Last Updated:

December 20, 2022

Does Your Nonprofit Need a Fundraising Thermometer?


December 4, 2022

Does Your Nonprofit Need a Fundraising Thermometer?

Congratulations! Your nonprofit is gearing up for a fundraising campaign. Now, you’re looking for the tools that will help your fundraising campaign be the best and biggest it can be.

Today we’ll show you one of the simplest, easiest tools you can use to track funds and motivate your donors and your staff until you reach your goal! It’s called a fundraising thermometer. Let’s jump in!

What is a Fundraising Thermometer?

A fundraising thermometer is a handy graphic that provides a visual representation of your fundraising goal and how far along your campaign is in achieving that goal. A fundraising thermometer graphic usually looks something like this:

Instrumentl - Fundraising thermometer

When someone donates to your campaign your thermometer fills up until your fundraising goal is finally reached and your thermometer is completely full!

Your fundraising thermometer image can be a dynamic graphic with an animation component that shows in real time the thermometer “filling up” as you receive donations. It can also be a static graphic that you update as needed and include in email blasts, on your website, in newsletters, or on social media.

Get this: you can even use a fundraising thermometer in a livestream or at an in-person event!

What Are the Benefits of Using a Fundraising Thermometer?


You might be wondering why your nonprofit should use a fundraising thermometer. Here are five benefits of using a fundraising thermometer graphic:

1. It makes your fundraising goal feel real.

It can be hard for people to conceptualize big numbers, such as a big dollar amount you’re trying to raise. And over the weeks or months of a fundraising campaign, it can be easy for people to lose sight of your organization’s goals.

Whether it’s the staff who are feeling discouraged during a slow period of giving or donors who have a lot going on and can’t keep track of your campaign, you want an easy, straightforward way to keep people on track and engaged. A fundraising thermometer graphic makes your goal feel concrete and achievable.

2. It tracks incoming funds visually.

A fundraising thermometer is an easy way for your team, donors, volunteers, and the public to keep track of how your campaign is doing. With one glance everyone can see that your funds are growing (or prompt someone to give when they aren’t)!

People are drawn to dynamic visuals and will respond more positively to a fundraising thermometer image than to a wordy description of your campaign’s progress.

3. It motivates your donors.

A thermometer image for fundraising helps donors visualize the impact their donation has on your campaign.

It makes people feel like their donation is really making a difference. It can even encourage people to make larger donations because it’s so satisfying to see the thermometer go up! When you’re close to your goal, it inspires donors to contribute so they can be the ones to push you over the finish line.

4. It motivates your team.

Fundraising campaigns are a lot of work for nonprofit development teams. The stakes are often high, and campaigns can get pretty stressful.

A fundraising thermometer can boost your team’s confidence, provide opportunities to celebrate progress, and drive your team’s work ethic when they can see you’re moving steadily toward your fundraising thermometer goal.

5. It gives you a great reason to celebrate.

When your thermometer reaches the top it’s time to celebrate!

A fundraising thermometer is a great visual centerpiece that makes everyone involved—from volunteers to your biggest donors—feel accomplished. Whether you include your “hot” thermometer in thank-you notes or print it out big for your end-of-campaign celebration, it’s a great way to end your fundraising campaign on a high note!

6. It’s easy.

A fundraising thermometer image is easy to find, create, and use in many different contexts. You can find free fundraising thermometer graphics online, or create your own in any graphic design software you already use.

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How Can Your Organization Use a Fundraising Thermometer?


A fundraising thermometer is a versatile tool that your nonprofit can use in many different ways

When could your nonprofit benefit from a fundraising thermometer? Consider:

Your annual appeal.

Your annual or end-of-year appeal is a great time to use a fundraising thermometer because it’s such a good motivator when you’re trying to meet a fundraising deadline.

For a one-time need.

Sometimes nonprofits need to raise money quickly for a one-time need—purchasing equipment, building repairs, transportation for an event, etc. A fundraising thermometer is useful here because it visually represents a specific, concrete goal.

Giving Tuesday.

Giving Tuesday is a yearly whirlwind for nonprofits! A fundraising thermometer graphic helps keep things organized and on track AND is extra exciting to see fill up during a short period of time.

Giving Tuesday

Live fundraising events.

An in-person fundraising event, where the bulk of donations are made AT the event, is another awesome opportunity to use a fundraising thermometer. Each donor’s contribution will push other donors to contribute too as they see their donations stack up on the thermometer. Everyone will want to be the one to tip the thermometer over the top and see your goal achieved!

Once you’ve decided what kind of campaign you’re going to use a fundraising thermometer image for, you might be wondering: How and where do I use it? Take a look:

On your website.

Your nonprofit’s website is its public face and probably one of the places people interact with your organization most frequently. During a fundraising campaign make sure to embed your fundraising thermometer image in a visible place on your website so it’s one of the first things visitors see when they click on your site.

In your newsletter.

If you issue a regular newsletter, either online or in print, make sure to include an up-to-date image of your fundraising thermometer goal. People turn to newsletters for the latest within your organization, so you want your fundraising progress to be front and center.

On your social media feeds.

Social media is fast moving and so it makes the perfect place to implement a fundraising thermometer graphic, especially an animated one.

