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How to Sell T-Shirts to Fundraise for Your Volunteer Program

Buying t-shirts is something people do every day, making it an excellent nonprofit fundraising opportunity. Think about it: How often do you pass people wearing a t-shirt that promotes a cause like Autism Speaks, United Way, or Black Lives Matter? That t-shirt means something to whoever’s wearing it and communicates to others that they care about that cause. 

If your volunteer program is looking for an easy way to boost revenue, a t-shirt fundraiser is a low-risk, high-return opportunity for any cause. With enough sales, you can provide volunteers with materials to complete hands-on jobs or cover the cost of any necessary supplies. There’s also the bonus of spreading awareness for your cause when buyers wear your t-shirt in public.

Before launching your t-shirt fundraiser, you’ll need to lay out your game plan. We’ll walk through these strategies so that you earn as much money for your volunteer program as possible:

T-shirt fundraisers can be highly rewarding, even more so when you plan your strategy beforehand. These impactful yet straightforward suggestions will help take your t-shirt campaign to the next level so that you can invest more in your volunteers. 

Find a T-Shirt Fundraising Platform

Choosing the right t-shirt fundraising platform can make a notable difference in your campaign’s success. The site you choose should offer plenty of design options, promotional tools, and selling features that empower you to maximize sales. 

Double the Donation’s guide to the best t-shirt fundraising websites lists several options to get you started. According to their guide, you should go with a solution that avoids startup costs, fully protects supporters’ information, and offers reliable customer support to guide you through any challenges.

As you narrow down your options, keep an eye out for a platform that offers:

  • Several styles. Offer your supporters a variety of t-shirt sizes and styles (like short sleeves, long sleeves, and sweatshirts). There should be an option for everyone, so no one has to miss out just because you don’t have a specific style or size. If your organization caters to a younger audience, double-check that the platform offers youth sizes.
  • Plenty of design tools. Intuitive design tools will empower you to customize your shirt to fully represent your cause. You should be able to upload your artwork, pick from the platform’s graphics, or jumpstart your design with a t-shirt design template. Some websites even offer expert guidance from a design team. Regardless of the design support your t-shirt fundraising platform offers, just be sure you’ll know how your design will look when printed.
  • User-friendly storefront. It should be simple to launch your campaign page and even easier for supporters to place their orders. Want to feature multiple designs? Some t-shirt fundraising platforms will even let you build an online storefront that centralizes all your designs into one location.
  • No inventory costs. If this is your first t-shirt fundraiser, it can be hard to predict how many you’ll end up selling. Choose a t-shirt fundraising platform that doesn’t have upfront or inventory costs, so there won’t be a risk of losing money and ending up with leftover t-shirts. 

Don’t underestimate the power of a well-made t-shirt fundraising platform. It can make all the difference in your campaign, all the way from setting up your campaign to distributing t-shirts. Otherwise, you risk missing out on sales due to a lack of style options, poor design, or a negative user experience.

Create an Eye-Catching Design

It should go without saying that you should put in enough time and effort into designing your t-shirt. While your cause drives people to your campaign page, your t-shirt design will ultimately make or break the sale. 

To make a t-shirt that genuinely stands out, keep these design tips in mind:

  • Fully brand it to your cause. Forge a deeper connection with buyers by choosing recognizable colors, text, and graphics already associated with your nonprofit’s brand.
  • Add graphics. Custom t-shirts are a great place to repurpose existing creatives like brand logos and marketing illustrations. These elements are often brand-oriented, so you’ll tackle two birds with one stone.
  • Feature typography. Consider what phrases will resonate with your audience — what unites these people to support your organization? Design with relevant words or sayings that will reinforce a sense of community. Get creative with your fonts to create a piece of art from words, or pair your text with graphics.
  • Use fewer colors. While it can be tempting to load up on colors and make your design incredibly vibrant, this will drive up the cost of each t-shirt, ultimately detracting from the total amount you raise. Maximize your profits by using fewer ink colors (around one to three). Keep in mind the color of the t-shirt itself, so you don’t select ink colors that clash.

If you’re designing a shirt for a grassroots cause with limited existing assets, research the themes, passions, and interests that tie your network together before you start designing. 

Here are some examples of well-designed volunteer t-shirts you can make to raise money for your volunteer program.

 

Not super enthusiastic about designing the shirt yourself? Reach out to the support team behind your t-shirt fundraising platform for some design help. You could even host a friendly competition. Inviting your volunteers to create their own t-shirt designs, and feature the best design in your next fundraiser! 

