Online merchandising for charities: Mater chicks in pink

As Australians mark Pink Ribbon Day on 27 October, we catch up with Lesley Ray from Mater Foundation, Brisbane to find out how it sells its Mater chicks in pink merchandise and lottery tickets on its website to help with fundraising efforts.

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women in Australia, and this year alone, 15,000 women will be diagnosed with the disease. Mater chicks in pink is a fundraising campaign of Mater Foundation, Brisbane and all funds raised through the various Mater chicks in pink activities are directed towards supporting women affected by breast cancer. Merchandise sales through its website is just one of the ways supporters engage with Mater chicks in pink.

A fundraising campaign of the Mater Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Mater Health Services, Mater chicks in pink supplies specially fitted mastectomy bras to women who undergo the loss of one or both breasts. It also provides wigs for women who lose their hair during chemotherapy, as well as counselling programs for women undergoing treatment.

“We also do very simple things like pay for parking and supply grocery vouchers,” says Lesley Ray, Executive Director of Fundraising at the Mater Foundation. “Every woman who comes into Mater for chemotherapy receives a Mater chicks in pink goodie bag, which is put together under the guidance of our breast care nurses. It’s all about finding ways for Mater chicks in pink to support a woman as she’s going through her treatment.”

Selling merchandise online

Mater chicks in pink sells merchandise, such as clothing and accessories, online. People can also make charitable donations or buy lottery tickets on the website.

Mater chicks in pink T-shirts, which the foundation began selling in 2004, remain the most popular item. “We call it ‘fashion for a cause’,” says Ray. “We also need to keep merchandise fresh, and we always have people asking what’s new that they can buy.”

While selling merchandise online is one part of its fundraising strategy, Mater chicks in pink’s main method of fundraising remains events, such as its annual Breast Ever Brunch, which encourages people to host a fundraising brunch between August and October.

“We have a solid fundraising strategy around our merchandise, but merchandise is not the biggest source of income in any fundraising organisation,” says Ray. “We don’t pretend to be retailers – our area of expertise is fundraising and philanthropy. Our merchandise allows people to connect with our cause through buying a T-shirt or a pair of socks or an apron.”

How can charities stretch their digital resources?

Like most charitable organisations, Mater Foundation faces resourcing challenges, including with its website.

“It can be hard to find the resources to keep your website fresh,” says Ray. “There’s nothing worse than if people want to buy something and the links don’t work or it’s not a smooth process.

“We have a group of fundraising specialists within the broader Mater Foundation who understand what makes people want to engage in fundraising activities. Very few fundraising organisations have the resources for a team of dedicated web developers though.”

Mater Foundation chose SecurePay as its payment gateway supplier for Mater chicks in pink merchandise due to its reputation for reliability. “SecurePay is highly credible and compliant and we were always going to go with this option,” says Ray. “It’s very reliable, which is something that we always have to offer our customers for any online transaction.”

Looking to the future, Ray believes e-commerce has a greater role to play within the charitable sector.

“So much of what we do is online, whether it’s for philanthropic support or our day-to-day living experiences,” she says, “and I believe that charitable organisations need to invest in this area because those who don’t will be left behind.”

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