The need-to-know for charity t-shirt campaigning

If you work in the charity sector, there’s plenty of reasons to think about creating t-shirts in aid of your cause. Be that for fundraising, campaigning, for volunteers, or all of the above, it’s a tried-and-tested option in the charity fundraising toolbox. But what are the key things to bear in mind before you design and print your own charity t-shirts?

London charity Stonewall Housing created a successful run of t-shirts to promote their new House of Stonewall initiative. An organisation who provide housing and support to LGBT+ people threatened with homelessness in the UK capital, the House of Stonewall project started as a film to celebrate and showcase the charity’s work. Directed by photographer and filmmaker Miriam Strong, it’s gone on to be shown at the Rainbow Honours Awards, where they have been shortlisted for LGBT Housing provider and are hopeful it may feature in BFI Flare film festival 2020.

Alongside the film, they developed a visual identity for the House of Stonewall brand. People immediately connected to the House of Stonewall logo and branding, with many people enquiring about House of Stonewall merch. It was then that they approached ICON, and we offered to donate a set of t-shirts to the charity.

They’ve been a great success with the charity’s supporters. We spoke to Cat Haldane, their fundraising and initiatives manager, to get her tips on how to run a successful charity t-shirt campaign.

How to successfully use custom t-shirts with your charity

View this post on Instagram

A massive THANKYOU to our friends at @idealflatmate for sponsoring our pride T-shirt’s this year! • • • Who’s as excited as we are??? 🏳️‍🌈 🏳️‍🌈 • • • #londonpride #blackpride #countdown #gay #lgbt #lgbtq #loveislove #lesbian #love #bisexual #instagay #gaypride #queer #projects #home4all #transgender #houseofstonewall #trans #asexual #bi #like #follow #gaylove #nonbinary #gayman #lovewins #lgbtpride #londonpride #london

A post shared by Stonewall Housing (@stonewallhousing) on

1. Think of it as a way to diversify income

Stonewall Housing have historically received grants from local authorities, but their funding model has come under jeopardy in recent years. The core of the charity is about providing housing to LGBT+ people threatened with homelessness, and they have housing services for this purpose in six different London boroughs. However, the amount of funding they receive to provide these services has been drastically slashed in 2012 by as much as 67%. 

“We’ve got to really diversify our income streams,” Haldane explains. The House of Stonewall campaign, and the t-shirts, have been a part of doing that. Firstly, they have sold the t-shirts at events, such as at a recent Halloween party in London’s Royal Vauxhall Tavern. Secondly, they have been worn by alumni from their services, highlighting the good they do and boosting awareness of the charity as they try to appeal to different sources of funding.

2. Work with creatives sympathetic to your cause

Stonewall Housing is a small, grassroots charity, and like many other not-for-profits of its size, it faces a recurring problem: very limited budgets. While they are working to make their work and brand clearer to a greater number of potential donors, Haldane says that their ability to do so is hamstrung by the tight margins they have to operate within.

However, their House of Stonewall campaign gives an inspirational example of how to sidestep this issue. The film that started the campaign was created by filmmaker Miriam Strong, a photographer and filmmaker for Getty, amongst others. Strong, who is also LGBT+, offered her time for free – a lifesaver, without which, the film would never have been possible. And as the film was coming together and Haldane was looking to try and create a logo for the House of Stonewall project, Strong put her in touch with a graphic designer, Spike Spondike, who offered to design it for free.

“There’s something really important in people from our community helping other people in the community,” Haldane says.

3. Use it to celebrate ambassadors for what you do

For a long time, Stonewall Housing have wanted to do more to work with the alumni from its services, many of whom speak evangelically about the impact the charity’s services had on their lives. But, once again, a lack of staff and resources has meant that it’s been difficult to allocate the time. 

The House of Stonewall t-shirts have helped them shine a light on their ambassadors. Highlighting the importance of housing issues, in particular for those in the LGBT community, it also allows them to start conversations about the importance of Stonewall Housing’s work.

Having t-shirts that their ambassadors can wear is a great way to engage with them and build those relationships. This means that, in future, those ambassadors can hopefully be persuaded to speak in front of potential donors to show the importance of the charity’s work.

It’s about starting conversations too. By having ambassadors and supporters wearing the t-shirts out and about, it raises the chance of a talking point over what the charity does and the issues they’re addressing. For example, House of Stonewall Ambassadors represented Stonewall Housing at their Let Get Boroughs Together Campaign, launched at the end of October. 

As a result of this first meeting, Southwark have commissioned Stonewall Housing to run pilot accommodation and advice services – a testament to the virtuous circle of benefits which have come of them connecting with alumni of their services. As Haldane says, “It’s about creating a platform for young people to talk about housing.”

If you want to donate to Stonewall Housing this Christmas, you can get involved with their QUEERMAS Christmas text campaign. It aims to get every service user living in one of their schemes a £10 gift voucher for Christmas, at a time when many of them wake up alone without friends or family, and rely on food banks or local charity Christmas meals to attend. Simply text the word QUEERMAS to 70085 to donate £10 to the appeal.

Want to create t-shirts for your charity? At ICON Printing we can create deliver fast turnaround custom printed t-shirts, hats and a variety of other merch. If you’re a registered charity, we can discuss offering a discount on any order you look to make. Get a quote in 2 minutes online.