Fundraising Thermometers: A Powerful Tool (That Works)

What are fundraising thermometers?

Fundraising thermometers are tools that help nonprofits keep track of fundraising success and motivate donors to give.

In most cases, they look like thermometers. As donations increase, the “temperature” of the thermometer increases accordingly.

Regardless of what they’re called, they always serve the same purpose: to help raise more money!

Other Names for Thermometers

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

A fundraising thermometer displays information about a nonprofit's goals and achievements.

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The Basics of Fundraising Thermometers

What are the Uses of Fundraising Thermometers?

Keep Track of Fundraising Goals

Fundraising thermometers display not only the goals that your organization has set but also the milestones along the way.

Thermometers that self-update can help your nonprofit keep track of donations that come in from every giving avenue, from text-to-give to online to email.

Show Progress to Donors

Your organization’s staff and board aren’t the only ones who will be able to track the progress of your fundraiser thanks to goal thermometers.

Your donors will also be able to see the impact their donations are making. Each time that a donor makes a contribution online or via mobile, the thermometer will automatically rise.

Encourage Supporters to Give

When you see that other people are jumping on the latest trend, aren’t you that much more inclined to join in yourself?

That same psychology applies to fundraising thermometers. When donors see that others have already contributed, they’ll be far more likely to give themselves.

The bottom line is: Fundraising thermometers can be used to encourage donations and track progress instantaneously. 

Where should you use a donation tracker?

Since most fundraising thermometers are digital, you should be able to copy and paste them into any website or page your nonprofit regularly uses.

From your nonprofit’s crowdfunding page to the front page of your main website, the possibilities for showcasing and sharing are endless!

Your website’s main page
Your shareable crowdfunding page
Projected on a screen at events
Your nonprofit’s donation page

An example fundraising thermometer being used to display useful information about a fundraiser.

When Should You Use a Fundraising Thermometer?

5K Fun Runs

Before the event: Put your fundraising thermometer up on your donation page to allow race participants to compete with themselves to raise the most money before the actual race.

During the event: To encourage more donations and pledges on the day of the race, be sure to display the thermometer at the beginning and end of the race route.

Fundraising Galas

Before the event: Provide a link to your donation page within your email invites, and highlight your goal thermometer so that gala attendees feel more inspired to give.

During the event: For maximum impact, throw your fundraising thermometer up on a large screen projector when you’ve reached the halfway point to your goal.

Charity Auctions

Before the event: In the weeks leading up to a charity auction, you can easily incorporate your pledging thermometer into your online event registration page.

During the event: While making a live appeal, have a prominent display of the automatically updating thermometer, so attendees can see how their donations impact the goal.

Benefit Concerts

Before the event: Before a concert, as you’re selling tickets, make sure to copy and paste your fundraising thermometer into the event registration page as well as the donation page.

During the event: As the musicians are playing, have your thermometer projected up on a screen to encourage listeners to pump up the funds while they’re pumping up the jams.

Why are Fundraising Thermometers Effective?

Clear goals are more likely to be achieved.

If your donors know what they’re working toward, they’ll be much more inclined to help out. Setting a realistic goal that your donors can clearly see will help them to visualize their own impact on your cause.

Donors love to be a part of a winning team.

Your donors want to give to something that will be successful. Having a thermometer that’s climbing is an easy-to-interpret signal to your donors that your fundraiser is well on its way to being a success!

Thermometers track donations from all avenues.

Automatically updating thermometers, like Snowball’s, allow you to keep track of donations no matter what avenue they come from. That way, you can see how well you’re doing across the board.

Donors respond well to visuals.

Studies have shown that visuals, like thermometers, lead to 180% higher engagement rates. While not everyone is a visual learner, most people in the world respond positively to pictures and imagery.

Immediate gratification is exciting.

The moment a donation is submitted, the thermometer rises. When donors see this, they get the rush of excitement that comes with immediate gratification, making them more inclined to give again!

Thermometers are easily shared.

Because donors respond positively to visual aids, they’re far more likely to share your donation link if it includes an immediately recognizable image like a thermometer.

Practical Tips for Donation Thermometers

Why take your fundraising thermometer online

Take your thermometer online if: You don’t don’t want to update it manually.

Why? Instead of coloring in a physical cut-out of a thermometer every time a donation comes in, wouldn’t it be nice to have a widget that self-updated? You can have that kind of convenience when you switch to an online thermometer.   

Take your thermometer online if: You want to track donations across the board.

Why? You probably have donations flooding in from multiple sources: texting, email, online donation pages, and more. Online thermometers can juggle all of that information simultaneously and update whenever any kind of donation is made.

Take your thermometer online if: Your fundraiser lasts more than one day.

