How to Make the Ice Bucket Challenge Better with T-shirts

Photo via University of Central Arkansas

If you were on vacation last week or unplugged from social media (or under a rock) you’re probably one of the few people who DIDN’T take the #IceBucketChallenge.

The challenge is simple. Use your smartphone to record yourself pouring a bucket of ice water over your head. Before you post it to social media, challenge several friends to do the same OR to pay the price: donate $100 to an ALS organization, like the ALS Therapy Development Institute.

I too was challenged, but I opted for the $100 donation. Yeah, I really hate being cold and wet!

The #IceBucketChallenge is raising money and awareness about a terrible disease. It’s a brilliant fundraising idea. But it could be raising even more money with the addition of one item: t-shirts.

To commemorate supporters taking the challenge, ALS groups should have sold a t-shirts.

Photo via

The one-two punch of donations and t-shirts works. A t-shirt campaign called Prayers for Jenna raised nearly $30,000 on top of more than $200,000 raised from traditional donations. The #IceBucketChallenge has reportedly raised millions for ALS groups. Fundraising t-shirts could have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars more.

And why stop with a five-figure t-shirt campaign? After the Boston Marathon Bombing in 2013, three college students used t-shirts to raise over one million dollars! The possibilities with t-shirts are endless.

Here are four more reasons why t-shirts should be part of every fundraiser.

  1. People love t-shirts. How many do you own? The average guy or gal owns at least a dozen t-shirts and is happy to add to his or her collection. And t-shirts are definitely the favorite apparel of the biggest and most generous generation of them all: Millennials (men and women under the age of 34).
  2. T-shirts raise more money, not less. You might worry that t-shirts will sap donations. But from running hundreds of fundraisers, here’s the truth: the more ways you give people to give, the more they’ll give. Professional fundraisers call it integrated fundraising. I call it more money for your cause or nonprofit.
  3. T-shirts can feed online engagement. T-shirts can spread awareness about a cause (remember Boston Strong?), especially on social media sites. Savvy fundraisers include hashtags on their t-shirts. All the major social networks, including Facebook, use hashtags to track keywords and topics. Including a hashtag on a t-shirt can drive supporters online where they can learn about the campaign, donate and share the fundraiser with others.
  4. No upfront costs. If you’ve ever planned a fundraising event and then broke even or lost money on it, you know how risky and expensive fundraising can be. But if you are using Booster, Ink to the People, Tfund or another reputable crowd funding platform, there are no up-front fees to create a t-shirt fundraiser. Once your campaign successfully closes, they’ll send you the funds raised minus a modest fee. There are no out-of-pocket expenses.

The #IceBucketChallenge helps people with a terrible neuromuscular disease. Already, there are plenty of copycats! The Canadian Cancer Society has launched the Fearless Challenge. You make a video of yourself describing your fear, set a target for how much cash it will take to get you face that fear. When you reach your fundraising goal, you make another video proving that you didn’t chicken out. One person who has a fear of spiders is willing to let tarantulas crawl all over him for $5000!

That will be quite an accomplishment. One that should be remembered with a t-shirt that will raise more money for the cause.