T-shirt fundraisers are a simple and effective fundraising option for nonprofits.

T-shirt Fundraiser – Nonprofit Catalog

Have you ever seen a professional sports team full of players all wearing different jerseys? Of course not — that would be confusing for both the athletes and spectators. Sports teams and even sports fans are recognized by their jerseys. 

The same principle applies to fundraising — people recognize your supporters by your branded merchandise. Mugs, blankets, hats, and other branded materials identify who is a part of your support team. For this reason, t-shirt fundraising is one of the most popular merchandise fundraising campaigns.

If you are ready to try out a new fundraising idea while increasing your brand awareness, t-shirt fundraising is a go-to. In this article, we will walk you through the t-shirt fundraising basics to help you get started. 

What is a t-shirt fundraiser?

A t-shirt fundraiser is a type of campaign where a nonprofit sells branded t-shirts to supporters to raise funds for its mission. Your t-shirt should capture your nonprofit brand and mission with an attractive design. 

A t-shirt fundraiser can stand on its own, or you can pair it with another fundraising opportunity, such as a 5K or peer-to-peer fundraising campaign. Encourage 5K participants and supporters to purchase a t-shirt to show off their team spirit. If your fun run is in the summer, consider purchasing lightweight, short-sleeve t-shirts. 

Peer-to-peer fundraisers can use social media and link to their own web pages to sell your spiffy t-shirts. Recruit volunteers ahead of time to gather more t-shirt interest and make your campaign a success. 

Steps to plan a t-shirt fundraiser

Running a t-shirt fundraiser can be a breeze if you follow a few general guidelines. If you’ve decided it’s time to launch a t-shirt fundraiser, it won’t take too long to get up and running. Use these steps to start your fundraiser

1. Create a t-shirt design

You can develop a design internally or ask your supporters to send in their ideas. If you’re designing a t-shirt from scratch, start by brainstorming simple ways to illustrate your cause. Incorporate harmonious colors and consider your supporter’s preferences. What type of t-shirt would they be proud to wear?

When you have settled on a basic design, choose a typeface that coordinates well. Avoid cursive or script fonts which tend to decrease legibility. Instead, use bold type and a large font size to identify the name of your fundraiser. Then, place your nonprofit name in a smaller font size below or next to it.

Next, you can gather input on how to perfect your design. Try out different iterations to see which one suits your fundraiser best. You can even turn it into a contest by having supporters vote on their favorite design.  

Whichever illustration you go with, make sure your design prominently features your nonprofit’s brand elements, such as your logo. That way, your artistically-depicted cause becomes associated with your nonprofit brand. 

2. Decide how you’ll distribute your shirts

You can distribute your t-shirt either online or in person. There are benefits to either distribution process. Online distribution can simplify t-shirt pick-up — just be sure supporters can track their incoming orders. If a supporter’s t-shirt does not come in on time, consider stashing extra shirts at the fundraising event. 

In-person t-shirt distribution can show off your design a bit more. Supporters may be able to determine their size preferences as well. However, in-person pick-up may be inconvenient for some. In this case, a combination of both online and in-person distribution would be ideal. 

3. Choose a t-shirt fundraising platform

T-shirt fundraising platforms are resources to kickstart your online fundraising campaigns. Platforms like Bonfire or Custom Ink have pre-made graphics and templates you can apply to your t-shirt designs. They also include case studies you can browse to see which previous campaigns were successful.

Neither platform requires inventory and both utilize built-in promotional features. Bonfire ships order straight to buyers while CustomInk offers a hybrid shipping option. Browse each website to discover which option is best for you 

4. Promote your t-shirt fundraiser

Now it’s time to reveal your beautiful t-shirt design to the world! Use several different channels to get the word out and reach different audiences. For instance, if you’re using your t-shirt fundraiser to increase school funding, parents may prefer to access your t-shirts via email and students would be more likely to snag a t-shirt from a social media page.

Here’s a full list of communication channels to leverage:

  • Email
  • Social media
  • Your website
  • Flyers
  • Direct mail

Promote your branded t-shirts with photos of supporters wearing your shirt. Pictures of volunteers, families, and students sporting your branded gear will increase your nonprofit awareness and get people interested. Fun t-shirt flyers are an effective offline marketing material that can be eye-catching. Hang up flyers at local businesses or distribute them at an upcoming nonprofit event. 

5. Track your fundraising progress

Keep a detailed list of t-shirts sold and funds raised. Let your audience know how much they have donated at the halfway point and how much more you need to reach your goal. If you’re a few t-shirts away, encourage supporters to share your fundraiser on their social media story to hit your goal. 

T-shirt fundraising platforms have sales tracking systems built into their interface. Some platforms also count the number of site visits and donations. Refresh your chosen platform often to stay updated on your progress. 

6. Thank your donors

As your t-shirt fundraiser wraps up, thank supporters for their efforts. Email or handwrite your thank-you messages to generous donors. Remind them why you are grateful to have them on your team. Whenever possible, share how their donation directly impacted your mission. 

