T-shirts are a staple in the fundraising playbook, in part because they’re arguably our culture’s favorite clothing item and possibly our favorite form of self-expression. Purchasing a custom tee is an easy and inexpensive way for supporters to contribute to a cause and gain something tangible for themselves in the process.

A lot of thought goes into designing your t-shirt and campaigns, but beyond your hashtags, slogans and designs, what’s most important is your deep compassion for the people, animals or places you live to serve

Your target donors also care about those benefactors of their donations and how they can increase their individual impact. That’s why people give more when matching funds are involved, especially when they can effortlessly double their donation.

So, why not make the most of your shirt’s potential by showing the impact? Let’s look at 3 ways leading with impact can help your t-shirt campaign:

  1. Impact to Your Benefactors
  2. Impact on the Environment
  3. Impact to Your Donors

IMPACT TO BENEFACTORS: Wear Your Heart on Your (T-shirt) Sleeve

Using your t-shirt to emphasize the specific impacts this purchase will have is a proven way to touch your donor’s motivations and generosity. It helps them see the concrete difference they’re making in the world and feel more emotional satisfaction about their gift, which can increase purchase amounts.

They probably don’t need another t-shirt, cap or koozie, but they’ll buy it if it connects to a direct, tangible benefit they care about (which, when it comes to purchases, may simply be their relationship with the fundraiser or how the t-shirt connects with their personal style).

How does leading with impact work? It’s similar to the way retail pricing strategies encourage the purchase of multiple items to get the best value. If you’re leading with impact to your cause and its benefactors, you could tie one t-shirt to one benefit. That’s a valuable connection but try using a bit of psychology. If two t-shirts buy one meal, who’s going to want to buy half a meal? There’s a good chance some people will opt for two shirts to provide a whole benefit.

Think about what 10 or 20 t-shirts could provide. How many would it take to cover the cost of food for one day on your mission trip or a tool that will help build a house or fresh water for a family for a week? If you offer several different impact options, you’re more likely to tug at the right heartstrings and inspire someone to purchase enough t-shirts for a group – or get others to go in together for a group buy. Now your impact is engaging the power of peer-to-peer fundraising.

When it comes to the actual transaction, consider using a digital fundraising platform like iDonate that displays general impact equations (“Two t-shirts provide one meal”) or–even better–calculates the impact for them right on the form (“Your purchase of 20 t-shirts provides 10 meals”). Be sure to also include impact information prominently on product descriptions and thank you correspondence.

Bonus tip: Even when the t-shirt comes with the price of participation in an event, always offer the option to purchase it anyway, using impact to encourage that decision. It’s similar to offering the option for donors to pay for their own transaction fees, which many of them will happily do.


Even if your cause isn’t related to the environment, connecting your event or branded items with environmental impact shows an additional layer of your nonprofit’s commitment to good. You can:

  • Work with environmentally responsible organizations for your branded products wherever possible. Nielson’s 2015 Global Corporate Sustainability Report reported that, globally, 66% of consumers – and 73% of Millennials – are willing to spend more on a product if it comes from a sustainable brand, with 81% of Millennials expecting their favorite brands to make a public commitment to good corporate citizenship.
  • Showcase the efforts you’ve taken to make your event green.
  • Encourage donating or recycling branded items when they’re done with them.
  • Educate your audience on how they can expand the impact of their purchase by caring for their custom apparel in a sustainable way. For example, share National Geographic’s video that explains the impact of a cotton t-shirt: One load of washing uses 40 gallons of water, which is enough for one person to drink for 900 days. One load of drying uses 5 times more energy than washing. Skipping the ironing and drying of your t-shirt saves a third of its carbon footprint.

IMPACT TO DONORS: Keep Your Shirt On (Them)

Your custom t-shirt will take your message into circles you might never be able to go yourself and keep it there longer than any digital message that flashes past viewers in a few seconds—that is, if people continue wearing it.

That’s when it helps to understand your supporters’ motivations. We know that donating is an emotional decision and everything from your images, to how you describe the need, to your calls to action have an effect on the donors’ emotional triggers and motivations. While the commitment involved in buying a t-shirt may pale in comparison to a direct donation, these factors also influence buying decisions, so remember them when crafting your t-shirt slogan and design and the messaging around them.

“You,” “your” and “I” are three of the most powerful words in the English language, so use them liberally in your marketing and other communications. Phrases like “Your gift provides….,” “Your generosity allows us to…,” and “You have provided….,” help connect the donor to their personal impact.

Considering the potential reach of your message in our #hashtag culture, it’s wise to invest enough effort in design, slogan, fit and feel to ensure that your shirt intersects with your supporters’ key emotional needs, is memorable to viewers and is super comfy. You’ll sell more and increase the chance of it becoming a favorite item worn and seen by many.


T-shirt campaigns are popular because they work! Your t-shirt can do a lot of the work in your fundraising efforts by pointing to the impact it will have on your benefactors, the environment and even the buyers themselves.