The Power of Fundraising Thermometers (& Free Templates for You) | Digital Fundraising
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July 5th, 2022 By admin 9 minutes read time

The Power of Fundraising Thermometers (& Free Templates for You)

Fundraising thermometers are used by almost every nonprofit organization from time to time. And there’s good reason for it—they work.

Thermometers are tools used to visually display the progress of a fundraising campaign and motivate donors to give to your organization.

While this tool is a widely popular fundraising tactic within the nonprofit world, many organizations don’t utilize fundraising thermometers to their full potential.

In this post, we will go through the innate power of fundraising thermometers, why they work, and how you can best implement them for your organization. We’ll even be providing some fundraising thermometer templates to use for your next campaign!

Why Fundraising Thermometers Work

Using thermometers for fundraisers is a great idea because they play into human psychology and what makes our brains tick. Below we’ll go into several reasons why thermometers work to help nonprofits reach their fundraising goals. 

Social proof

Social proof is a well-known psychological concept where humans conform to match the behaviour of others in various situations. 

For example, let’s say you walk into an elevator, and everyone was facing the rear of the elevator as opposed to the doors. Social proof predicts that you too would strangely face the rear of the elevator to conform to the behaviour of the group.

In marketing, social proof is a powerful psychology tool that can be leveraged to boost sales, donations, and overall results. In fact, 82% of Americans will make a purchase because a friend or family member recommended it. This sort of word-of-mouth marketing is a huge example of social proof.


Fundraiser thermometers are another social-proof tactic because they display up-to-date financial results of a campaign and say to donors, “look, other people have donated, too!”

Donors don’t want to just blindly throw money at an organization and hope that they will do something impactful with it. They want to know that there are others who believe in your organization and trust that you will use their funds to make a difference.

Social proof is a great tool to get people to trust in your organization and your cause.

Visualization of a goal

Thermometers or progress bars aren’t just for fundraising. If you think about it, they’re everywhere.

Loading screens, media players, file downloading/uploading, and volume indicators, just to name a few. Why are these symbols so prevalent?

Because they are visual representations of the progress you’ve made towards a goal. Most people are visual learners and prefer to be presented information through image-based communications.

Sure, we could represent fundraising progress as a fraction or raw data, but numbers are inherently more difficult for our brains to comprehend and process, especially when large numbers are involved.

Fundraising thermometers appeal to our visual nature in a way that data and numbers just cannot. Which is part of the reason why they are so effective.

Direct impact

Another reason fundraiser thermometers are so powerful is because donors are able to see their direct impact. 

Thermometers act almost as a visual stand-in for the change donors are creating. When they see the thermometer increase as a result of their contribution, they can feel the direct impact they just had on your campaign.

A lot of times, donors rely on your communications to update them regarding their impact. But fundraising thermometers allow donors to instantly see the difference they’re making. Because so much of what drives nonprofit giving is that feeling, thermometers are fantastic tools for driving donations.

Accomplishment & gratification

Along with being able to see impact, fundraising thermometers also offer donors instant gratification.

Because thermometers are fantastic visual representations of your campaign, when donors go to make their donation, they know exactly what percentage of help they’re providing to your cause. And in the case of real-time thermometers, they can even watch progress rise due to their donation.

This allows donors to feel an instant sense of accomplishment and gratification for their contribution.

As a nonprofit, you want your donors to feel the significance of their support. This sense of accomplishment and impact is what keeps donors satisfied and excited to continue supporting your organization. Fundraising thermometers are an excellent method of achieving that.

How to Implement Fundraising Thermometers

Now that you better understand the psychology behind why fundraising thermometers work, it’s time to take a look at best practices when it comes to implementing them. Follow these tips to ensure a successful campaign for your nonprofit.

Add into your content

Fundraising thermometers are very versatile in terms of where they can be used.

One of the various places you can use them is on a campaign fundraising landing page. Embed one onto a page so that donors can see real-time results of their donation. Include shareable social links so supporters can share your campaign with their friends and family.

Speaking of social media, thermometers are also the perfect tool to include on all your digital channels. If you’re nearing a goal, take a screenshot of your thermometer and post about how you just need a few more generous donors to pitch in and make an impact.

Another classic use of fundraising thermometers is through email. Use a static thermometer to capture a moment of time in your campaign and make an appeal to donors regarding the difference their donation would make for your organization and your cause. We’ve included a couple of fundraising thermometer templates for your nonprofit at the end of this post!

Set a realistic goal

It can be tricky to determine a good goal for a fundraising campaign, especially if it’s your first one.

Setting the bar too low may make donors think, “how will that amount of money make a real impact?” But conversely, setting the bar too high may seem like an unattainable goal and donors won’t feel that they can make a difference with their donation.

To start, take a look at the results of previous campaigns you’ve held. If you’ve never held a fully-fledged fundraising campaign before, analyze donations you’ve received in a similar timeframe as your new campaign.

Once you’ve compiled data regarding your previous endeavours, increase that amount by a few percentage points. When in doubt, make your goal a bit lower than what you think you can actually achieve.

When you end up raising more than that goal—great, your campaign was a success!

And if you blow past your goal early in the campaign, don’t be afraid to communicate to your donors that you’re increasing your goal due to the amazing support you’ve received. Frame it as a way your organization can make even more of an impact.

Goal setting varies from organization to organization, but once you get a few fundraising campaigns under your belt, it’s much easier to predict where you will stand for your next one.

Use mid-campaign

Choosing the timing to introduce a fundraising thermometer into your campaign is crucial.

A study showed that people are more likely to donate when a campaign has already raised 66% or more of its goal amount.

This is another example of social proof at work. Donors are more likely to donate to your campaign when they see that others did the same before them.

Donors also want to see their donation be the one that leads to your organization reaching the goal, or coming close to it. The closer you are to your goal, the more people want to donate and help you get that one final push.funrai

That’s why it’s essential to only begin using a fundraising thermometer in the middle or at the end of your campaign, when you’ve already raised a significant amount of funds.

Include “impact amounts”

Another useful tactic is to include tangible “impact amounts” for each milestone your campaign reaches.

Next to each big fundraising milestone, include a blurb about what that amount will fund. This helps donors know exactly what their money is going towards achieving, and gives them a real-life, tangible visual.

For example, next to the $1,000 mark on your fundraising thermometer you could include, “will fund clean water for a whole community for one month,” or, “funds tuition for 3 children for a semester.”

These sorts of examples remind your donors why they are supporting to your cause in the first place.

Design and brand it

Make sure that the design of your fundraiser thermometer matches the overall brand of your organization. You always want the branding for your nonprofit to be as cohesive and identifiable as possible. This is no different with graphics like fundraising thermometers.

Brand identity is a huge piece in creating a recognizable and reputable image and organization.

When sharing your thermometer across your socials or anywhere outside of your website, it’s important that people are be able to recognize your organization. Even just matching the colours and font to that of your organization can go a long way for brand identity.

Fundraising Thermometer Templates

Get your next campaign fundraising-ready with one of our thermometer templates below! Customize them for your campaign and be sure to share it across all your platforms to ensure success.

How We Help Nonprofits Change the World

Nonprofit organizations need fully-developed marketing campaigns to raise the funds and support needed to make a difference. Perhaps you don’t know where to begin or don’t have the time, we recognize that.

Our team of marketing experts at Engage Fundraising work with charitable and nonprofit organizations to develop direct marketing campaigns, build donor relationships and retention, and increase donor conversion. We can help your organization reach your goals and make a real impact.

To learn more about us and our mission, click here.