Enhance Donor Engagement with a Fundraising Thermometer: How Progress Thermometers Bring in Donations at Fundraising Events

Enhance Donor Engagement with a Fundraising Thermometer: How Progress Thermometers Bring in Donations at Fundraising Events

There's nothing like a feeling of progress to keep people moving toward a shared goal -- and this is especially true of fundraising events. Just reminding your donors that they're a few hundred dollars away from raising enough money to fund a program or receive a challenge gift is enough to get many to dip into their wallets and offer just a little extra for your nonprofit. And one of the best ways to provide this reminder is with a fundraising thermometer.

A staple of fundraising galas, the fundraising thermometer is a donation tracker that reveals how much money your fundraiser has raised. At its most basic, a fundraising thermometer is a simple graphic of a thermometer that lists different amounts of money on its scale. At the top of the scale, you showcase a set fundraising goal (i.e. $10,000) that you want to reach during your gala. As the donations pour in, you update your graphic to represent how much money you've raised, encouraging more people to donate until you meet -- or exceed -- your ultimate goal.    

Let's take a closer look at why fundraising thermometers work and how you can use them with fundraising platforms like PayBee to make a major difference in your fundraisers. 

Why Do Fundraising Thermometers Work?

At our core, humans are visual creatures who enjoy seeing the impact of their work and understanding that what they do matters. This is true in almost all aspects of fundraising. Why do we share so many photos and videos of the communities we serve in our social media channels? Why are our online fundraising pages loaded with bright buttons and colorful banners that direct visitors to our online donation forms? Aside from being aesthetically pleasing and helping people navigate through a campaign, these visual fundraising tools showcase the difference our programs and events make in the community. 

Fundraising thermometers operate in the same way. When people see a fundraising thermometer inch toward a set objective, it stimulates feelings of excitement and satisfaction. It shows the donation they made at the start of the campaign helped your nonprofit get to where it's at -- and it also communicates that by donating just a little extra, donors can help get to the ultimate objective and achieve fundraising success.

Plus, these days digital fundraising thermometers can appear virtually anywhere -- on your website, your e-newsletter, and on a giant Event Activity Screen at your in-person events. This has a profound impact on donor psychology by showing them their donation impact anywhere they look.    

Top 3 Reasons to Use A Thermometer in Your Fundraising Campaign

We've already examined how goal tracking helps stimulate donor motivation during your nonprofit fundraising campaign. At this point, guests almost expect to see a fundraising thermometer at a gala and instinctively use it to gauge the fundraiser's effectiveness.

This leads to the second reason to use a thermometer at your fundraising campaign -- it helps build momentum. Once guests see that other people are donating to your campaign, they'll want to offer their own donations, which will encourage even more people to donate. What's more, once you show that your campaign has reached a key tipping point, donors who have already contributed will want to give again just so they can reach (or pass) your intended goal.

And while some fundraising thermometers today may be sophisticated online creations with digital bells and whistles, the thermometer remains a very simple but effective fundraising tool. You could easily just draw a thermometer on a large piece of poster board and mark your progress and have much the same effect as you would with a virtual thermometer.     

Top 5 Benefits for Using a Thermometer to Show Your Fundraising Progress

A fundraising thermometer offers plenty of benefits for your team, your donors, and your board of directors. Consider the following:

Team motivation

Knowing how far you've come in your nonprofit fundraising goals -- and how far you still need to go -- motivates not only your donors but your campaign team as well. As your fundraising thermometer reaches key milestones, your volunteers can announce them to your guests and keep the excitement going. And as the hype grows, your volunteers will feel the excitement as well and send it out to the audience, creating a perpetual cycle that will encourage more donations. 

Goal Clarity

Displaying a fundraising thermometer makes it clear to everyone -- event staff, volunteers, and donors -- why they're attending your gala in the first place. Remember: the human brain processes images much faster than written text, so just by placing these tracking tools prominently at your gala, people will be able to comprehend at a glance how much money they need to raise.

Tracking Progress

At its core, a fundraising thermometer is a donation tracker that provides a visual goal setting to aid in fundraising progress. More importantly, when people look at these thermometers and see them rise, they immediately know other people are invested in your cause and willing to back it up with their own money. This encourages more people to make their own donations since the fundraising thermometer lets them see (often in real-time) the difference their efforts are making. 

Encouraging Larger Donations

Most of your guests may only be able to donate relatively small amounts to your fundraisers. But when their financial resources are all pooled together and shown on a fundraising thermometer, something cool begins to happen. Suddenly, other donors -- especially those with deep pockets -- see how much your peer network cares about your nonprofit programs and initiatives. This motivates them to give more generously -- sometimes in the form of large cash donations and other times in matched donations that could double the total amount of money raised at your galas. 

Fun and Interactive Element

Let's be honest -- at the end of the day, displaying a giant thermometer at fundraisers is just plain fun. There's something incredibly engaging about watching a fundraising thermometer gradually rise during your event -- and this engagement becomes even more unifying when you're just a few contributions away from reaching your end goal. 

To make this even more fun and interactive, tie fun events to each donation milestone. Have your emcee promise to do something entertaining once the thermometer achieves certain fundraising challenges -- like dance on stage or perform a fun dare. These interactive elements keep the attention on your fundraising thermometer, show donor appreciation, and keep the contributions pouring in. 