Additional Resources

Learn why the Microsoft Ad Grant is a powerful resource for nonprofits.

The Basics of Microsoft Ad Grants – Nonprofit Catalog

In a world driven by digital marketing, nonprofits have to do what they can to stand out online. The Microsoft Ad Grant unlocks the power of search engine marketing for any sized nonprofit! All you have to do is target the keywords your supporters are searching for online and then write compelling ads that speak to those individuals.

What Is The Microsoft Ad Grant?

Known officially as Microsoft Ads for Social Impact, this program provides approved organizations with $3,000 each month to spend on advertising across Microsoft’s digital search and native advertising network. Participating organizations can boost their web content across Bing, Yahoo, AOL, outlook.com, MSN, and Microsoft Edge.

By strategically choosing keywords and boosting the right landing pages, your nonprofit can increase site conversions and fulfill all sorts of organizational goals, like:

  • Increasing funding through more donations, ticket sales, and sponsorships
  • Boosting awareness for your cause by sharing educational content
  • Creating change in your community by amplifying advocacy opportunities
  • Growing your volunteer base by promoting volunteer opportunities

Similar to Google Grants, all you have to do is meet the eligibility requirements, apply, and create ads that resonate with prospective supporters.

Note that for now, Microsoft Ad Grants are only available to U.S.-based nonprofits.

Eligibility Requirements For Microsoft Ad Grants

As with any corporate giving program, Microsoft only wants reputable organizations to participate. After all, anyone who participates will be associated with the Ads for Social Impact program, so if unsavory content is promoted, users will view Microsoft as responsible for allowing the ad to run.

Luckily, the criteria are pretty easy to meet for most organizations. Here’s what’s required to receive the Microsoft Ad Grant:

  • Recognized legal status. Your organization must be a nonprofit or non-governmental organization with recognized legal status. This means U.S. organizations must be registered as 501(c)(3) organizations with the IRS. Public libraries and museums are also eligible.
  • A not-for-profit mission. Your organization should operate on a not-for-profit basis and pursue a mission that benefits the local community.
  • No discriminatory policies. You cannot have a policy or mission of discrimination based on race, sex, age, marital status, sexual orientation, political affiliation, or any other area.
  • Adequate website content. The goal of the program is to boost mission-based web content. Applicants must have a functional website that provides adequate details about the nonprofit.
Make sure you meet these eligibility requirements for Microsoft Ad Grants before applying.

Best of all, unlike traditional grants, you don’t have to compete for the funds. Any eligible organization will receive the full $3,000 dollars.

Tips For Making the Most of Microsoft Ad Grants

Search engine marketing is usually an expensive strategy. Microsoft puts it into reach for nonprofits that couldn’t normally afford the extra spending. However, the Microsoft Ad Grant is only as powerful as you make it! Let’s dive into a few tips for squeezing the most out of your Microsoft Ad Grant budget.

Use it in conjunction with Google Grants.

If you’re interested in Microsoft Ad Grants, there’s a good chance you already leverage or have at least heard about Google Ad Grants. If not, get ready for another great marketing opportunity!

Google offers a similar program where they offer nonprofits $10,000 in ad spending. Both Microsoft and Google’s programs have their perks. While Google has the obvious benefit of a larger budget, Microsoft’s platforms have fewer advertisers and therefore lower competition.

Luckily, you don’t have to choose to participate in one or the other. In fact, you have a lot to gain from using them both and creating complementary strategies. You might:

  • Target lower-volume, bottom-of-the-sales funnel keywords with Microsoft. Microsoft’s advertising platform has a higher impression share and cheaper costs per clicks (CPCs) than Google, making it easier to target specific buying terms.
  • Speak to different audiences with your ads. Users in the Microsoft Search Network tend to be older, big spenders, in committed relationships, and wealthy. Google’s users tend to be younger and more tech-savvy. Knowing this, you can take different angles with your ads to speak to these audiences.

Tapping into both programs will allow you to reach an astounding 93% of internet users based on each platform’s current search engine market share. Know that tackling both programs will take a lot of time, though. You might need to turn to a nonprofit search engine marketing agency to leverage both.

Use ad extensions.

Construct stronger ads by building them out with ad extensions. The more robust your ads are, the more they’ll stand out from other advertisements.

Microsoft gives you plenty of options to choose from, including:

  • Callout extensions: Use these to add snippets of non-clickable text that highlight information about your organization and its services. Each account, campaign, or ad group can be associated with 2 to 20 callout extensions.
  • Sitelink extensions: Link to additional pages on your website to provide other ways for users to engage with your organization.
  • Action extensions: Create CTA buttons for your ads. These clickable buttons will appear next to your ad’s description, and you can choose from 62 different options like “Donate,” “Subscribe,” and “Learn more.”

