I previously wrote about how in Magento Virtual Products would work well for a site supporting a school in Africa. Supporters (“Customers” in Magento retail terminology) can donate (“buy”) towards a selected item such as “pens and pencils” for a student.
Grouped products go a little further. As well as listing several individual items on your site for different things a student may need for a school year, you may choose to create a Grouped Product that groups them into a single product listing. For example, you may have a school backpack plus pens and paper. Offering a complete group allows supporters to fund everything a child need, or fund individual items if the whole group is too expensive.
The way this works is the user is shown the list of individual items for sponsorship. A quantity can be specified for each (grouping shows them together, it does not prohibit you from ordering individual items still).
Defining a grouped product is very much like a Virtual Product, although there are a few more fields you may be prompted for. For example weight is important if it was a group of Simple Products (weight is important for shipping). As the group only contains virtual products fields like weight can be omitted or set to zero. The only extra step is to make sure under Associated Products page when defining the new Grouped Product you select the products you wish to add to the group.
There are other ways to achieve a similar effect to a grouped product using Cross Selling. Instead of defining a Grouped Product as above, an alternative is to add the pens and paper as a “cross sell” product to the school bag (and possibly vice versa). When the user goes to checkout (pay for) a school bag, they will be shown on the shopping cart page a message “Based on your selection, you may be interested in the following items”. This lets the supporter know of other suggested items to combine with the school bag.
To add a cross sell, go to the manage products page as before, but select (edit) the existing product. Go to the Cross-sells page (tab) and click the Reset Filter button. (If you had lots of products in the store you may want to specify search criteria to narrow in more quickly on the cross-sell item.) Click the checkbox next to the desired cross-sell items and Save the results.
A final note: Grouped products and cross selling can feel at first a bit like trying to get someone to spend more money than they want to. While this attitude may be what is expected for a retail site, a charity site is expected to be especially appreciative of supporters and trying to “do the right thing” for those it is supporting. On the other hand, providing supporters who want to support your cause with more information can help them. Maybe they want to fully sponsor a child but did not realize everything a school child needs for the year. Be aware of features like grouped products and cross sells (and up-sells and related products) in Magento, but be especially sensitive to when they are appropriate to use or not.