From buttons to bumper stickers to T-shirts, political merch has been a staple of campaigns since the existence of our democracy. Merch is a way for supporters, donors, and volunteers to signal their values, to identify with others, and to be a walking advertisement for their favorite candidates or causes. 

Like campaign logos and yard signs, good political merch is instantly recognizable as a visual extension and representation of you as a candidate. But how do you design and order your campaign merch? What rules are in place to regulate how it’s sold, and how are those donations accounted for in the campaign books? And most importantly, does political merchandise even work to help you win your race? 

Answers to those questions and others await in this post on everything you need to know about political merch. Let’s dive in.

Does merch help your campaign?

Absolutely! Merchandise can help your campaign in a few ways:

  1. Turns supporters into walking billboards. With the right design, your campaign merch will be eye-catching and recognizable.
  2. Builds community among your supporters. Most of your volunteers and grassroots donors aren’t paying top dollar for fundraising events, but both groups are still an invaluable part of your team. Political merch is a great way to seek low-dollar donations and reward volunteers by acknowledging their support and hard work.
  3. Adds another fundraising route for your campaign. You can step outside your typical fundraising email to offer supporters something tangible. Depending on how many products you sell, you might even have the potential for an ongoing stream of grassroots donations.

Just because campaign merch can be helpful in these ways doesn’t mean your campaign should dive headfirst into creating and ordering merch. Depending on the product and the quality, the cost can really add up. While bulk orders can save you money in the long run, don’t order more merch than you can sell or distribute.

How should your campaign design its political merch?

You can start with something as simple as your campaign logo, but it’s always good to riff from there and think about how the design will look on different products. 

Depending on your budget and the makeup of your campaign staff, you can design merch in a few different ways. If you’re lucky enough to have a talented designer on your team, they can create and adapt high-res designs for different products. 

If you’re running a larger campaign with a bigger budget, you can also invest in political campaign consultants who specialize in graphic design and political branding. These consultants will have working knowledge of the design trends specific to political campaign logos and branding.

If you have a smaller campaign or limited budget, you can also outsource design work on sites like Creative Cabinet, Fiverr, or 99designs. All three sites offer a platform where you can find thousands of designers at many different price points.

Where do you produce political merch? 

Once you’ve done the hard work of designing the branding for your campaign merch, you’ll need to actually produce it. There are quite a few online printers out there, but always ensure you’re using a union print shop. The Communications Workers of America (CWA) put together a directory of union printers to make that process easy. 

You can also reach out to your local Democratic party organization to ask for any resources or recommendations. For example, here’s a link to the resources that might be available for a San Diego area campaign.

In addition, Numero is excited to offer our customers the ability to order merch. If your campaign is working with Numero, you’ll now see an option to order bulk merchandise within our CRM, with low minimums. You can order 25 T-shirts or thousands of different products. If your campaign isn’t already working with Numero, you still have access to our bulk merch offerings—just reach out to us! And rest assured that everything is union-printed, union-fulfilled, and made in the USA.

How do you sell political merch for your campaign? And how do you get people to buy it?

To get started selling merch for your campaign, you’ll most likely want to set up an online store and connect it to your website. You’ll then want to work with your merch provider to set up the store. Taking that step will help you understand what software you need to handle logistics like setting up payment processing, shipping, and fulfillment. 

You also need to dedicate resources to promoting your merchandise—after all, you want people to buy it. Announce your launch in an email, on social media, and on your website, but don’t stop there! E-commerce is also a huge and growing source of fundraising for political candidates

None of that will help you long term, however, if you don’t continue to market the merch. To do so, highlight different products consistently on different marketing channels and offer special discounts when possible. People will forget about your store (or never even hear about it in the first place) if you aren’t consistently pointing them to it. 

What rules and regulations do you need to know?

First and foremost, when someone buys political merch, the raised funds are a campaign donation. Make sure to follow the campaign fundraising and spending rules for your jurisdiction—whether you’re running for a local office like mayor, a seat in the state legislature, or a seat in the US Congress.

Image credit: Campaign Buttons” by L. Allen Brewer is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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