How to Use a Fundraising Thermometer to Encourage Donations

fundraising thermometer

You have a new fundraising campaign that you’d like to promote. It’s kind of a big deal, and you want it to make a splash on your website. But you also don’t want to waste time on things that won’t actually help you raise more money. Your executive director brings up a fundraising thermometer.

So, should you add it to your site? As with any new functionality on your website, it’s never a good idea to add something new purely for looks. Let’s break down the details and considerations to see if a thermometer is a good fit for your campaign, website and fundraisers.

What Is a Fundraising Thermometer?

Stealing its name from a temperature thermometer, which gauges how hot or cold the surroundings are, a fundraising thermometer gauges how hot or cold your campaign is. It’s a visual display of the progress of the campaign.

Fundraising thermometers, sometimes called fundraising goal trackers or fundraising progress bars, show how much you’ve raised thus far. They generally start at $0 and end at the goal you’ve set for your campaign. When used correctly, fundraising thermometers can motivate both your fundraisers and your donors to strive toward your campaign goal.

Should You Add One to Your Campaign?

All of that sounds pretty neat, but is it worth the hassle of adding it to a web page for your campaign? First of all, to use a thermometer, your fundraising campaign should be a noted priority for your organization with a dedicated page on your website. The page doesn’t have to be on your site forever, but you should plan to set up a 301 redirect once you remove it so that people with the link don’t land on a dead page in the future. For an annual campaign, you can simply update the page content to let visitors know that the campaign has ended but will pick up again next year.

Beyond that, the decision revolves around the type of thermometer you choose. There are a wide variety of thermometers you could potentially include on your site, and some are more flexible than others. As you’re looking around at your options, there are certain qualities you’ll want to consider:

Design

You’ll want the thermometer to look good, meaning it should match your design for the campaign page, as well as the rest of your website. Look at the colors and fonts in particular. Can you change them if needed? If not, consider how it matches the rest of your design as is.

Ease of Use

How easy will this thermometer be for your team to use? Consider whether the tool is interactive or not. If not, whenever you receive a donation, you’ll need to manually update the graphic. Will your team be able to keep up? Will it be worth all the time it will take to continuously update the donation amounts?

If you aren’t able to update the amount of money raised on a fairly regular basis, the thermometer will quickly lose its value to both your fundraising team and donors. Part of the appeal of the thermometer is the incentive to reach the goal and the satisfaction of watching the thermometer inch closer to it after you help out. But if the amount of money raised is inaccurate, neither of those benefits can occur.

To prevent yourself from falling behind, it’s nice to choose a thermometer that pulls data from online donations to your campaign. You’ll still need to manually add other forms of donations, like checks or cash, but you can retain the psychological benefits that go along with watching the thermometer immediately inch forward once an online donation is completed.

Using a Thermometer Effectively

Now that you’re set on including a fundraising thermometer on your campaign’s web page, you can adjust your strategy to optimize the benefits you’ll receive.

On Your Campaign Page

Feature the fundraising thermometer prominently on the campaign’s page on your site. The content on this page should introduce the campaign, speak to its impact and provide information on how to participate.

To grab a donor’s attention right off the bat, you won’t want to bury the thermometer at the bottom of the page. Instead, you can work the thermometer into your content about the impact, or proposed impact, of the campaign. After all, the amount you raise, including the amount you have already raised, directly corresponds to the impact you can have through the campaign.

In case you need a reminder, make sure that you include relevant information about how supporters can donate somewhere on the page. If not, all of your work toward motivating online donors may just be in vain.

For Other Channels

The thermometer benefits don’t stop on your website. If you can, make your thermometer shareable. Alternatively, publish shareable campaign updates on social media with a link back to your web page to see the latest progress. For big milestones (you’re $1,000 away etc.), you might consider sending emails to note the rising thermometer and call supporters to help you reach the end goal.

If supporter-run Facebook Fundraisers are a part of your campaign, the tool has a built-in thermometer that will appear on the page and adjust based on donations made through Facebook. Check out the blue thermometer in this example from the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation Fundraiser.

American Civil Liberty Union Facebook Fundraiser

Thermometer Goals

When using a fundraising thermometer, keep in mind that you’ll want to set achievable goals for your campaign. Work with your fundraising team to decide on an ambitious number within the realm of reason. It should inspire fundraisers and donors to push toward the goal without deterring progress with a number far above the amount you ordinarily achieve through campaigns.

You can always adjust the goal mid-campaign to go bigger, but you don’t want to choose an insurmountable amount to start out. When you reach your original goal, don’t be afraid to update your content and goal to reach a bit higher. It doesn’t need to be a sneaky update, you can be upfront about reaching your original goal and the opportunity for greater impact. To encourage more donations and leverage the thermometer, adjusting the thermometer and campaign goal can make a difference.

Along those same lines, it’s nice to create a sense of progress before you launch the fundraising thermometer. An empty fundraising thermometer can hurt you more than it helps you. When it comes to donations, people don’t want to think that they’re the first. They want to see that lots of other people have trusted your nonprofit with their hard-earned dollars. A fundraising thermometer is a great way to demonstrate that trust, but only if you give the campaign a little head start before you add a thermometer into the picture. You can add it to the page once you already have funds to show.

Nonprofit Examples

Positive Tomorrows created a landing page to promote their capital campaign. On the page, they used a fundraising thermometer to track the campaign’s progress and encourage donors to help them reach their goal.

Positive Tomorrows Example

To motivate supporters to both donate to ongoing campaigns and fundraise for them, Team Rubicon offers multiple ways to fundraise or donate based on a supporter’s interests. Within their Tough Mudder campaign, they include a fundraising thermometer right at the top of the page. Donors and fundraisers can see where the campaign is and how far they have left to go to reach their goals. There are then calls to action to fundraise and donate right below the thermometer.

Team Rubicon Example

The Swifty Foundation used our Wired Impact platform thermometer to inspire donations for their annual appeal. And they were able to make it! Once they reached their goal and the campaign ended, they updated the page content and image to reflect that, keeping the full thermometer up to reinforce reaching their goal.

Swifty Example

Does your nonprofit have a big campaign coming up? Do you have any additional questions about using a fundraising thermometer on your site? Ask away in the comments.