In Getting Attention’s guide to Microsoft Ad Grants, they provide an excellent example of these extensions in action. Take a look at how The Salvation Army built out an ad using ad extensions:

This screenshot shows how you can use extensions to build out ads using the Microsoft Ad Grant.

Set clear goals for your campaigns.

Like we mentioned, nonprofits can achieve a wide range of goals through the Microsoft Ad Grants program.

If you want to boost your volunteer numbers, create campaigns centered around volunteer recruitment where you boost your volunteer registration and information pages.

To increase funding, promote your donation form, specific campaign pages, or your how-to-give page.

If you want to increase event attendance, promote webpages with information about your webinars, 5Ks, conferences, and other events.

To increase advocacy participation, share your online petitions and advocacy event pages.

With clear goals for your campaigns, you can choose the right keywords, pick the correct landing pages, and compose compelling ad copy that will drive more users to convert. The sky is the limit!

Additional Resources

Nonprofit Catalog – Read up on more nonprofit essentials by exploring our Nonprofit Catalog.

The Microsoft Ad Grant: An Essential Nonprofit Tool – Dive further into the program with our ultimate guide to Microsoft Ad Grants.

Nonprofit Marketing Ideas: Promote Your Cause Effectively – Learn how opportunities like Microsoft Ad Grants can take your marketing to the next level.

Annual Appeal Basics and Getting Started — Nonprofit Catalog

Nonprofits have a variety of impactful initiatives throughout the year that they prioritize in their fundraising calendar. Annual appeals, which can bring in some of the largest donations in a calendar year and often fund the core of a nonprofit’s activities, are one of those top priorities. Read on to learn what an annual appeal is, what you need to get started, and how to write an annual appeal.

What is an Annual Appeal? 

An annual appeal is a message your nonprofit sends to its supporters, often toward the end of the calendar year, updating them on your organization’s accomplishments and asking for their financial support. These messages can be sent via email or direct mail. 

Annual appeals are critical to the healthy functioning of a nonprofit. In fact, 25% of annual gifts are received in December, meaning that a quarter of all gifts that a nonprofit receives in a calendar year are driven in part by annual appeals.

According to the 2021 M+R Benchmark Study, 25% of nonprofit donations were received in the month of December in 2021.

Annual appeals not only bring in end-of-year donations but also allow for opportunities to engage and retain donors. Donors are interested in what your nonprofit is doing, and, more importantly, how you’re using their donations.

Annual appeals are essential across the fundraising sector, as colleges and universities can send annual appeals to solicit donations as well. Alumni and other supporters of colleges and universities are equally interested in learning what initiatives their alma mater is taking on, and annual appeals present the perfect opportunity to maximize university fundraising efforts.

What Resources Do You Need to Write an Annual Appeal? 

Once you decide to capitalize on the benefits of an annual appeal, there are a few things you’ll need to actually write your annual appeal. These resources include:

  • A nonprofit CRM: Utilize your donor data to personalize your messages with supporters’ names and giving histories. Make your donors feel special by letting them know you remember their contributions.
  • A photobank: Make sure to include images from your organization’s events throughout the year. Remember, donors want to see for themselves what your nonprofit has been doing and where their donations will go.
  • A word processor and grammar checker software: While some fundraising appeals can be hand-written, opt to write your annual appeal electronically to ensure that your process is efficient and your message is professional.
  • Email marketing platform: An email platform can help you automate your annual appeal while facilitating personalization through donor segmentation. Plus, you’ll be able to see information about open rates, which will help you gather data on the success of your appeal.
  • Direct mail marketing provider: If you choose to send a hard copy of your annual appeal via direct mail, work with a direct mail marketing provider to help you design, print, and send off the appeal letters to your supporters.

How to Write an Annual Appeal Letter

There’s no exact formula for writing an annual appeal that will work for every organization. But there are a few best practices to keep in mind to ensure the success of your annual appeal:

Writing an annual appeal requires you to know your audience, develop your story, provide an easy way to give, and express gratitude.
  1. Know your audience. Create different versions of your annual appeal to send to different audiences. For example, you might highlight background information about your nonprofit in a letter to a new supporter. On the other hand, you can provide more detailed updates in your letter to longtime donors.
  2. Develop your story. Your appeal should highlight the great work you’ve done throughout the year. Choose a specific example of the work you’ve done to include in your annual appeal. Make sure it has a compelling protagonist, includes direct quotes and images, and weaves in your fundraising metrics and outcomes.
  3. Provide an easy way to give. Include a link to your online donation page, provide a QR code, or offer a pre-addressed envelope. If your donors want to give, make it as easy as possible for them to do so.
  4. Express gratitude. Donor recognition is integral to donor retention, meaning donors who feel appreciated are much more likely to give again. So don’t forget to say, “Thank you!”

The most important thing to remember when writing your annual appeal is that there’s a reason your donors have supported you in the past. Stay true to your mission and show appreciation for the donations that make your mission possible.

Additional Resources