Why Using a Fundraising Thermometer Works

Fundraising Ideas

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Ah, the fundraising thermometer. It’s a classic. Whether you love it or hate it, you can’t deny it’s a staple of the fundraising world. And it’s a staple of the fundraising world because it works.

But why is using a fundraising thermometer so effective? Turns out there are a number of reasons – here are three of them.

Fundraising thermometers appeal to our preference for visuals

Humans are visual creatures. We like to see that our work means something. We love the gratification of knowing our effort pays off.

This is why we tell fundraisers to be visual. Share visual stories to stand out on social media! Include images on your donation forms to boost conversion! Use pictures and video in thank-you notes! Donors want to know their gift is helping – show them!

This includes fundraising thermometers, too.

Fundraising thermometers tap into our need for visual confirmation of our work. Seeing our donations cause the thermometer to inch closer to its goal is deeply satisfying. Instant visual gratification is a powerful tool!

This fundraising thermometer from Bronson Health Foundation is strategically placed near the top of their form below information about the organization’s mission.

Screenshot of Bronson Health Foundation's fundraising thermometer

Fundraising thermometers give us a job to do

One of the cornerstones of great nonprofit storytelling is to show a donor a problem, then tell them how they can solve it. People want to solve problems.

Using a fundraising thermometer is compelling to donors because it gives them a job to do. This is especially true when they’re used in a campaign with a tangible outcome, like a building project or funding a specific campaign. A fundraising thermometer tells donors, visually, “We need to raise $25,000. We’ve raised $4,000 so far. Help us!”

There are plenty of ways to update donors on progress and lots of methods for establishing a sense of urgency in a campaign. A fundraising thermometer can help reinforce those techniques, making thermometers an especially effective tool for advocacy and awareness campaigns.

screenshot of Beau Biden Foundation donation form with fundraising thermometer

Beau Biden Foundation included a link to their year-end giving campaign form and thermometer in an email. As a result, they raised more than they needed for the community they serve.

Fundraising thermometers make us feel accomplished

We like having jobs to do. We LOVE completing those jobs. And we’re often willing to go the extra mile to get them done.

This is the biggest driver for successful campaigns that use fundraising thermometers. As donors see the thermometer’s progress toward your fundraising goal, they’re driven to help reach that goal – it’s a recipe for engagement. When the goal is achieved, there’s a sense of personal achievement. A big milestone is accomplished – and we helped!

Along with that sense of accomplishment comes a subtle sense of community. Watching a fundraising thermometer’s progress lets donors know that others are involved with the fundraising, too. That social proof is a compelling reason to get involved and can inspire otherwise undecided donors to get involved. It’s why including suggested donation amounts on a donation form inspires larger gifts: we want to give the way our peers give, and seeing our peers give makes us want to be involved.

Think about how effective this sense of accomplishment can be used to encourage participation in school fundraising campaigns. School communities are close-knit, and students are often motivated by healthy competition. If you’re helping plan a school fundraiser, make sure your students, parents, and teachers can find your fundraising thermometer online and on the big screen at any fundraising events you host, like a special school auction or dinner event. That way, they can encourage each other to help the community as a whole meet the overall goal.

Access Twin Cities fundraising thermometer shows their campaign reaching 108% of their fundraising goal. What an accomplishment!

screenshot of Access Twin Cities donation form with their fundraising thermometer

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When to use fundraising thermometers

Fundraising thermometers are a great fit for many kinds of campaigns. But in order to make them most effective, consider using them for a very specific project, program, or purpose. This might be a particular peer-to-peer fundraising campaign, walkathon, or golf tournament, for example. A thermometer can help you put together a cohesive campaign with good visuals, a concrete goal, and something tangible to hold up as a result of your fundraising. You can read more about when and how to use fundraising thermometers here.

Get started building your own fundraising thermometer

Now that you know how fundraising thermometers can help you, you’ll be happy to know that setting them up can be quick and easy using Qgiv’s fundraising platform. Here are three things to keep in mind when setting up you first fundraising thermometer:

  1. Determine a specific fundraising goal. If you don’t have a goal, then you can’t tell your donors what your goal is!

    However, keep in mind that you don’t want your goal to be so low that donors think you don’t need them. Conversely, if you make it too high, people might think it’s unattainable and get turned off. Using the SMART method of goal setting can help you create attainable, specific goals that will help your nonprofit succeed!
  1. Tell your donors exactly why you need it. One of the most important ways to get your goals to connect with your donors is through storytelling.

    If you’re worried that you need to be the next J.K. Rowling to inspire your donors, don’t be! All you need to do is tell your donors exactly how their donation can help.

    For example, if you’re raising money for a new vet clinic that will help you care for 1,000 more animals a year, tell your donors that. Even better, paint the picture. If you can only care for 500 animals a year currently, then that means your new building will help you double the number of animals you care for each year. How could your donors not be excited about that?

    What’s more is that Qgiv’s donation forms also allow you to use images on your donation form so you can add to the story with pictures. You can use this to show donors exactly what their donation is worth at every level. In this case, you can make a picture worth a thousand bucks!
  1. Brand your form. This can be as easy as using your nonprofit’s logo and color scheme for your form, or it can be as elaborate as having a designer create something completely custom like Holton’s Heroes did for their #beaherochallenge. Either way, it matters!

    After all, donations made on a branded form average 38% larger contributions than those made through a generic PayPal page. Donors are also overwhelmingly more likely to make a second donation if their first donation was made through a branded page!

With so many ways to use your fundraising thermometers to raise more—whether that’s by updating donors in real-time at an event or using screenshots of your thermometer to update users through emails and social media—fundraising thermometers are still a valuable tool.

At Qgiv, we’ve seen our clients run some brilliant campaigns that included a fundraising thermometer. You can learn about our thermometers and progress meters here. You can also give us a call or contact us online if you want to see them in action!

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