Green Merchandise Guide

Created for the Green Party US Merchandise Committee
Author: Chris Blankenhorn 
Last Updated: January 2021


Merchandise is a great way for a party or campaign to increase awareness, provide members with a way of showing their support, and even offer a supplemental revenue source.  But with Green Party’s limited resources, operating a store can often seem like a big task.  

This guide is intended to provide an overview of various merchandise and fulfillment systems that are available to Greens. These options should allow any Green Party or campaign, no matter their capacity or resource level, to offer at least a minimum selection of Green branded merchandise to their supporters.

Merchandise vs SWAG

As political parties and campaigns, Greens tend to have two differing uses for what would be traditionally called merchandise.  These two uses are very different in their purpose and how they fit within various merchandise models. They are not mutually exclusive, but two areas that your merchandise system will likely have to serve. 

The first of these uses is “For Sale Merchandise.”  For Sale Merchandise is sold through an online store or in person.  For Sale Merchandise can  generally be thought of as a product, with costs being recouped through sales.  As such, consideration has to be given to the total cost of each sale when pricing merchandise, not just the cost to produce the product, but also the cost to ship and any processing or handling costs.  Because of this, prices may vary between online sales and in person or local pick up/drop off sales, which do not require shipping.  The goal of For Sale Merchandise is at a minimum to make enough money to buy more merchandise, whether that be the materials to make more or the finished product itself. 

In the GPUS Merchandise Committee we operate under a “stay in the black”” mindset.  We do not strive to make a lot of money, but find price points that allow us to ensure that we break even, while providing quality, affordable merchandise to our supporters. 

The second use is “SWAG,” Stuff We All Get.  SWAG is generally the stuff you put on your table and write off the cost as part of outreach and promotion.  It’s the shirts you give volunteers who show up to march in the parade or to the protest with the Green contingent. Sometimes that mass of Green in the crowd is worth giving new members or allies a few shirts, as opposed to trying to sell them.  

In many instances SWAG may be drawn from the same inventory as For Sale Merchandise.  In such cases, it is important to keep a record of disbursement of merchandise for SWAG purchases, especially if you are going to rely on revenue from the sale of merchandise to purchase more stock.  When possible, you should at least ask that local parties or candidates help cover some of the costs involved, otherwise you can find yourself planning to fund the next merchandise purchase with the revenue from the previous order, but falling short on funds due to SWAG give-aways. In other circumstances, you might buy merchandise planning to give it away and donations received in return are a nice bonus.  This balance will be different depending on local circumstances. 

Green Values in Merchandise

As with everything in a capitalist economy, it can be somewhat difficult to provide merchandise that abides by Green values.  

The question of values does not only apply to the printing of products, but the production of the base product.  Where was the t-shirt made?  Where was the button stamped?  Where was the material sourced.  Obviously each layer of these questions adds to the complexity of the merchandise system.

For GPUS Merchandise, our standards are:

1) The production of raw materials (the t-shirt for example) is US made, Union Made, when possible.

2) The printing of the product is US and Union Made, when possible.

3) The products provided are as ecologically safe as possible.  

The downsides of strictly abiding by these values are that costs are increased, as US and Union-made materials cost more, and selection and range of product options are limited, as not all products have US and union-made lines.  The strict values that the GPUS Merchandise Committee unholds has a sizable impact on our costs and what we are able to accomplish.  The question of values in merchandise is best decided based on local perspectives and resources.  In some cases, a union printer might not be available.  In some cases, union, US-made raw materials might not be available or affordable.  

Financial Reporting

Financial reporting requirements will vary from state to state, and locality to locality, but generally merchandise purchases are not treated as the sale of a good, but donations to the party or campaign for which the donor receives something for their donation.  This structure means that no sales tax is needed, as the money received is simply a donation.  This also means that, if necessary, proper financial reporting information, such as Employer and Job Title, must be collected, as you would with a standard donation.  If there are costs or fees related to the fulfillment of the merchandise, such as shipping, that is not counted as a donation, but paying a fee, which is reported separately.  Because of this, GPUS covers shipping and accounts for it in pricing.  Shipping can be charged and calculated as separate from the donation in reporting, but that method takes more work in the billing and reporting process.

