needs and those of the sponsor.

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