Why? Tracking progress over time is something that fundraising thermometers do best. This is especially true of online thermometers. Even when your donors aren’t all present at one time, they can see the progression of the fundraiser over however many days, weeks, or months it lasts.

Take your thermometer online if: You want donors to be able to share it.

Why? It’s one thing for your organization to disseminate your crowdfunding thermometer. It’s an entirely new ballgame when donors are able to share it for themselves. Having a shareable, online thermometer will allow your organization to reach so many more potential donors.  

Take your thermometer online if: You have donors all over the place.

Why? Donation thermometers allow donors to view and track a fundraiser’s progress no matter the time of day or where they are. If you’ve got donors in more than one location (which you probably do), help them stay connected and in tune with an online goal thermometer.  

The bottom line is: You should definitely consider using an online fundraising thermometer to boost donations.

Goal Thermometer Best Practices

Feature it prominently on your website.

Online: Upload your fundraising thermometer to your home page and any other important pages on your website that have anything to do with your fundraiser.

At an event: Project your goal thermometer up on a big screen at your fundraising event to encourage on-the-spot donations.

Include info for supporting your cause.

Online: Wherever you upload your fundraising thermometer, be sure to include information about how someone could get involved and donate to your cause.

At an event: As you’re projecting your thermometer up on the screen, have someone give a quick speech about how to best support the fundraiser.

Remind donors periodically.

Online: In order to keep your fundraiser top-of-mind, it’s important to send out occasional reminders. Make sure to include a link to your thermometer in the email.

At an event: As you reach milestones (you’re $500 away, $100, etc.), make an announcement to point out the rising thermometer.

Make it easy to see.

Online: To reach the most people, you’ll want to make sure that your thermometer is easily readable on the web. Use sans serif fonts and avoid harsh colors like bright red or yellow.

At an event: Be sure that everyone at your event can read the numbers on your projected goal thermometer. Use appropriately large font and project it in an accessible area.

Setting Your Donation Thermometer Goals

How do you determine your goal?

The best goals are those that are tied to a specific project. When you’re deciding on a goal, it’s important to start with your intentions.

For instance, you may be trying to build a new community center. Do your research and try to figure out exactly how much money the construction will cost.

When you have a concrete goal in mind, it will be much easier to get your donors to jump on board with your fundraiser! 

What do you do if you exceed your goal?

If you happen to meet your final goal in a short amount of time (it’s entirely possible; thermometers are extremely motivating!), you can raise your ultimate goal amount.

Say you raise $10,000 in 2 weeks. Adjust your thermometer’s settings and announce that your goals have changed due to the generosity of your donors.

Challenge your supporters to go that extra mile! But don’t make it a habit to raise your goal amount too often. 

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Fundraising Tools that Work Well with Goal Thermometers

Text-to-Give and Fundraising Thermometers

What is the tool?

Text-to-give technology allows donors to give using their phone’s native texting application. All a donor has to do to give is text a nonprofit’s designated number with the amount they’d like to give, and voila! They’ve given to their favorite nonprofit (that’s you!).

When do you use it?

Launching a text-to-give campaign is advantageous as a part of any fundraising effort. Whether you’re raising money for a specific project or enhancing your annual fund, text giving helps your organization raise that much more.

Why use a thermometer?

Because you can directly link your text-to-give campaign to your thermometer, you can watch as the donations rack up. Snowball‘s thermometer allows nonprofits to sync up all of their giving solutions up to an automatic goal thermometer.

Online Giving Portals and Donation Thermometers

What is the tool?

An online giving portal is essentially an online donation page. The key difference is in its connectedness to all of the other giving avenues. As soon as a donor inputs their info into the online giving portal, they can give via text or email in only 2 clicks.

When do you use it?

Your organization can use an online giving portal for any and all fundraising efforts. They work especially well for everyday fundraising, and you can easily incorporate the link to your portal in all of your nonprofit’s communications.

Why use a thermometer?

Providing donors with a visual representation of your success and goals only benefits your organization. When you combine the shareable quality of an online giving portal with the visual appeal of a thermometer, you’re bound for success.

Email Fundraising and Goal Thermometers

What is the tool?

Email fundraising, simply put, is the raising of money through your existing email campaign. Snowball’s solution for raising significantly more money via email is to include a donation button that allows donors to give in just 2 clicks without ever leaving their inboxes.

When do you use it?

Whenever you’re in the midst of a fundraising campaign, it’s always a good idea to send out at least one email that has information for donating. Include a link to your fundraising thermometer page in those correspondences, and you’re sure to see more responses.

Why use a thermometer?

When you add another visual element to your emails, you’ll entice your email subscribers to give that much more. As we mentioned earlier, when people see that you’re getting closer to your end goal, they’re far more inclined to give.

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