When we were starting the adoption process 2.5 years ago, a fellow adoptive mama gave us advice that turned out to be THE BEST advice for us: Choose one BIG fundraiser. Go all out with it. Then you can supplement with smaller fundraisers, if needed.
After throwing around a few ideas, we felt we could make a t-shirt fundraiser huge. With the help of friends and family, here is what we did to sell over 350 shirts for our fundraiser (plus over $2500 in donations in the same time frame).
*Note: You’ll read some things that may sound “business-y” to you, but know that the heart behind your fundraiser is what matters. Making smart business and marketing choices in the process is so, so important.
- We found a designer. A legit, knows-what-he-is-doing designer. For us, that’s my brother-in-law, and he delivered exactly the design we envisioned together.
- Per his recommendation, we chose a WORD (can be a graphic, phrase, idea) to work around. Our word, “Fight,” referenced Exodus 14:14, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
- We made it relatable. Instead of making this word completely about our fight, we wanted it to be about the place that anyone might be in. We wanted them to grab this shirt when they needed it. Or to look down and realize they did grab it on a day they didn’t know they would need the reminder of the Lord’s fight for them. This couldn’t just be about us.
- We chose to make the shirts as trendy as possible – something a male or female could wear. Something a female could wear with gym shorts or with a statement necklace + jeans.
- We also gave into our designer’s expensive taste in t-shirts and went with a shirt that is SUPER, INSANELY, BUTTERY SOFT. Why does this matter? For one, people want soft shirts. Second, people will come back and buy multiples. (Tultex 0241 was our choice!)
- We did not include our names on the shirts. While we know it’s so fun to include because it makes it personal, we wanted to remember that these shirts were meant to be about the person wearing them. Not us. (I don’t know about you guys, but I also prefer adoption tees that don’t have names on them.)
- We found an incredible printing company – GOA Merchandising. Back in 2015, they only charged about $5.50 each at a quantity of 100 for those super, insanely, buttery soft tees. (I’m sure it hasn’t increased much since.) Ask for Andy + be sure to mention our names! Sidenote: Once we submitted our order, they printed the tees and had them on our doorstep in 8 business days.
- We chose to forego having inventory and, instead, went with a preorder method. This not only let us know EXACTLY what we needed, but it also allowed us to collect money FIRST so we weren’t “out” until shirts orders came in. Make sense?
- We set up an online ordering site through square.com. It was completely free + easy to navigate on the backend. (Free with the exception of merchant fees for credit cards, but they weren’t higher than anywhere else.)
- We set up a donations option on the website. Some people don’t want tees but want to help! Let them!
- We opened preordering for a limited time. 3 weeks was the longest amount of time we opened it up for orders; 10 days was the shortest. (Keep in mind that most people won’t order until the last couple of days. Don’t get discouraged! This is normal!)
- We were open to doing multiple preorders. We did it 3x in our first year and again in 2016. If you have people mentioning that they missed preorders, post on social media about potentially opening up again and ask for interest. This will help you gauge whether or not another round would be beneficial! (Because if you’re going with a company that gives price breaks with larger quantities, you want to make sure you can get to those price breaks.)
- We gave a SHIPPING option and a PICKUP option. We charged a $4 flat rate + $1 per tee shipping rate. The pickup option must be simple for you. Don’t wear yourself out. Choose one location + mention upfront that you’ll send an email with the exact location once the shirts are in. (So if you are doing pickup in two different cities, list the cities on your ordering website so people can choose. That way you know who to send what details to post-packaging.)
- We organized and packaged the orders ourselves. Before the box arrived, we wrote addresses on every single envelope for those to be shipped + names on envelopes for those to be picked up. Once the box arrived, we took advantage of every possible space in our living room to organize. We then worked together to fold the shirts, package them, put a thank-you note in (pre-printed but then signed), and seal. Sidenote: I took them to our local post office and used their little kiosk for postage. The people at the front can do it, but I didn’t want to hold up the line.
- We offered youth, toddler and baby sizes. People loved these!
- TALK ABOUT IT. TALK ABOUT IT. TALK ABOUT IT. Give countdowns as you get close to a preorder closing. Be vulnerable and honest about the road to adoption. Share lots of personal stuff in-between. Post pictures of your friends in their shirts. Ask your friends and family to share and talk about it. Tag your friends and family in pics. Share more and more and more of your story. Let people in. Let them be a part of what you’re doing.
- PRAYER + PRAYER + PRAYER. We felt led to do a tshirt fundraiser. It wasn’t just a quick thought + impulse decision. We trusted the Lord + that He would provide for us whether it be through this fundraiser or some other route. We prayed for expectant moms + so many babies. For the expectant mom we would be matched with + the baby that would become ours. We prayed over the fundraiser + the shirts + the whole “Fight” idea. We stayed focused on making this about God’s glory + not ours. And I don’t write that to sound like we’re always great at that…because we are NOT. But we also knew that this adoption was what the Lord wanted for our family + when it came to the financial aspect, we felt so weak that we knew we needed Him. So whether you take any of our idea from above or you ignore them all, make it about Jesus, friends!
Because we opted out of a t-shirt fundraising website, we maximized our profits. We charged $25 per tee (remember they were only $5.50 + tax at our cost). It took extra work, but we had time for that. If you’re not sure you do, this is when you recruit friends and family to help. Those who aren’t able to help financially would be more than willing to help you do this!
If you have extra advice for making an adoption t-shirt fundraiser a great one, leave a comment below for our friends to read. Sharing the love is the best way to walk the adoption journey, am I right?!