Gift Cards for Schools & Nonprofits

Working with schools and nonprofits is a great way to increase your gift card sales while also donating to important causes.

Working with schools and nonprofits is a great way to increase your gift card sales while also donating to important causes. More and more, consumers are favoring brands that give back to their community.

Benefits of partnering with a nonprofit or school

  • Sell more gift cards
  • Increase visibility for your business and for the nonprofit
  • Gain customers’ favor by supporting local nonprofits
  • Provide your employees and customers with opportunities to give back
  • Promotional opportunities via nonprofits’ newsletters, websites, social media groups, and local events

What to look for in a nonprofit

  1. Verify the nonprofit’s IRS classification: 501(c) (3)
  2. Research the nonprofit’s goals. Are they quantifiable? Is the impact local?
  3. Nonprofit’s reach:
  • Donor base: 1,000+ people contributing monetarily to the nonprofit
  • Social base: 1,000+ “Likes” on Facebook or “Followers on Twitter”
  • Volunteer base: 200+ people who have contributed time to the cause

Ask yourself:

  • Do these three categories listed above make up the right target base (age, gender, geography, education, and income) of customers who would frequent your business?
  • Is there alignment with your business between seasonality, marketing calendars and/or events?

Nonprofit stats

  • Cause sponsorship is predicted to reach $1.78 billion in 2013, a projected increase of 4.8% over 2012, according to
  • Purpose is ever-more embedded in purchases. Over the years, consumers have taken increased action on behalf of brands with purpose. According to a study conducted by goodpurpose®, 80% of customers report the following:

    - I have more trust in a brand that is ethically and socially responsible

    - I am more likely to recommend a brand that supports a good cause than one that doesn’t

    - I would switch brands if a different brand supported a good cause

How to utilize your gift cards

  • Sell preloaded gift cards to schools or nonprofits at a percentage discount and allow them to sell the cards at face value and keep the difference as your donation.
  • Instead of providing cash donations for fundraising events, give schools and nonprofits gift cards loaded with your chosen amount. That way recipients visit your location and experience your brand.
  • Preload gift cards as prizes at cross-promotional events.
  • Run a promotion such as:

    - Buy a $50 gift card and donate $5 dollars to your nonprofit partner.

    - Buy a $50 gift card and give a $5 gift card to the nonprofit—drop it in a donation box at the register.

    - Co-brand a donation card with $xx value at merchant’s business and donate $xx to the nonprofit.

    - Donate a percentage of gift card sales to the nonprofit. For example, for the month of December donate 3% of all gift card sales to XYZ nonprofit. Both you and the nonprofit advertise this in-store, online, through social channels, in newsletters, etc.

    - Volunteer time. Allow your employees to donate volunteer time to chosen nonprofit and reward them with gift cards.

How the school or nonprofit can promote your business

  • Target students, parents, donors, members, volunteers and/or employees
  • Use your logo in their promotional materials
  • Include partnership messages in their emails, newsletters, social media and/or on their website
  • Allow you to participate in their events
  • Include logo and message on signage, t-shirts and/or advertising

How to get started

  1. Define the parameters of the offers you are willing to honor before contacting the nonprofit.

    Example: If you are selling gift cards to the nonprofit at a discount and then allowing them to sell them at full price, what bulk discounts will you offer?
  2. 1-99 $xx cards = 5% discount
  3. 00-250 $xx cards = 10% discount
  4. 251-500 $xx cards = 15% discount
  5. 501-1000 $xx cards = 20% discount
  6. Determine how you will contact target nonprofits through direct mail, emails and phone calls. Ideas include:
  7. Mail a gift card with a personal note explaining how they can use gift cards to raise money and awareness for the nonprofit.
  8. Follow up with a phone call to explain the different types of gift card applications you would suggest, how it benefits the nonprofit and what you hope to gain from the partnership.
  9. Gather contact information. Target contacts include the executive director, fundraising or marketing director and board members
  10. Research each potential partner per the above criteria: nonprofit IRS classification, goals and impact, nonprofit’s reach (donor/volunteer/social lists).
  11. Write script and identify benefits of partnering with you and what you hope to gain from the partnership.
  12. Coordinate direct mail piece (if applicable).
  13. Meet with contact(s) via phone or in person.
  14. Follow up regularly to keep the partnership moving forward and to discuss new events and opportunities.
  15. Include messaging of your nonprofit partnership(s) on your website, newsletters, Facebook and other social outlets and ask the nonprofit to do the same for you.
  16. Provide the nonprofit with the copy you would like them to use when promoting your business and gift card program.

Calling tips

  • Research each school or nonprofit to determine what their main focuses are: i.e., humanitarian, environmental, animal welfare, education, etc. Also understand why they are looking to raise money (e.g. build new facility, increased need in a specific area/region, etc.).
  • Find a common ground. Do you have a connection at the nonprofit? Have you or other employees volunteered there? Do you know someone who volunteers or donates there who could help you identify the correct person to contact?
  • Develop a script that is conversational and memorize it so you sound prepared but not robotic.
  • Ignite some interest by donating a gift card to the nonprofit for an upcoming event.
  • Make your calls early in the morning, if possible.
  • Be persistent and clearly outline the benefit to the nonprofit.
  • Follow up with an email.
  • Practice, practice, practice.

Script tips

The following structure works well for an opening statement:

  1. Greeting and introduction
  2. Reference point (something about the prospect)
  3. Benefits of your product or service
  4. Transition to a question or dialogue


For example:

“Good morning, Ms. Marshall. This is Ken Brown with XYZ Coffee Shop. I heard from one of my employees who regularly volunteers with your organization that you might be open to some creative new fundraising opportunities. I’d like to ask a few questions to determine how we might work together.”


Prepare an outline for the rest of your call to include:

  • Discuss how gift cards can be used for fundraising and rewards to benefit the nonprofit.
  • Be upfront and honest about your expectations of the partnership.
  • Agree on how they will help to promote your brand through their newsletter, co-branded signage at their next event, access to their donor/volunteer/social lists, etc.
  • Prepare for possible objections and your answers to them.
  • Ask for a face-to-face appointment to continue planning – or to drop off gift cards.

Why promote gift cards?

• 71% of gift card recipients spend over the gift card amount

• The average sale is 45% more than the value of the gift card

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