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Fundraising Thermometers: Why They Work

Learn how to use a fundraising thermometer and get started with our free template!

Fundraising is a tricky process to master, especially when learning how to use and make the most of online tools. From setting up an effective donation page and launching a marketing campaign to staying motivated until the end of each fundraiser, nonprofits have to stay on top of their campaigning game. Instead of struggling, set yourself up for success with gamification tools like fundraising thermometers!

Here at Snowball, we aim to provide nonprofits with the best fundraising tools on the market so that they can boost their revenue. We’ve seen how powerful fundraising thermometers can be, which is why they’re a favorite fundraising strategy of ours.

To make the most of these valuable tools, review the following key components:

If you’re already well versed in what donation trackers are, feel free to jump to the section that’s most beneficial to your organization. Otherwise, let’s get started by going over the basics. 

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What is a fundraising thermometer and how can it improve your campaign?

What is a Fundraising Thermometer?

Fundraising thermometers are tools used in online campaigns to help nonprofits gauge success. Additionally, they provide a visual representation of a nonprofit’s campaign progress, which motivates donors to give.

More often than not, they look like thermometers. As donations increase, the “temperature” of the thermometer increases accordingly. 

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For most people, donation totals in the thousands can be rather difficult to envision. Fundraising thermometers make otherwise abstract totals such as how much your campaign raised and how much you need to achieve your campaign goals clear at a single glance.

Other Names for Fundraising Thermometers

When researching nonprofit software, you may come across these synonyms for donation fundraising thermometers:

  • Donation thermometers
  • Goal thermometers
  • Crowdfunding thermometers
  • Fundraising widgets
  • Donation trackers
  • Pledge thermometers

Regardless of what they’re called, all fundraising thermometers are a helpful tool for your fundraising campaigns by providing a useful visual for your team and your donors.

Types of Fundraising Thermometers

Donation trackers have been around for decades and are a proven fundraising method. Fundraising thermometers come in both physical and digital variants, and both can be useful depending on your campaign. Here’s a breakdown of a few key differences between the two: 

  • Physical. Nonprofit technology has come a long way, but before fundraising software was widely available, fundraising thermometers only came in one form: physical. These are typically used in community fundraisers where you display the progress on a large board. As more money is raised, one of your team members continuously fills in the thermometer.
  • Digital. Used in more modern fundraising, digital donation trackers update in real-time. They can be embedded on your website, campaign page, or almost anywhere your supporters will check in on your fundraisers. With each donation, your digital fundraising thermometer will update to reflect the contribution automatically. 

Whichever donation tracker you use, ensure that it’s branded with your organization’s colors and logo. 

You can also use fundraising thermometers in various contexts. 

For instance, during long-running campaigns, display your fundraising thermometer in a prominent place that will see a lot of either physical or digital traffic. If you’re using a physical fundraising thermometer, with permission, place it where the whole community can see it, such as outside of your office or outside a park along a high-traffic road. For digital fundraising thermometers, post them on your eye-catching campaign page or well-designed website.

By contrast, for live events, put your donation tracker somewhere onsite. For instance, you can keep your digital thermometer visible on a presentation screen during galas, concerts, and other events with a stage or central location that draws attention.


 

Why are fundraising thermometers so successful at earning donations?

Why Fundraising Thermometers Work

Why do fundraising thermometers work? What about them drives donations and helps nonprofits reach their revenue goals? There’s no one surefire reason that fundraising thermometers work. Rather, they rely on a configuration of different motivators, including: 

They appeal to our visual senses.

Humans are visual creatures. Hearing that a campaign is a third of its total away from reaching its fundraising goal can often mean just as much as if it were a fifth or a seventh. Visual representations help fill this gap in understanding and can demonstrate just how much your campaign is earning, driving excitement. 

Not to mention, It’s gratifying to see the differences we make. Fundraising thermometers tap into our need for visual confirmation.

They keep track of fundraising goals.

Some campaigns only have one central goal, but many nonprofits begin their fundraisers with goals that can be accomplished with a certain amount of funding. Particularly successful fundraisers even set stretch goals that can be earned after reaching their initial goal. 

Dividing your fundraiser into goals helps motivate supporters to continue giving, especially if you have a fundraising thermometer showing how close they are to unlocking the next milestone. This helps gamify the giving process, providing donors with something new and exciting every so often during your campaign. After all, once one goal is reached, they’ll want to see the thermometer climb all the way to the next one. 

They show progress to donors.

Your staff and board aren’t the only ones who need to track campaign progress. Whether your fundraiser takes place over several days or happens all in one night, your donors should be able to check in on how close you are to reaching your goal. 

Remember that donors are making an investment in your nonprofit when they give, which means they want to see you succeed and reach your fundraising goal. Fundraising thermometers provide a transparent and engaging way for donors to check in on your progress, motivating them to continue giving and get their friends and family involved. 

They encourage supporters to give.

Donating is a more social activity than you might assume. Donors want to give to campaigns that are likely to succeed and already have momentum. Fundraising thermometers visually indicate that others are giving, and watching your thermometer climb in real-time shows that supporters are actively participating.

