How to Sell T-Shirts For Charity

Remember when your college wardrobe consisted mainly of tees that clubs and causes were always selling on campus? Well those booths had the right idea! Whether people buy tees because they’re passionate about a cause or they just like the design, choosing to sell t-shirts for charity is a great way to raise money and awareness for your cause in a way that reaches a worldwide audience. 

We’ve seen more and more causes and charities open Artist Shops lately. Since we take care of the manufacturing and order fulfillment, charities and organizations have more time to do their good work (as well as quickly order products (at the base cost!) to take on the road!) And one thing we’ve noticed is that a few of these charities are using their Shops in super unique ways. If you’re ready to learn how to sell t-shirts for charity (among other products), here are some Shops to take example from! 

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The WXRT Artist Shop

  • HOW THEY UNIQUELY USED THEIR SHOP: to quickly fundraise (and raise awareness) for a cause.

  • TAKEAWAYS: You can do a ‘flash fundraiser’ like this one where you have a limited time design to quickly raise money.

Throughout September (a.k.a Ovarian Cancer awareness month), the WXRT radio station offered a single design in their Shop: A teal WXRT shirt, which donated all proceeds to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance. In just 30 days, they raised over $32,000. We talked to Director of Events & Experiences Sam Phelps at WXRT about the cause and how they used their Shop to support it!

Tell us a little bit about how WXRT used their Artist Shop to raise money for “30 Days of Teal”. 

We wanted to do something to honor our longtime colleague and on-air personality Leslie Witt, who passed away from Ovarian Cancer last summer. It was a really hard loss for everyone at the station. Leslie had such an overwhelmingly positive spirit, so we wanted to do something to honor her legacy while helping other women that have been impacted by the disease.    

We decided to do something for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month to raise awareness of the risk factors and symptoms, and also raise money for the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance that complemented their “30 Days of Tealcampaign. We needed to find partner that could handle all of the t-shirt production, order fulfillment and shipping, and Threadless ended up being a very good fit. All we really needed to do was create the store, provide the design, and promote it, so it was really turnkey for us.

How successful was this fundraiser? How much money did the Shop raise in just 30 Days?

We sold 2,171 shirts, raising $32,565 for the Ovarian Cancer National Research Foundation, which was just outstanding. We really weren’t sure exactly what to expect because we had never used Threadless or done a campaign like this, so we were blown away by the incredible outpouring of support from our listeners. The OCRFA and everyone here at WXRT couldn’t be more grateful to everyone that purchased a shirt as part of this effort.

What advice do you have for someone trying to fundraise with an online shop?

Being a radio station, we obviously had the advantage of having a large existing audience. Even if your group doesn’t have the benefit of media to get the word out, you can still get creative in promoting it to your following and spreading the word. We encouraged listeners that bought a shirt to share a picture of themselves wearing it with “#XRTeal” on social media, then we shared their pictures on our channels. That really helped get the word out in a natural way.

The [HAS HEART] Artist Shop

  • HOW THEY UNIQUELY USE THEIR SHOP: They sell designs created by artists collaborating with veterans.

  • TAKEAWAYS: Your Shop can be a collaborative and key part of your cause.

[Has Heart] is one of my favorite organizations using Artist Shops; all of the designs in their Shop are the direct result of what they actually do, which is to pair artists up with veterans in order to tell their story! Their designs help spread the word about the organization, connects people to veterans, and serves as a rewarding product that the veterans involved can take with them. Not to mention, they’re a prime example of how helpful an “About” page can be!

We talked to [Has Heart] all about what they do and how they use their Shop!

Tell me a little bit about the [Has Heart] mission!

The mission of [HAS HEART] is to utilize art, design, and fashion to benefit, uplift, and inspire Veterans. Creatives harness the ability to not only tell meaningful stories, but also provide a platform for civilians to better understand and appreciate Veterans by giving them a creative voice. Our goal is to enable creatives to be the bridge that connects the worlds of Veterans and civilians.

Why did you decide to open up an Artist Shop for [Has Heart]?

When we launched our first HERO[series] project in 2012, we partnered with Threadless to do it. We partnered five artists, including Threadless artists Phil Jones, Priscilla Wilson, and Chuck Anderson with five Veterans from across the country. Through a multi-day design process held in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the Veterans and artists brainstormed design concepts that shared each Veterans’ story. We exhibited their shirts during ArtPrize and were blown away by the reaction of the public. In addition to the gallery, we had a pop-up shop where visitors were able to purchase their Threadless design and take their stories with them. Opening an Artist Shop seemed like a great fit to continue sharing these meaningful stories.

Does your Shop play an important role in the cause?

