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  • T-Shirt Fundraising for Schools: How You Can Raise More

Like many schools, yours is likely always thinking up new fundraising ideas to keep your programs running while also creating memorable experiences for your students. After all, school carnivals, read-a-thons, and talent shows are all fundraisers and many students’ favorite school experiences. 

One school fundraising idea that’s always memorable are t-shirt fundraisers. In addition to the fun t-shirt fundraiser activities, once complete, students, parents, and community members will have a tangible reminder of their local school. 

To help your school get started and earn more from your t-shirt fundraiser, this article will break down the basics of how t-shirt fundraisers work before diving into a few top tips. 

What are t-shirt fundraisers? 

T-shirt fundraisers are flexible fundraisers that involve selling merchandise made up primarily of branded t-shirts. Organizations running a t-shirt fundraiser can sell other merchandise, such as hats, water bottles, and hoodies, to provide supporters with a greater variety of choices. 

T-shirt fundraisers can be hosted as part of a one-time event or held throughout the year. For example, a school might make a big push to sell t-shirts to help fund their theater program’s upcoming production. While that specific t-shirt fundraiser is going on, that same school might also have an online merchandise store where community members can buy branded t-shirts all year long. 

T-Shirt Fundraising Tips:

On the surface, t-shirt fundraisers are relatively straightforward to run once your school gets started. However, taking the initial steps of designing t-shirts, determining how you’ll produce them, and who you’re selling them to requires deliberate thought and planning. Your school can take a more informed approach to these topics by following these tips:

1. Understand what you need from a t-shirt fundraising platform. 

There are a variety of platforms you can partner with to create t-shirts for your school. These platforms range in their scale, customization options, price points, and the sector they cater to. For example, your school may be able to get a good deal from a platform that was created for online influencers, but one that accommodates nonprofits and organizations with tight budgets may be a better fit. 

Do your research, and assess t-shirt fundraising platforms on criteria, such as: 

  • Production model. Your t-shirt fundraising platform will produce t-shirts and other merchandise for you. Before the production process can take place, you’ll need to tell them how many you need, in what sizes, and where they should be delivered. Schools interested in maintaining a regular supply of t-shirts will likely be happy working with a platform that has an affordable bulk-order model. In contrast, schools that are unsure how many they will need may prefer working with a partner that has a print-on-demand system. 
  • Design tools. If your school has someone on staff with graphic design experience who can help design your t-shirts, that’s great. If your school doesn’t, you can still create eye-catching t-shirt designs by partnering with a platform that has user-friendly design tools. Research what design tools, if any, each platform has. Some will provide libraries with free assets you can use in addition to your own uploaded images and graphics, whereas others will have limited resources for creating a new design within their platform. 
  • Online store. How will you sell your t-shirts? Many t-shirt fundraising platforms have online storefront options that your school can use to display and sell t-shirts through your partner’s website. Others will simply provide the t-shirts and leave it up to your school to create new pages to sell them through your website. 

If you’re unsure if a platform will be the right fit for your school, try looking on their website for a catalog of past clients. If you see schools, nonprofits, and other charitable groups, they will likely understand the needs of organizations like yours. 

2. Know your audience. 

Lucrative fundraisers have specific, targeted audiences that their marketing is tailored to. For t-shirt fundraisers, this means considering the product being bought, how supporters will make purchases, and how you can get the word out about your fundraiser to them. 

To ensure you have a solid understanding of your audience, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who is actually buying the t-shirts? For most schools, the parents will be the ones who decide whether or not to buy a t-shirt, either for themselves or their kids. High schools may be able to promote t-shirts to students, but will likely also have parents, family members, alumni, and supportive community members in their primary audience. 
  • How will they learn about your t-shirt fundraiser? Before they can participate in your t-shirt fundraiser, your supporters need to know you’re running one. Determine what marketing channels you’ll use to promote your fundraisers based on your supporters’ communication preferences and activity. For example, you might make a post on your school’s social media, but you know few parents will regularly check their feeds. To ensure these supporters also learn about your fundraiser, you might supplement it with an email or even a letter in the mail. 
  • What types of t-shirts would they be interested in? Different t-shirt fundraising platforms provide different options for your designs. Do you want to offer just short sleeve t-shirts, or provide tank tops and long sleeve shirts as options? Additionally, consider your audience when choosing your design. Would your community prefer just a standard t-shirt with your logo or something more outside the box?

If your school is unsure about one of these questions, you may need to conduct additional research. This can include looking at past fundraisers’ data, surveying your community, and analyzing how other similar schools in your area are conducting their fundraisers. 

3. Get your students involved. 

School fundraisers can and should be more than opportunities for earning revenue. Get your students invested in your t-shirt fundraiser success by getting them involved and providing opportunities to have fun while helping your school. 

Make your t-shirt fundraisers a school-wide activity by:

  • Hosting an event. If you’ve ever been to a sporting event, you know the power matching branded merchandise can have in creating a sense of unity. Give your students an opportunity to feel this school spirit by hosting events where they’re invited to wear their t-shirts. For example, you might promote your t-shirt fundraiser ahead of your annual walk-a-thon, so students and their families can purchase one specifically to wear to your event. 
  • Creating a design competition. Your students will be more likely to want a t-shirt if they had a hand in creating it. Of course, having each of your students create a unique design may not be practical, especially for schools looking to sell merchandise to their greater community. To get student input and keep things practical, try hosting a design competition where students can submit their t-shirt designs. You can choose one or multiple winners to have their designs turned into official school t-shirts. Be sure to give the winning students a free copy of a new shirt with their design, as well!
  • Offering t-shirts as prizes. While your school will need to sell the majority of your t-shirts to raise funds, create opportunities where students can also earn one for free. T-shirts you give out as prizes can be thought of as free samples that will show off your merchandise and persuade others to consider buying one. Plus, making t-shirts into prizes for other fundraisers can encourage student participation in a variety of activities at your school. 

Adjust your strategy based on your students’ age group. For instance, elementary school students may be more excited to participate in a contest to design a t-shirt, but the results may not be something your greater community would want to buy. By contrast, fewer high school students might participate, but artistically minded students may produce genuinely impressive designs. 

T-shirt fundraisers are a smart school fundraiser that can help fund your programs and provide students with memorabilia they’ll hold on to for years. Get started by assessing your audience and researching t-shirt platforms to partner with.

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