How to Use a Thermometer in Your Campaign

To make sure your fundraising thermometer enhances your fundraising efforts to the max, keep the following fundraising tactics in mind:

  • Use a fundraising thermometer at suitable events: A fundraising thermometer is best used at high-energy galas with lots of audience participation and an animated emcee. A more sedate event, like a low-key luncheon, might not be the place for this donation tool.
  • Set realistic fundraising goals: It's always exciting to put large dollar amounts on your fundraising thermometer's scale, but be sure to consider your donors' pocketbooks in advance. Only set fundraising goal(s) you can realistically reach. 
  • Choose the right channels for display: Where do your donors get their updates about your campaigns? Email newsletters? Facebook? Be sure to post your thermometer on these channels so they know how close you are to your goals.
  • Post updates regularly: These days, a digital fundraising thermometer can be updated in real-time. Barring that, you should update at least two or three times a week before your actual event if you start collecting donations earlier. Remember: a fundraising thermometer works best in events that have a specific time frame to reach a fundraising goal, so the earlier you can generate a feeling of urgency, the better.

Creative Ideas for Using a Fundraising Thermometer 

These days, a fundraising thermometer can pop up anywhere, thanks to the digital tools provided by online fundraising platforms like PayBee. Depending on the type of fundraising gala you're hosting and how you like to communicate with your guests, you might want to place your thermometers in these places:

Emails and Newsletters

Physical and email newsletters are great places to use a fundraising thermometer. Share snapshots of the thermometer as you reach key milestones and report on your progress so more donors are willing to just in and make their own contributions. 

Social Media Platforms

Find out which social media channels your guests frequent (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc.) and post snapshots of your fundraising thermometer here. You can update social media posts regularly -- especially with online tools like PayBee's social sharing buttons -- so this is a great way to keep in touch with your online supporters.

At Live Events

A giant fundraising thermometer makes a fun and eye-catching centerpiece at your galas -- and PayBee makes it easy to direct audience attention to it by showcasing it on our Event Activity Screen. Designed with donor psychology in mind, this monitor displays all fundraising activity through eye-catching visual fundraising tools, making it easy to grasp your current needs in a glance.

BONUS: PayBee also offers a few options to fill your fundraising thermometer with a few donations from early contributors at the beginning of your event. This will help get the ball rolling and bring in additional donations. 

Best Practices for Using a Thermometer 

Once you decide to use a fundraising thermometer, you'll want to follow certain key practices to ensure your thermometers help you reach your goals. Keep the following in mind:

Offer Regular Updates on Your Progress

We've said it before and we'll say it again -- having online tools that let you automatically update your fundraising thermometer as money comes in really keeps the excitement flowing at your events and keeps supporters writing checks and getting out their credit cards.

Set Achievable Goals

Setting lofty goals for your fundraiser is great -- but make sure your guests are capable of helping you get there. This means not only choosing an achievable end goal ($5000? $10,000?) but also estimating achievable milestones (knowing your donors have raised $1000, $2000, or $5000 at previous campaigns lets you know how to space out your scale so you can celebrate at key achievements.

Highlight a Donate Button Next to Your Thermometers

It's one thing to show people how much money you've already raised during your campaign -- but to get them to make their own contributions is another thing entirely. That's why successful fundraising web page templates regularly show a donate button next to a fundraising thermometer. This lets guests immediately donate to your cause -- and get an instant feeling of gratification when they see it reflected on the thermometer.  

Use Eye-Catching Graphics and Effective Design Tools

Good templates for fundraising thermometers make use of creative graphics to draw people's attention to them. Incidentally, there's no reason why you can't go with a different design choice. For instance, if your nonprofit is raising funds for food banks, your tracking tool might be a horn of plenty that gets filled with different fruits, meats, and produce as the donations come in. 


Are Fundraising Thermometers Effective?

Yes. However, you'll find they're most effective when used in events that collect from multiple donors (like peer-to-peer and crowdfunding campaigns), since they let donors see the overall impact they're making. Thermometers are also great for auctions (where auctioneers keep crowds hyped up and eager to donate) and matched gift campaigns where philanthropists match donations.

How Do I Add a Fundraising Thermometer to My Website?

To add a thermometer to your website or e-newsletter, first find a free fundraising thermometer template online. Customize it to include your goal, the currency accepted, and the amount you've already raised, along with other details (like color and size). Then copy the code provided for the customized thermometer and paste it onto your website, e-mail, or e-newsletter. You may need to routinely update the code to reflect new results as your fundraiser collects more money.  

How Can I Promote My Fundraising Thermometer?

Fundraising thermometers can be displayed on websites, e-newsletters, social media posts, your in-person event space, and at your nonprofit headquarters. Digital tools, like those offered by PayBee, let you regularly update your thermometer, letting everyone see your progress.

What Can I Use Instead of a Fundraising Thermometer?

While thermometers are a popular graphic for fundraisers, they're not the only visual representation you can use. Choose an image that's related to your nonprofit. For instance, if your group is interested in planting trees, you can use a graphic of a growing tree. If you're building homes for underserved populations, create an eye-catching image of a house. 

Moving Forward with the Fundraising Thermometer

Fundraising thermometers offer an excellent fundraising strategy to keep track of your donations while encouraging your guests while maintaining campaign momentum. This tracking tool is ideal for in-person, virtual, or hybrid events, particularly since modern digital fundraising thermometers can be embedded in practically every marketing tool, from e-newsletters to websites to social media posts. This provides you with a fast, convenient way to get everyone invested in any fundraising campaign you want to host.

PayBee offers user friendly software that not only makes it easier to include goal thermometers in your website and social media marketing, but also helps you generate reports for campaign analysis. We also specialize in helping you host events appropriate for fundraising thermometers -- like live auctions. See how easy our platform is to use by signing up for a free demo of our software. You'll get to participate in a mock auction and ask our team any questions you have about fundraising thermometers -- or any other fundraising tools available in our system. We're ready to help you improve your future campaigns, so contact us today

Start Fundraising

I am a...

Looking for...

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Nonprofit Fundraising
Michael Jung