The Artist Shop will play a key role in enabling our organization to focus on our mission without having to worry about the logistics and production of creating turning designs into a quality, American-made product. Being able to trust Threadless and their attention to detail in producing great shirts is a huge load off our small, grassroots organization’s back when it comes to producing and distributing these Veterans’ designs. Starting this summer, we’ll be taking this concept across the country on a 50 State RV tour in which we’ll partner one Veteran with one artist in each state. The results of this 18-month long project will be compiled into a coffee table book, art exhibit, and a collection of 50 meaningful designs.

Where do the proceeds from the Shop go?

As a small non-profit organization, proceeds from the shop will enable us to continue our mission. Our goal is to become a self-sustaining organization through product sales that can then be reinvested into the organization and its HERO[series] projects. In addition, proceeds from each design will also go back to that Veteran and their family.

The “HAPPY BOMBS” Artist Shop 

  • HOW THEY UNIQUELY USE THEIR SHOP: Rather than contributing to just one cause, HappyBombs donates to a bunch of different ones through designs uniquely geared towards each organization.

  • TAKEAWAYS: You don’t have to just limit yourself to one cause or charity – you can have different designs contribute to different causes! 

HappyBombs shows that you don’t have to narrow yourself to one cause – you can help out several! They work together with organizations they want to team up with and create a unique tee in the HappyBombs style for that specific cause. They told us, “We have organized our criteria into four main pillars—Humanity, Education, Health, and Environment. And every cause and charity that we support will ladder up to one of these. Today it’s Water.org (Humanity), DonorsChoose.org (Education), Young Survival Coalition (Health) and Plant With Purpose (Environment)…Our hope is that eventually charities will see us as a way to amplify and spread their message.” Their Shop provides a home for their evergreen designs that will always be sold. 

HappyBombs also shook things up with their design theme, using a typically violent image and turning it on its head. They’re a great example of using their own art and design as a foot-in-the-door message that gets people interested in what it stands for. “We are fueled by the notion of turning negatives into positives, so we hijacked a classic symbol of conflict, war, terror, pain and destruction and turned it into a beacon of cooperation, peace, love, hope and change. And while we acknowledge that all of that might not come through in the name right away, it’s a risk we’re happy to take. We want Happy Bombs to start conversations about causes, about what people can do to help, about why and how people choose the bombs they are wearing. We knew that for the conversations to start, the designs needed to generate a reaction. Our hope is that the people who buy and wear our designs become our biggest advocates.”

The “Resist Symbol” Artist Shop

  • HOW THEY USE THEIR SHOP UNIQUELY: Resist Symbol doesn’t sell designs for charity, but rather to raise awareness for a social movement they are passionate about.

  • TAKEAWAYS: Supporting a cause doesn’t always mean donating proceeds – it can also mean supporting a movement and spreading the word.

The Resist Symbol Shop is a prime example of getting involved in a topical cause that you’re passionate about and selling designs that support a movement by spreading the word. Whether or not you agree with the message, the Resist Symbol Artist Shop is the second best-selling Artist Shop to date behind WXRT. It’s a prime example of effectively using an online Shop to spread a message.

Artists (Like Ming Doyle – Above!)

  • HOW THEY USE THEIR SHOP UNIQUELY: There are a ton of Artist Shops right now run by regular artists who have individual designs that they use the proceeds from to donate to a cause of their choosing.

  • TAKEAWAYS: You don’t have to have a whole Shop dedicated to a cause or charity – you can donate the proceeds from any of your designs to any charity if you like!

You don’t have to have a whole Shop dedicated to a cause like the Resist Symbol does – you can have an individual design! One thing that a lot of artists have done is to donate proceeds from a specific design in their Shop to a cause they want to contribute to.

Ming Doyle is a great example. She had two designs in her Shop – one that donated to Planned Parenthood and one that donated to the ACLU – that she had up for a limited time, but ended up bringing back by popular demand:

Not only is this helpful for the cause you want to support, but as an artist it’s a great way to promote the rest of your designs as well. And it’s a solid example of promoting a limited time design, but then bringing it back if the demand is there – it just goes to show how much flexibility in promoting designs both, for causes and charities as well as your own personal designs.

TL;DR

Alright, alright! Here’s the quick version of the different ways that Shops have been used to support charities, causes, and movements, and ways you can use a Shop as well:

  • WXRT quickly raised money for a specific cause they wanted to donate to by offering one design for a set amount of time. They raised $32,565 in the span of one month.
  • [HAS HEART] uses their Artist Shop to sell designs that come directly out of what their cause does, which is to pair artists with veterans.
  • HappyBombs donates to a bunch of different causes, creating designs specifically geared towards whatever cause it supports.
  • Resist Symbol is the second best-selling Shop to date, selling designs that spread the word about a social movement they want to support.
  • Many individual artists have included individual designs in their Shop that raise money for a cause they want to support.

 

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We’re an artist community built on the power of helping each other succeed — if you’re reading this and have tips of your own to share, please let us know in the comments! Thank you!

Illustrations done by the amazing Katie Lukes