An affiliate program is a partnership between a seller (like you or your group) and a company (like Target, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Dell, Amazon.com and thousands of other companies) where the company pays you a commission (a percentage that is typically 5-15% of the sales price) if you send a buyer to the company’s website and it results in a sale.

Sound easy?

It can be. Especially if you have a built-in customer base like a school or church. And, except for the minimal cost of the website hosting, it doesn’t cost you a penny.

As with wholesale drop-shippers, affiliate programs allow you to sell almost any product imaginable without having to buy, store or ship anything.

The only things you have to do is drive traffic to your website and give your visitors the opportunity to click on your links – links that go to the merchants that you’ve chosen. In return, your group can earn commissions on click-throughs, leads, or purchases made through your site.

Believe it or not.

The companies WANT you to do it. They make money, you make money. It’s that simple. For those companies, it’s like hiring a large, commission-only sales force that spans the globe.

The nitty gritty.

You can sign up for numerous affiliate programs through “affiliate networks”, such as Commission Junction and ClickBank. There is no cost to join.

After signing up with these networks, you are assigned a special ID number. You then select some companies that have products that are appropriate for your audience, and you are given special tracking links with your ID number in them.

Your customers click on these links within your site and the tracking code ensures you get credit for it.

How can affiliate programs work for your group?

Your approach to fundraising with affiliate programs depends partly on whether your group is large or small. Large groups like schools or churches can sign up for all the affiliate programs they can find (there are thousands of them) and encourage their members to visit their website before buying anything online.affiliate marketing

Imagine how much money you can raise if your group has hundreds or thousands of members, and each member makes a few purchases a month through your site. Wow.

Smaller fundraising groups need a different approach to drive traffic to their sites. One of the best ways to do this is to have your site focus on a specific niche.

To see some real-world examples of successful niche sites, click here (be patient, there are a bunch, so it may take a few moments to load).

Notice how all of those simple sites target a specific topic. Many of them earn money through affiliate programs.


  • The potential profit is endless.
  • Since you never deal with the products, your only job is to drive traffic to the affiliate company. They take care of the sales.
  • Three ways to earn money: pay per click, pay per lead, and pay per sale.
  • Some companies provide incentive bonuses – the more business you bring them, the higher the commission percentage they pay you.

Potential pitfalls:

  • Your profit per customer is less than if you sell your own products or sell products through a wholesale distributor.
  • Choose your affiliate companies carefully. If their site isn’t very compelling, you won’t make many commissions.

Here’s a list of the biggest affiliate networks (there are dozens more)

Commission Junction




A step-by-step guide

I first learned about affiliate programs from Dr. Ken Evoy, one of the masters of making web sites that sell.  He wrote a book called the Affiliate Masters Course, which covers nearly everything you need to know. You can download it for FREE from here.

Or, click here to see a really good video about affiliate marketing and easy website building.

Next: website fundraiser idea – sell traditional fundraising products from a website

Or jump to another page in the series:

  1. Wholesale products drop-shipped to your customers.
  2. Fundraising with affiliate programs.
  3. Turbo-charging sales of traditional fundraising products.
  4. Google Adsense – one of the coolest ideas ever.
  5. Where’s the best place to start?