Fundraising “thermometers” have long been a staple of fundraising because they get people excited about achieving the goal.
We love Once upon a time, we scribbled the latest progress with marker on a foam board.
But now, we have a lot more flexibility with on-screen displays—often known as “leaderboards”—on websites, and even at live benefits.
Visual representations have a powerful effect on the human psyche. Simply saying, “Our goal is $60,000, and we’ve raised $25,000 so far” isn’t very engaging.Showing the progress meter creeping to the top gives donors a visual processing shortcut—without expending any mental effort, they can see how close or far you are from the goal.
It’s not just informative. A visual appealinspires donors to give—and they tend to give more, hoping to see the meter crawl up and reach the top. With the visual guide, they can picture how their own donation will push the meter closer to the goal. Watching the progression is engaging, even addicting; donors are less likely to get distracted or disinterested.
The visual representation also helps after the donor gives: instantaneously, the meter inches upward with the help of their donation. We’ve all felt the pure satisfaction of creating our own cause and effect. People love to know they’ve made an impact; the progress meter makes that impact visual, and so feel real.
Everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon. Seeing other people donate is a huge benefit of the visual appeal. People are always more likely to give when they see others doing it first—particularly if they see others getting personal acknowledgments up on the leaderboard!
Giving shout-outs to donors who give (that is, flashing their name across the screen when their donation gets tallied) not only shows donors appreciation… they get to see the progress meter leap upward! Thanking donors openly and personally leaves them feeling great about their contribution, and inspires others who haven’t given yet.
Shout out to your sponsors, too! Leaderboards provide fantastic, wide-reaching real estate to showcase your sponsors. It’s just one of the many valuable perks you can offer to potential sponsors to get on board with your event.
Some Progress Meter Best Practices
Make your increments tangible. Add more power and momentum by illustrating to your audience what each increment on the road toward your goal will achieve. “Every $5,000 raised outfits a classroom with new desks, textbooks, and technology,” or “Every $200 raised houses and feeds a shelter pet for a month.” It gives donors the sense of exactly how much good their money will do.
Don’t label your visual appeal with dollar amounts. Your appeal is like a train barreling forward, sustained only by more donations. Telling the audience exactly how much money it’ll take to reach the goal means they’re less likely to give as you get closer to the finish line; it’s easy to think, “Someone else is going to donate the remaining amount, so I don’t need to.” Making it ambiguous means nobody knows exactly how long, or how many donations, reaching the goal will take.
And if you meet your goal early? No biggie. You can move your goal posts!
Be sure to come into your event with a second goal already in mind. “We raised $20,000 for the upgrade to the computer lab, so let’s upgrade the library next!” Lean on that momentum you’ve already whipped up in the audience.
But remember: only move the goal post once, or you risk alienating your audience. Be wary of setting your goals too low!
As if that wasn’t hard enough, don’t set your goals too high, either, or it will feel unattainable and guests will give up.