When donors see that others have already contributed, they’ll be far more likely to give themselves. Then, when you start getting close to your goal, even if there isn’t much time left in your fundraiser, donors will be incentivized to give more to push your campaign forward.


 

Use these best practices to make the most of your fundraising thermometer.

Best Practices for Fundraising Thermometers

Fundraising thermometers can lead to all of the benefits and advantages described in this article, but only if they’re appropriately leveraged. Highly-rated nonprofit software and fundraising tools can help, but mastering how to use a fundraising thermometer ultimately comes down to you and your team using the most effective strategies possible, including:

Feature it in prominent locations.

Supporters shouldn’t have to go looking for your fundraising thermometer. You can easily add digital thermometers to your campaign webpages, so make sure to display it front and center on your website’s home page, your shareable crowdfunding page, and your nonprofit’s donation page. 

Don’t forget to consider your thermometer’s design, either. Avoid harsh colors, and ensure the font is readable. Some fundraising thermometers make the mistake of putting text inside their thermometer, causing it to become illegible once your donors surpass your written totals. Place text outside the part of your image you intend to color or use proper outlining and color contrast between your text and color choices.

Update and remind donors periodically.

Your fundraising thermometer generates excitement, but only if supporters know about it. Keep your fundraiser in the front of your donors’ minds by sending regular updates throughout your campaign linking to your thermometer. These can be reminder emails to donors who have already contributed once or posts on your social media account to keep your wider supporter base updated. 

Sharing your progress on social media also gives your supporters a chance to spread your campaign further by commenting on your posts or sharing it on their own pages. During fundraising events like Giving Tuesday use hashtags to attract attention from an even wider audience using your social media platform.

Include info for supporting your cause.

A great fundraising thermometer should be backed by a great cause, and most donors do need more motivation than seeing numbers go up to make a contribution. 

Wherever you display your fundraising thermometer, be sure to include information about what your cause is, why it matters, and what donated funds will go to support. You can also attract additional support by providing information for donors on how to get involved further with your nonprofit by volunteering, subscribing to your newsletter, attending upcoming events, and more.

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Get started with this free fundraising thermometer template.

Free Fundraising Thermometer Template

You can design a unique fundraising thermometer to reflect your campaign. Or, if you don’t have a graphic designer on staff but are still looking to revamp your campaign strategy, download this fundraising thermometer template:

 

Use this template to start fundraising.

 

Print out the above fundraising thermometer template, recreate it on a flyer or poster, or invest in an online donation tracker to do the job for you.

Before launching your campaign, fill out your campaign goal at the top and any milestone markers along the side. Throughout your campaign, fill in the fundraising thermometer template based on how much money you raise.


 

Digital fundraising thermometers have many benefits over traditional thermometers.

Get Started with a Digital Fundraising Thermometer

While physical thermometers can still be practical fundraising tools, technology has marched on, and, in most cases, digital trackers will offer your team and your donors more benefits. By going digital, your team will be able to build a sense of momentum for your campaign in real-time, allowing supporters across time zones to tune into your campaign for live updates. 

The easiest way to get started with a digital fundraising thermometer is by investing in the right donation software. Digital fundraising thermometers are a staple of many donation and event software solutions due to their effectiveness at driving excitement during campaigns. 

Before purchasing your donation software, make sure to review its list of features for a digital fundraising thermometer!

Additional Tools that Supplement your Fundraising Thermometer

Ensure your fundraising thermometer can integrate with your other giving technology to most effectively leverage it alongside your other fundraising tools. Before launching your next fundraiser, check your thermometer’s integrability with these software solutions:

  • Text-to-give technology allows supporters to donate in just a few texts. Donors text your nonprofit’s designated text-to-give number with the amount they’d like to give, and they’ve given to their favorite nonprofit—yours! Text-to-give is an especially effective method of giving when done at events where supporters are surrounded by other donors pulling out their phones. By directly linking your text-to-give campaign to your thermometer, they’ll be able to watch donations rack up as soon as they press send.
  • An online giving portal is essentially an online donation page. The key difference is in its connection to other giving avenues. As soon as a donor inputs their info into the online giving portal, they can donate via text or email in only two clicks. When you combine the shareable quality of an online giving portal with the visual appeal of a thermometer, you’re bound for success.
  • Donation management systems let your team monitor all donations behind the scenes. Your fundraising thermometer needs to get information about incoming donations from somewhere, and more often than not, it will be your central donation management system. 

Integrating your software creates a more streamlined giving process and can provide more avenues for giving. Donors who give through your text-to-give number might get excited by your fundraising thermometer nearing its goal and share your donation portal with friends and family. Plus, those donations will be immediately accounted for with your goal thermometer!


Wrapping Up

Fundraising thermometers can give your organization the boost it needs to reach its revenue goals. From its easy setup to the benefits it provides your campaigns, there’s no reason your nonprofit shouldn’t be leveraging one! Remember, if you don’t have access to a digital thermometer, feel free to use our free fundraising thermometer template.

Of course, fundraising thermometers don’t earn donations by themselves. Throw an event or get creative with your fundraising projects to give your supporters something to do while your thermometer climbs. Here are a few resources that can help you kick off your next fundraiser:

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