Conference Captures: Social Imprints on Custom Printing for Volunteer Swag

[This is the third in a series of video interviews captured at this year’s National Conference on Volunteering and Service, which took place June 22-24 in San Francisco. To see them all, click here.]

What’s a volunteer program without giveaways for volunteers? Whether it’s a t-shirt or a pen, an artfully chosen item in the right hands can deepen and strengthen the relationship between a volunteer and a nonprofit, help advertise a nonprofit as a great cause or place to volunteer, raise awareness about issues, and give volunteers an easy way to show their community that they care.

And, let’s not forget that a nice gift can be a key piece of your volunteer recognition program.

Social Imprints is an innovative San Francisco-based custom printer and social enterprise. Their business, while for-profit, is focused on providing nonprofits and businesses with “retail-ready” items for sale or giveaway. As part of its social mission, Social Imprints also provides at-risk adults with training and opportunities to make a new start.

I caught up with Jeff and Kevin from Social Imprints at the National Conference on Volunteering and Service in San Francisco to get ideas on how to strengthen volunteer programs through thoughtful custom print jobs and other items.

Among my findings:

  • It turns out that swag doesn’t need to be lame – there’s a whole bunch of a cool stuff nonprofits can get printing at surprisingly low costs. (Yes, that’s an old VolunteerMatch t-shirt at the Cafe Press site… guilty as charged!)
  • The big trend is “retail ready,” which means the kind of stuff people will actually want to wear or use. In the video we see some great water bottles, sun glasses, and trendy t-shirts.
  • Details matter – and even labels count. Considering removing a generic shirt label like Hanes or American Apparel and replacing it with something related to your cause or even your own logo.
  • Some of the items are far cheaper at a printer like Social Imprints than at a retail store. The water bottles in the video can be bought by your organization for volunteers for less than $5 each.

How are nonprofits using custom printing today in their volunteer programs? We see lots of branded t-shirts, baseball hats, and work clothes being handed out for big days of service, but increasingly we’re also seeing flash drives for file management for skilled volunteer projects and notepads for projects involving record keeping.

Tell us how your organization is using branded swag for volunteer recognition or to facilitate projects. Use the form here to share your story.