The GPUS Merchandise Committee likes to promote our pricing as “What You See is What You Get.”  This means no extra fees or taxes or shipping, the price you see is the price you pay.  We play up the values of US and Union-made in our promotion and product descriptions and we rely on our customers knowing that they are supporting the party with their donation, as our values lead to our prices being somewhat high. 

Merchandise System Options

The methods outlined below cover a wide range, both in terms of investment (monetary and time) and complexity, but are not all encompassing and may be combined together into a system that fits the needs of your organization.  The hope is that with one or a combination of a few of these methods every Green state party, local party, and campaign can offer Green merchandise to its supporters.  Following this section, there is a section on suggested service providers to make many of these options work.  That list is far from a total run down of available options and is based on the experiences of the author.

Important Terms: 

Payment Processing System: The system used to process digital payments.  PayPal and Stripe are the current industry standards.  Depending on your system you may link to these directly or through a third party system.
eCommerce System: The system where you online store is hosted and which interfaces with your Payment Processor to complete orders.  Notice of orders is then sent out in various ways depending on the system used. This may or may not also interact with a webstore.
Fulfillment System: How your products get to the donor once the order is processed. 

Link the GPUS Store

The simplest and cheapest (free) method to provide access to Green merchandise is to simply link the GPUS Store ( on your website or in your literature.  While there is no mechanism for any kind of referral fee at the moment, as we don’t tend to have a lot of profit under our break even philosophy, at least people will have a place to buy official Green Party apparel and accessories, as well download literature.  This method can be used in emails, your website, or on social media.  Bulk orders of merchandise for on the ground use can also be made through the GPUS Merchandise Committee. 


  • Minimal work.  Simply adding a link to your page and promotions to your social media/communications.


  • No revenue.  You direct Greens to buy from the national party. 
  • No control over products.  Unless you have your state appoint someone to the GPUS Merchandise Committee. 😉

We ask that every state or local Green Party that does not operate their own merchandise system please link the Green Party US Store ( on their websites.  This way supporters who visit their website and want to buy Green Party merchandise can do so, even if it is facilitated by the national party. 

In House Everything – Full DIY

This is the tried and true standard of grassroots political organizations historically.  The most DIY and, theoretically, the most profitable model, but it also requires the most skill and is the most resource intensive merchandise option.  Under this model, everything from the sourcing of raw materials to producing merchandise to sales to fulfillment and shipping are covered by the party or campaign. 

Under this process the party/campaign would,

  • Purchase and store raw materials. (blank apparel, button blanks, sticker blanks)
  • Purchase, store, and operate production machinery. (silk screens and ink, button press, printers)
  • Create and store final products until sold. 
  • Set up a Payment Processor to accept money online. (If needed)
  • Set up eCommerce system to manage an online store. (If needed)
  • Fulfill and Ship orders. (In-Person or via online store)


  • Production and Processing Labor can be done by volunteers or paid staff.
  • Can provide lower production costs with skilled volunteers/staff.
  • More control over inventory management and variety of selection. You can make what you need, when you need it.
  • Can provide volunteer/contract opportunities that provide skill training/a wage.


  • Time and Labor Intensive – Cost savings are realized by heavy lifting being done locally and/or by volunteer production systems.
  • Large Infrastructure Need – Purchase of Silk Screens, Presses, Ink, Button Presses, Digital Printers, and other necessary tools to create  finished products. As well as the storage space to hold raw materials, production spaces, and finished products.
  • Upfront Costs of Production – While owning the production machinery (press/screens, button press, printer, etc) will lead to long term cost reduction, it requires a heavy up front investment.  For instance, when buying a button press, you will usually be able to get button blank refills at a cost of fractions of what you will pay for a finished button from a supplier, but you have to invest the money for the press and supplies before you start and need to factor recouping that cost into your budget.
In House Inventory and Fulfillment