A thermometer image is a quick, dynamic way to engage supporters who will likely scroll past big chunks of text. Instant gratification is the name of the game on social media, and that makes a fundraising thermometer the perfect tool.

On a live stream.

A live stream is a creative place to use a fundraising thermometer! Since virtual events are more and more common these days, don’t pass by the opportunity to include a visual so that attendees can see in real-time how your campaign is going!

In thank-you emails or letters.

Don’t forget that the fundraising thermometer image isn’t just useful for getting people to make donations, it’s also useful for making people feel good about their donations so they’ll contribute again in the future.

When you send thank-yous, whether during or after your campaign, consider including your fundraising thermometer image so that donors can see their impact. You can even highlight a specific donor’s contribution in a new color so they know what a difference they made personally!

What Are the Best Practices for Updating Your Fundraising Thermometer?

Best Practices

Okay, so you’ve decided your campaign is the perfect time and place to use a fundraising thermometer graphic. What are the best practices for doing so? Let’s take a look!

Create a timeline.

Fundraising thermometers work best for relatively short-term fundraising campaigns. Long campaigns can make the “filling up” visual seem sluggish. Before you implement a thermometer graphic, make sure you have a clear timeline for the start and end of your campaign.

Choose a realistic goal.

Your fundraising thermometer will only be an effective tool if you can actually achieve your goal—otherwise, it will feel like a sad reminder of a time when your organization fell short. Look at your past campaigns and/or similar campaigns by other nonprofits to help you set an achievable goal.

Update your thermometer regularly.

Frequent updates showcase your progress and help donors feel the urgency of your fundraising campaign.

Make sure it’s easy to donate.

Imagine this: a potential donor takes a look at your steadily growing fundraising thermometer. They think, “I can help them reach halfway!” or “look what a big difference just X dollars can make!” They look for your donate button…and don’t see it. They quickly lose steam and move on to something else.

Don’t let this happen! Make sure that everywhere you put your fundraising thermometer image you also put your donate button or simple instructions for sending a donation. Keep the momentum going!

Consider a soft launch.

People are more likely to give money when others have already done so. Before you publicly launch your fundraising thermometer, consider a “soft launch” where you open up donations and present your thermometer to a smaller, committed group of supporters.

Once they’ve given a little, you can make your fundraising thermometer public with some progress already visible. This will help make your goal feel even more achievable and encourage more people to donate.

What Are the Alternatives to Using a Fundraising Thermometer?


Using a fundraising thermometer is far from your only option for raising money, tracking funds, and motivating your supporters and development team. Here are some other ideas for getting your nonprofit funded!

Hold an auction.

Nonprofit auctions are a great way to raise funds, especially if your nonprofit has solid connections with large donors, local businesses, and professionals.

You can hold a traditional auction with an auctioneer or a silent auction. Popular auction items might include travel opportunities, sports event or concert tickets, gift certificates for businesses, restaurants, and spas, and pieces of art and home decor.

Throw a gala.

Galas are another popular fundraising tool.

Usually, galas are held to celebrate a nonprofit’s work at the end of the year or after a particularly big success. Galas are great for connecting with donors face-to-face. You can sell tickets to the event and have opportunities to donate (see above!) during the gala.

Galas often include food and drinks, live music, and other performances. You can also consider a virtual gala, which offers more flexibility in terms of attendance, travel, and health safety.

Host a social media challenge.

Maybe you remember the Ice Bucket Challenge that went viral on social media a few years ago? It has raised over $115 million worldwide for the ALS Association since 2014!

Social media challenges are a fun and engaging way to reach a wide audience and encourage donations to your organization. You can come up with your own challenge or hop on board a relevant challenge that already has some momentum. Just remember to make sure that the donate button is always visible!

Apply for grants.

One of the most important ways nonprofits raise funds is through grants.

It’s key to a nonprofit’s financial health to pursue individual donations and large gifts AND find institutional funding. Feeling overwhelmed or confused about the process of finding grants, applying, and tracking dozens of grant cycles? Don’t worry! We’re here to help.

Instrumentl is an intuitive tool for finding, tracking, and managing all things grants. Once you fill out some information about your organization or project, Instrumentl will send you good-fit funders, and you can easily track and manage your applications using the Tracker and Calendar View.

Instrumentl Tracker and Calendar View

Instrumentl is simple to use, making collaboration amongst your team a breeze. With Instrumentl you can devote more time to your nonprofit’s important work and relationship-building with your key supporters and donors.

Wrapping Up: Using a Nonprofit Fundraising Thermometer


Now you’re ready to get started on your next fundraising campaign! Armed with your trusty fundraising thermometer you can:

  1. Create an achievable fundraising goal.
  2. Motivate your donors and team with a clear visual aid.
  3. Track your fundraising progress at events, on your website, and on all other media.

This tool can be used on its own, or in combination with other fundraising approaches, such as auctions and galas.

And the best part? You’ve now got the tools to not only plan and execute a successful fundraising campaign for individual donations but to also go after good-fit grants without getting overwhelmed by using Instrumentl’s simple, effective grants tracking and management services.

Happy fundraising!

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