Proactively Promote Your T-Shirt Fundraiser

Once you’re satisfied with your design and you’ve launched your fundraiser, it’s time to start promoting your t-shirts to raise awareness about your campaign and to make some sales! We recommend proactively marketing your t-shirts throughout the entire campaign. After all, how can you expect people to buy your t-shirts if they never hear about them?

Start marketing to your immediate supporters, including your volunteers and donors. Communicate the purpose of your fundraiser, and ask them to purchase a shirt and share it with their friends.

Then, take promotional matters into your own hands. Increase campaign visibility by employing multiple promotional outlets. CharityEngine’s multichannel fundraising page explains that only using a single platform will miss a large portion of your audience. When you use multiple platforms to share your fundraiser, you’ll increase the likelihood that people will see your message and get involved.

You need to be smart about the strategies you implement on each channel, too. Sending the same generic appeal across all platforms won’t be super effective. Diversify your messaging and appeal to each platform’s unique audience with these smart strategies.

Facebook

The best part of using Facebook to promote your campaign is that you can incorporate a lot of different formats. Appeal to a variety of followers by sharing a mix of long-form text, images, and videos that communicate the purpose of your campaign. 

Explain that the funds will help build out your volunteer program. If possible, share the specifics of what the proceeds will cover, like the construction materials and travel costs for an upcoming volunteer trip or even a volunteer appreciation event. Be sure to include images of your t-shirt and a link to your campaign page.

Instagram

Prepare some photos that showcase your t-shirt to share with your Instagram followers. You can share basic product photos with detailed shots with your design, or order some t-shirts in advance and take candid photos of people (ideally your volunteers!) wearing your t-shirt. Add the link to your campaign in your profile’s bio so that interested supporters can reach your fundraiser with a single tap.

Don’t forget about Instagram Stories. When you share photos and videos on your organization’s story, use the “swipe up” feature to link to your campaign and encourage people to buy a shirt.

Email

You’ve probably already established an email list and have been reaching out to supporters on a regular basis. Adding a fundraising appeal can distract people from all the other vital content you’re sharing in your messages, or worse, people could overlook the campaign entirely. 

Instead of adding your fundraiser to existing emails, create one-of-a-kind emails that are dedicated to promoting your t-shirt fundraiser. If possible, limit emails about other subjects during your campaign to keep your community focused on your fundraiser.

When crafting these promotional emails, spend time creating a subject that catches supporters’ attention instantly. A specific, actionable subject line will stand out in supporters’ overflowing inboxes and boost open rates. Aim to be short, personal, urgent, and emotional, and do your best to tie it back to your mission.

Website

Your website is the cornerstone of your digital strategy, making it the optimal place to feature your fundraiser. Everyone who visits your site should know about your campaign. Add a link to your campaign page directly in your website’s main navigation, feature it throughout core pages on your site, and publish a blog post about your fundraiser. 

A well-written blog post enables you to go into detail about why you’ve chosen to launch this fundraiser and how you plan to use the money you raise. Get creative to connect with readers by using storytelling methods and featuring photos of your volunteers.

Take a Peer-to-Peer Approach 

Get your volunteers in on the fun by taking a peer-to-peer approach. Your volunteers are the true champions of your cause. With a deep investment in your success, they’ll be emphatic about selling your t-shirts, especially when given the context that you will direct the funds toward growing your volunteer program.

Locate your most ardent volunteers by searching your volunteer database, and reach out to those who have demonstrated a history of support for your cause. These individuals will be the most likely to jump on board.

Ideally, your t-shirt fundraising platform will offer peer-to-peer campaign functionality. This tool will empower your supporters to create personalized campaign pages to sell your design or make their own variations for friends and family to buy. 

All the proceeds will go directly to your organization, and you’ll receive each buyer’s name and contact information, helping you seamlessly expand your donor network. Additionally, encourage volunteers to share your main t-shirt campaign page with their friends and family.

Regardless of the approach you take, the core of your volunteers’ appeals should be their connection to your cause. Encourage them to share a personal story from one of their most memorable volunteer experiences, explaining that the proceeds will go to support your program. This is an effective way to increase sales.


A lot goes into successful t-shirt fundraisers, but these campaigns have tons of potential! When it’s all said and done, make sure to extend your gratitude to your generous buyers and any volunteers who helped out. Some customers may hop on board and join your volunteer team after seeing how much time you invest in your program. That final “thank you” gives you one last opportunity to share details about your volunteer program with people who have an interest in your cause. 

Now, start designing and see what t-shirt fundraising can do for your volunteer program!