A Replacement for the Dreaded Fundraising Thermometer?

I've never really understood what thermometers have to do with fundraising anyway, other than the idea of something rising, which is a pretty weak link.

[Update: We’ve released a free e-book based on this post, including graphics of alternatives to thermometers.]

I’m not  fan of those fundraising thermometers. Yes, they are an easy way to show progress, but they are so overused. And when you think about it, what does a thermometer and temperature rising have to do with 99% of the causes that use that graphic: nothing!

So when Luke Reynebeau, a student board member and program coordinator for the University of Minnesota YMCA, sent me this email, I thought, “Yes! Here is a great example we can use to rid ourselves of thermometers for good!”

Here is Luke’s question . . .

“I am currently in the middle of creating that dreaded campaign status report for our donors and alumni, and am stuck in a rut – I can’t find a way to visually represent where we are at in our annual giving campaign in a compelling way.  The thermometer, for me, is not an option, and I don’t want to compromise our logo, seeing as the Y just rebranded and wants to maintain the strength of the brand (and they explicitly say we cannot manipulate the logo).

Any thoughts?  Have you run into this problem, too?”

I suggested that Luke focus on what the money would be used for, and building a graphic around that. Since it was the Y, I suggested filling up a swimming pool or some other icon that people associate with that particular Y.

But then Luke replied . . .

“The UY solely does community service and outreach – we provide service opportunities for college students (tutoring, mentoring, college readiness classes, service-learning trips, internships, etc.). That’s what makes the image issue even tougher.  Our activity is a bit more abstract – we don’t necessarily have a physical representation of what we do (sadly, no pool or gym at our branch).”

So that’s when I offered to punt to you, the Nonprofit Marketing Guide community, full of very creative nonprofit minds.

What can Luke use to visually represent progress in his fundraising campaign, besides the dreaded thermometer?

Today’s Book Giveaway

Leave a suggestion for Luke in the comments below, and you’ll be entered to win a free copy of  “Brandraising: How Nonprofits Raise Visibility and Money Through Smart Communications” by Sarah Durham. We’ll draw the winner next week, so you have plenty of time to add your ideas.

I’m giving away a book each day this week, in celebration of the one year anniversary of my own book’s release, The Nonprofit Marketing Guide: High-Impact, Low-Cost Ways to Build Support for Your Good Cause (on sale for $23.29 at Amazon).

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