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Whether you are giving your nonprofit t-shirts away as part of a raffle or handing them out to your volunteers, choosing a smart design for your t-shirts is essential. Where nonprofits are concerned, t-shirts are usually the closest thing their volunteers have to a uniform. They identify the wearers as direct participants in a cause, and foster a sense of unity and purpose. Better yet, these t-shirts can serve as an additional driver for donations to your nonprofit through raffles, giveaways, and direct purchases. (Read more about t-shirt fundraisers.)

Given their importance to a cause, it’s imperative that you make smart design choices with your shirts. Here’s a bit of advice to help you do exactly that.


nonprofit t-shirts


1. Make Your Nonprofit T-Shirts Colorful

I do understand why you’d want to hand out white shirts at one of your events. They’re eye-catching, they’re bright, and they’re inexpensive. All good stuff, right?

Here’s the thing about white shirts. They get dirty at the drop of a hat, and they stain just as easily. Especially for your volunteers, white is a color you want to stay far away from, no matter how crisp and clean it looks.

Because I promise that after an hour or two of wear and tear, it’ll be neither.

2. Keep Your T-Shirt Design Simple

Think about what goes into creating a great corporate logo. Every single design principle applies directly to your charity, as well, especially the principle of simplicity. Ideally, you want people to look at your shirt and recognize it as a symbol of your cause within a few seconds. (Logo design tips.)

What you don’t want is an outdated or overly complex design. Simple shirts sell a cause. Complicated ones don’t.

If you want a few examples of what I’m talking about, this Buzzfeed post has some nice examples.

Also read: What Are United Way Partnerships and How Can They Help Your Nonprofit

3. Reconsider Adding a Date to Your Nonprofit T-Shirts

We’ve all attended an event at some point where they handed out shirts emblazoned with the date. I know I certainly have. But, show of hands – how many of you have actually worn the shirt they received after the event? Probably almost no one.

There’s a reason for that. A shirt that advertises an event as taking place in 2016 might be fun to wear for a while afterwards. But it probably isn’t something you’d want to wear in 2017, is it? Instead of putting the date front and center on your shirt, consider including something like “5th annual.”

4. Remember That High Quality Materials Matter

I get the appeal of using low-grade cotton or nylon for your shirt. You want to save money and put more towards your mission. I’d argue, however, that if you want to cut corners to save on your budget, this is one area you should stay far away from.

Look at it this way – the people at your events are going to be wearing these shirts for hours (maybe even days). If they’re made of a terrible, scratchy material or one that doesn’t breathe, that’s eventually going to cause problems. Put in the money to get your nonprofit t-shirts made from high-quality materials.

Everyone will thank you for it!

5. Adapt Your Design to the Weather

Last but certainly not least, no two fundraisers are created the same. That should go for the clothing that’s handed out at them, as well. Here’s what I mean:

  • Are you running an outdoor event in the middle of summer? Stay away from darker colors, and spring for ultra-light materials and low-coverage designs (ie. v-necks instead of full collars).
  • Is your event in a wet climate or on a day you’re likely to see rain? Water-resistant materials are your best friend.
  • If your event is in a colder climate or during a colder time of year, you might think about going for long-sleeved shirts or even sweaters instead of T-shirts.

Also read: 7 Points to Consider Before Promoting Your Cause

Design for Your Cause

A t-shirt at a nonprofit event is a lot like a uniform at a sporting event. A comfortable, well-designed shirt will bring people together and help them work harder, better, and faster. A well designed t-shirt will also convey your brand in a professional and memorable manner. A poorly-designed one will do exactly the opposite.

Now get out there and change the world. We’re all rooting for you!


About the author:

Brad Wayland is Chief Strategy Officer at BlueCotton, a site with high-quality, easy-to-design custom t-shirts.

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