How to Promote Your T-Shirt Fundraiser to Supporters


T-shirt fundraisers are one of the most popular types of product fundraisers for nonprofits. Stylish merchandise supporters will want to wear in public will be comparatively easy to sell compared to other items, while also helping to promote your nonprofit every time your supporters wear it out in public. 

However, your merchandise still won’t sell itself. When planning your t-shirt fundraiser, you’ll need to consider your t-shirt designs, your supplier, your inventory system, and of course, your marketing strategy. To help your nonprofit promote your next t-shirt fundraiser, this article will explore a few effective marketing strategies that strive to deepen supporters’ involvement in your campaign. 

Encourage social media promotion

You can promote your t-shirts through email, mail, your website, and even text. Even with recent shake-ups in popular online platforms, social media will still provide your nonprofit with the widest reach possible with very little monetary investment. 

Look into social media platforms that are popular among your supporters like Instagram and TikTok and promote your merchandise by:

  • Creating a challenge. The most popular online trends provide a way for participants to join in and offer their own spin on it through some sort of challenge. For your merchandise, think of ways to encourage supporters to get creative online to inspire them to promote your nonprofit. For example, an animal shelter might challenge supporters to dance with their pet while wearing their t-shirt, especially if they also bought matching pet clothes. 
  • Partnering with an influencer. You can expand your reach by partnering with an influencer. This influencer can be a well-known figure in the nonprofit world, someone with a following in a topic related to your nonprofit, or someone with a large platform and an interest in supporting your cause. For the best results, reach out to micro-influencers, individuals who have between 5,000 and 10,000 followers, as they’ll likely answer your messages themselves and have less tightly packed schedules. 
  • Interacting with supporters. Responding to every message can be time-consuming, but if your nonprofit is serious about your social media strategy, interact with as many of them as possible. Encourage anyone who buys your merchandise to tag your nonprofit’s accounts so your social media manager can easily find their posts and thank them for their support. A quick thank you from your nonprofit might seem small, but it can go a long way towards persuading a supporter to continue interacting with and promoting your nonprofit. 

A strong social media strategy takes time to develop and produce results, so start planning well ahead of your merchandise launch. Be ready to devote resources to getting your strategy off the ground, and be patient. To give your t-shirt fundraiser a running start, make sure you’re posting regularly on your accounts leading up to teasing your first merchandise designs. 

Get them involved in the design process

Early on in your t-shirt fundraiser, take steps to get your supporters involved in the design process. Doing so will make them not only look forward to seeing the final product but feel like they had a hand in making it, which will make them more likely to purchase one. 

Rather than doing everything behind the scenes until your t-shirts are ready, get your supporters involved from the get-go by:

  • Creating social media polls. Your merchandise platform should have tools to help you create designs. Create a few drafts of your final designs and a social media poll where supporters can vote on their favorites. You can even do this before creating your designs by asking supporters to vote on various aspects of the design like the color or what graphics should be featured. Of course, creating a poll with a few visuals to show off potential design elements will help you stand out more on social media than a text-only post. 
  • Sending out surveys. Before designing your merchandise, you should conduct market research to understand what products your audience will be most interested in buying. Part of this process is simply asking them. Send out surveys to supporters or create a social media post inviting them to take a short survey that asks basic questions about what kind of merchandise they would like to see from your organization. 
  • Hosting a contest. If your nonprofit already has a skilled graphic designer on your team or has partnered with a platform with user-friendly design templates and tools, you likely won’t need much help designing your t-shirts. However, you can still get your supporters involved by hosting a design contest. Winners will have their designs turned into a limited run of t-shirts that will be sold alongside your other merchandise. Be sure to celebrate your winners and give them a free t-shirt with their design on it.

To gather as much feedback as possible, reach out to supporters on the channels where you have the greatest following. If your nonprofit is just getting started with fundraising online and has just set up its social media, you can still get feedback from posting on your new accounts but should supplement these results with email communication. 

Make it a peer-to-peer fundraiser

Are you more likely to buy a product from an organization you’ve never heard of before or someone you know personally? Approximately 80% of customers will purchase products based on friends and families’ recommendations. Knowing this, your nonprofit can make the most of this by having supporters not just recommend your t-shirts, but actually be the ones to sell them. 

Peer-to-peer fundraisers leverage your supporters’ personal networks to reach new prospective donors. Instead of performing cold outreach, these new contacts will be welcomed into your nonprofit’s community by someone they know and trust, increasing the likelihood that they’ll make a contribution. 

To promote your t-shirts using this method, you can launch a peer-to-peer t-shirt fundraiser. In this variation of peer-to-peer fundraising, supporters will sell t-shirts rather than asking for donations. You can set this fundraiser up in four steps:

  1. Find a peer-to-peer platform. As part of your peer-to-peer fundraiser, participants should be able to sell t-shirts directly to supporters through their own personalized campaign pages. Find a peer-to-peer fundraising platform that specializes in t-shirt fundraisers and will provide your fundraisers with their own personal storefronts they can use to market your t-shirts. 
  1. Recruit fundraisers. Reach out to your supporters to get your first group of fundraisers. After setting up your initial peer-to-peer campaign, you can make it a rolling initiative and allow new supporters to join all throughout the year on their own schedules. 
  1. Host an onboarding session. While your fundraisers can operate fairly independently throughout your campaign, reach out to them to plan an onboarding meeting when they first sign up. This will be an opportunity to walk them through the peer-to-peer software tools they’ll be using, share your nonprofit’s brand communication guidelines, and answer any questions they may have about peer-to-peer fundraisers. 
  1. Provide continued support. Ensure your fundraisers know who they can reach out to at your organization if they encounter any problems or have questions. Touch base with them regularly to thank them for their efforts and motivate them to keep selling. 

T-shirt peer-to-peer campaigns can be especially effective if you pair them with an event. Rather than operating with no determined end-point, plan an event and treat it as your campaign’s deadline. Your volunteer fundraisers will feel motivated to sell as much as possible by the event. Then, everyone who bought a t-shirt can show up at the event in person wearing the merchandise they bought from their loved one. 

T-shirt fundraisers earn your nonprofit revenue and provide supporters with a physical reminder of your nonprofit they can carry with them for years. To get as much of your community involved with your fundraiser as possible, strive to include them throughout the merchandise creation process and make them an integral part of your marketing efforts.