Written by: Kimberly Proffitt

How can we create an atmosphere of excitement around giving during a virtual event?

At an in-person event, the energy of the auctioneer, the applause of the guests, and the thrill of watching bid cards go up in the air make a person want to jump right in. This is more challenging virtually.

Enter the thermometer.

One of the psychological factors for giving is proximity to a goal. Supporters want you to reach your fundraising target. Studies show the closer you get to the goal, the more excited people are to give. You can feel the anticipation – even virtually – as the thermometer keeps going up. Who wouldn’t want to help take the fundraising “over the top?”

Yet, it’s not enough to put the thermometer (or another visual tracker) on the giving page and expect it to go up. The thermometer needs a strategy behind it. There’s an art to “helping” the amount rise. You must consider your overall goal, the amount of money you’ve already raised, the giving culture of your organization, and how many people have registered for the event. 

For example, a good strategy is to start your event with some dollars already in the “pot.” This is similar to what organizations do with a capital campaign. Often, a set percentage of the goal is raised before launching the campaign publicly. You may choose to include some or all sponsorship dollars and pre-raised gifts in the thermometer early on. If virtual viewers see there is already progress to the goal, they are more motivated to get to (or even surpass) that number. 

The visual effect of the thermometer is something we naturally gravitate toward. Make sure it is in a prominent place on your giving page. And keep it graphically simple! Your thermometer or tracker should be easily understood.

The thermometer is just one of several tools to engage virtual event viewers. We expect to continue using it as we move into hybrid events, and it may even make its way into in-person events in the future! Our team is here to help you in developing a goal and thermometer strategy. We’ll guide you about pre-raising funds and how to best show that revenue, verbally and visually, throughout your campaign and during your program.


Kimberly Proffitt, Research, Analysis, and Donor Engagement Consultant at Fladeboe Advancement, has worked in the nonprofit sector her entire career, focusing on fundraising and philanthropy for the past 22 years. She takes special interest in helping organizations understand the stories data tell, strategizing on developing long-term relationships with donors and reframing fundraising from “asking for money” to engaging with the passions and values of donors.

Special thanks to team member Kate Pearce for her contributions to this post!