Fundraising Thermometers: How to Take Your Campaign to the Next Level

Discover how fundraising thermometers can boost your campaign. A visual tool that not only tracks progress but inspires more donations.

Fundraising Thermometers: How to Take Your Campaign to the Next Level

Fundraising is the lifeblood that fuels initiatives, projects, and programs. It’s essential for nonprofits, schools, sports teams, and all sorts of groups. No matter what you’re fundraising for, you’re always looking for new ways to get the word out and bring in more donations. Fundraising thermometers are one way to encourage donors to give to your campaign, with some added benefits as well. 

What Is a Fundraising Thermometer?

A fundraising thermometer, also sometimes called a goal tracker thermometer, is a visual representation of the progress of your fundraising campaign. It’s in the shape of a classic temperature thermometer, with your total goal amount at the top and various increments along the side. For example, a $10,000 goal would have that number at the top and then $2,000, $4,000, $6,000 and $8,000 along the sides, starting at the bottom. When you reach these numbers, fill the thermometer. 

Thermometer graphics are great for online and digital campaigns. You can even find some that automatically fill in as you receive donations. You can also create posters or whiteboard drawings if you need something physical. Either way, fundraising thermometers are an excellent visual representation that can add excitement and interest to your campaign.

When to Use a Fundraising Thermometer

You can use fundraising thermometers for any campaign that involves raising money, but they’re especially effective for these types of projects. 

Crowdfunding Campaigns

Online fundraising campaigns rely on individual donations that can come from across the room or across the world. It can be difficult to track how the campaign is going and ensure everyone knows they’re making a difference. Online thermometers are a great way to create a sense of community and show the power of every donation, no matter how small. And that encourages donors to share your campaign and spread the word. 

Corporate Gift-Matching Drives

Many businesses today cultivate philanthropy through gift-matching initiatives, where employees donate to a nonprofit and the business then makes a donation that matches the total amount they raise. You can also add an element of competition by splitting employees into teams. For these types of programs, a fundraising thermometer provides a visual reminder of the goal to keep the momentum going, and can foster healthy competition.

Auctions and Galas

Auctions and galas have a built-in sense of excitement and urgency, and fundraising thermometers will boost the enthusiasm even more. Tracking the progress as big sales are made can incentivize potential donors to make larger gifts, plus keep them informed about progress. These events are elegant affairs that often attract more wealthy donors, so using a visual like a fundraising goal tracker here can have an even bigger impact. 

Benefits of Fundraising Thermometers

We’ve touched on a few of the benefits of fundraising thermometers. Let’s take a deeper dive into how they not only motivate potential donors to give, but also help you improve your campaign. 

Provide Social Proof

It’s science: Studies show that people are sensitive to information about the generosity of others, and the higher the dollar amount, the more generous they’ll be. One study found that when subjects were told that the average donation amount was $10, they gave 4% more than when they weren’t given a number. But a lower number ($2) didn’t have this effect. 

Another study backs this up, finding a 12% increase when donors were told that the last donation was $300, but no increase when they were told the last donation was $75. The takeaway? Because it shows a large total amount, a fundraising thermometer is the perfect way to motivate potential donors to give more. 

Create a Sense of Impact

Fundraising thermometers help donors see they’re making a difference. As the thermometer fills up, donors become more and more likely to donate to your campaign. Helping you across the finish line makes their donation feel extra impactful – but they won’t know where the finish line is and how close you are unless you tell them.

Want the proof? One study mailed subjects three versions of a flyer with a thermometer chart filled in at 10%, 66% and 88%, plus a version with no thermometer. Those who received the thermometer that was 88% full made more donations. The same study also looked at the rate of donations on an online giving website and found the rate increased as more progress was made.

Track and Celebrate Your Campaign

Fundraising thermometers make it easy to track progress towards specific fundraising goals so you can adjust your strategy or allocate resources accordingly. For example, if the thermometer is going up quickly, you know you’ll reach your goal faster than you thought. You can then create another, side campaign to capture the donations that might come in once you’ve already reached your goal. 

You can also use the thermometer to celebrate milestones along the way. As the thermometer reaches each smaller dollar amount, acknowledge and thank donors for their contributions. Then have a small party for your volunteers – they’ve earned it. 

Tips for Using a Fundraising Thermometer

To get the most benefits, you want your thermometer goal chart to be as effective as possible. Follow these tips:

  • Set clear goals: Define specific fundraising goals and milestones that you want to achieve. Make sure they’re realistic.
  • Use the right format: Your thermometer could be a physical display, a digital graphic on your website, or a combination. Also, choose colors that are visually appealing and on-brand. 
  • Update regularly: Keep the thermometer updated to reflect the most current fundraising progress. You’ll need to manually update a physical display, but you can sometimes automate updates for digital versions. 
  • Share it widely: A fundraising thermometer is a tool to share with your community. Celebrate milestones, thank donors, and provide updates on how contributions are making a difference.

Where to Display a Thermometer Goal Tracker 

The last thing you need to decide is where to display your fundraising thermometer so as many people see it as possible. Here’s how to pick the places where it will have the most impact. 


Websites are the most common place to display fundraising thermometers. It’s where donors are most likely to see it, and they’re likely already thinking about donating. Whether you have an event or campaign landing page on your organization’s website, or you’ve set up a donation page on a crowdfunding site, adding a thermometer will take it to the next level.

Social Media

You can also share your thermometer graphic on your social media pages. Update the graphic daily or weekly and send a progress report to your followers. Celebrate milestones and encourage people to like and share. This is a great way to reach a wider audience and inspire more supporters to donate.


Like social media, you can use email newsletters to keep your followers and supporters updated on your campaign’s progress. Just include your thermometer graphic near the top of the email with a letter explaining your overall goal. If you can, include a personal story about how the funds raised so far are helping your community. Keep sending updates until you reach your goal. 

Physical Locations

If you’re hosting an in-person event, display a large, visible fundraising thermometer poster in a noticeable, easily visible location to capture attention and generate excitement. Update it frequently throughout your event, doing shoutouts when goals are met. At live events like this, you can even directly acknowledge the donors who made it possible.

Start Creating Your Own Fundraising Thermometer

If you’re ready to use the powerful tool in your campaigns, there are plenty of fundraising thermometer templates out there to help you get started. But to really take your campaign to the next level, you won’t just want a thermometer – you’ll want a fundraising platform with a full set of features to track your data and promote your organization. 

Donately is an online platform that offers custom donation forms and pages, plus peer-to-peer fundraising pages and donor insights. With team fundraising, features like leaderboards foster friendly competition, and all pages include a free fundraising thermometer that tracks your progress. Sign up for free today and take a look around.