This method is probably the most common in the Green Party right now, with parties or campaigns buying stock of finished merchandise and managing the sales themselves.  It maintains some DIY aspects of the store operation (fulfillment), but outsources the production of merchandise to a third party.  In this method, the third party could be an online seller or a local print shop.  That finished merchandise would be stored by the party/campaign and shipped when orders were processed.  An important factor to remember in this method is that fulfillment time and shipping costs should still be factored into the merchandise costs, as this method makes it easy for that to not be considered due to it being a separate step in the merch process and likely handled by volunteers or existing staff.

This is how the Green Party US ran its store for years when we had paid staff and an office in DC.  

Under this process the party/campaign would,

  • Purchase finished products from third parties.
  • Store finished products until ordered.
  • Set up Payment Processor to accept money online.
  • Set up eCommerce system to manage an online store.
  • Fulfill and Ship orders. (In-Person or via online store)


  • Less labor intensive than Full DIY.  Allows the use of local/online shops for production. 
  • No need for expensive upfront production equipment.
  • Volunteer processing of orders can reduce costs. 


  • More costly production than Full DIY.
  • Labor intensive on the fulfillment side.
  • Requires storage space for merchandise.

Many Full DIY Stores may be a hybrid with this if method for select prodcuts, as not all merchandise may be produced in-house. (For Example, you may make shirts and buttons in house, but have to order stock of yard signs from an outside provider.)

Third Party Fulfillment 

Third Party Fulfillment utilizes third parties for all aspects of store management.  In this option, nearly all aspects of production, inventory, and day to day management of the store is outsourced to a third party. 

There are two main types of Third Party Fulfillment stores, which in some cases may be hybridized.  (Different companies may use different terms for these methods.)  The first kind is Inventoried Fulfillment.  In this system, the party/campaign purchases bulk inventory of merchandise which is stored by the fulfillment provider until an order is made.  Purchasing merchandise in bulk for storage results in lower per unit costs, but there is generally a per order fee associated with the service to cover the costs of collecting the merchandise from storage and shipping the order. The second type of Third Party Fulfillment store is Print on Demand (POD) or Print as You Go.  In the POD system, orders of select merchandise are produced only once they are ordered, generally runs are made at an agreed upon time period, once a week for instance.  This method lowers the upfront cost of purchasing merchandise inventory and lowers potential storage costs, but per unit prices are often higher than when purchasing in bulk.  

The main consideration for choosing between Inventoried Fulfillment and Print on Demand is balancing the party/campaign’s needs in terms of up front costs and profit margins. Do you need to pay less up front, but pay more per item or can you afford to pay more upfront and get better pricing for bulk purchases.

This method also leads to costs associated with the operation of your online store.  This could include development costs, hosting costs, customer service fees, and other costs associated with outsourcing the operation of your store.

Not all products may be available in Print on Demand depending on the provider.  This means that you may need to have a hybrid system where some of the merchandise is bulk purchased and stored for Inventoried Fulfillment and some is Printed on Demand when ordered.

Under this process the party/campaign would,

  • Purchase finished products from third parties.
  • Set up Payment Processor to accept money online.
  • Set up eCommerce system to manage online store.
  • Pay the fulfillment provider a fee for their services and costs.


  • Very little work needed for day to day operations on the part of the party/campaign.
  • Professional third party can ensure timely fulfillment, customer service, and tech support.
  • Access to a large number of product options. 
  • Print on Demand can offer more products for lower overhead.
  • Simplified accounting.
  • Analytic Tools (Included in most ecommerce platforms).


  • More costly fulfillment and processing than other options.
  • Inventory Fulfillment can still carry high overhead for merchandise.
  • If you require a special type of product, such as a specific colored shirt that is not in the provider’s normal stock, you may have to cover some or all of a bulk order of blank shirts to fulfill your orders on.