How to Run a T Shirt Design Contest

There’s no doubt about it: people love designing—and wearing—t shirts. The general enthusiasm around t shirts means that a t shirt design contest can be an amazing fundraiser for your nonprofit organization. Your support community will get to showcase its creativity, their social contacts get the pleasure of voting for their favorite designers, and the winning design can continue to be sold to raise additional dollars for your organization. 

How to Run a T Shirt Design Contest

  1. Know Your Goals
  2. Determine T shirt Contest Design Parameters
  3. Set Up Contest on
  4. Promote Your T shirt Contest
  5. Pick a T shirt Design Contest Winner
  6. Partner with a Print Shop to Create the T Shirt 

It may sound like a heavy lift, but when you partner with, driving your own T shirt design contest is a lot easier than you think. Our team makes it possible for you to run your contest and monitor the results with minimal effort.

Why Hold a T Shirt Design Contest?

A t shirt contest can be an effective way to not only raise money for your nonprofit organization, but also to engage its community, create excitement about the organization through social media, discover hidden artistic or graphic design talent among stakeholders, create a new logo, and more. A t shirt design contest can even help you access fresh, new artwork that can be used to promote the organization beyond the initial t shirt. And by partnering with, you’ll get the help you need to ensure a fun and successful fundraising event.

How to Run a T Shirt Design Contest

Let’s take a deeper dive into the steps you’ll need to follow to successfully run a t shirt design contest for your organization.  

1. Know Your Goals

T shirt contests are fun and engaging fundraising ideas, but they’re not worth engaging in if they don’t help your organization meet its goals. Before you jump into a t shirt design contest, make sure you know what you want to achieve.

For example, is there a specific dollar amount you’re trying to raise? Are you trying to re-engage an apathetic membership? Are you looking to create social buzz and name recognition? Do you need to generate new branding/logo artwork for your organization?

Any and all of these are worthy goals, and there are countless others that are equally appropriate. Your challenge is to make sure your goals are articulated clearly so that you can measure the success of your contest against them.

2. Determine T Shirt Contest Design Parameters

While a t shirt contest is super fun, you’ll want to have some official rules in place to ensure the contest is successful. Make sure you’re putting clear parameters around the contest and clearly communicating them to designers.

For example, when will the contest open and close? Who can participate? Are there specific requirements submitted artwork needs to meet (specific visuals, fonts, phrases, etc.)? Does a t shirt design submission need to be submitted in a specific format, like Adobe Illustrator? Are entrants limited in the colors they can use? Will you accept artwork that is hand drawn? What about photography designs? How much will you charge per vote? Will you also require a fee from designers for entries? It’s best to brainstorm all your answers in advance to clearly outline your expectations.

It’s also important to carefully and clearly outline the criteria you’ll be using to choose the winning design. Will the winner be chosen solely by the number of votes, or will you have expert designers weigh in as well? If so, who will these expert designers be? What exactly are they looking for? What will the finalist receive as their prize?

Don’t undermine the fun and collective goodwill your contest can generate among participants by being vague or biased in your contest rules.

3. Set Up Contest on

Here’s where the process gets super easy. When you partner with, all you have to do is execute your contract and provide a banner image for your contest that meets our design specifications, along with supplying your contest rules, start date and end date. We’ll set up the contest on our platform—hosted on our servers and domain—and send you a unique URL to feature on your organization’s web site, social media accounts, etc., to drive people to your contest.

Of course, if you’d like to get more sophisticated, you can—we also offer the ability to develop customized homepage content, include sponsor logos in your contest footer, a customized email for all contest participants, and separate entry and voting deadlines. In other words, you can make your contest as customized as makes sense for you and your organization.

Once your T shirt design contest opens, designers will submit their artwork through our online fundraising platform and share their personalized links with their friends, family, and other supporters, asking them to vote for their original design. People who use these personalized links to vote will make a corresponding monetary gift to your school or nonprofit—you can set the fee per vote, but we recommend around $1 per vote.

Anyone with the link can vote, and people can vote multiple times, which increases the chances of raising more money for your nonprofit organization. Once you reach the end date for your fundraising event, our team at will stop your fundraiser, analyze the results, and send you the money your fundraising program has generated.

One of the key perks of working with the team at is that setting up your fundraiser with us also allows you to generate a list of contacts you can use to keep your community up-to-date on other needs and developments related to the organization. You may have designers participate in your contest who haven’t previously been close to your organization, but who now have developed an interest in learning more about its mission and how you serve the community. The contact list we generate will help you stay in touch with these new community stakeholders well into the future.

If you’re still on the fence about partnering with us, check out some of these success stories from other organizations who experienced an amazing impact from their fundraisers.

4. Promote Your T shirt Contest

This is the step that requires the most effort on your organization’s part. Once your contest is set up and voting is open, you’ll need to drive participation. Your first objective is to encourage designers to enter the contest by submitting their artwork. Regardless of whether you charge entry fees, the more designers you attract, the greater potential for raising money for your organization.

Use all your regular communication channels—newsletters, member email blasts, etc., to encourage people to submit their original T shirt designs. You’ll also want to promote the contest on your own website and social media platforms. You may even consider doing a bit of external outreach—if you have sponsors or relationships with local media outlets, they can help you spread the word. Use any events where potential designers are in attendance to encourage them to participate—you don’t want to let any opportunity to get in front of your target audiences pass you by!

Once the entries start coming in, you can enlist the help of your contest entrants to further spread the word about your contest. Task designers with reaching out to their social networks with the contest link, asking friends and family to vote for their design entry. The more votes they get, the more money you raise for your organization.

Make sure the prize for winning the contest is something amazing. For this kind of contest, the visibility and name recognition that can come from winning can be invaluable for up-and-coming artists or graphic designers, for example. Make sure the winner is promoted at every opportunity.

Pick a T shirt Design Contest Winner

In an earlier step, you identified how you would determine a t shirt design winner. You can go many different directions with this step. Some organizations choose their winner solely by the number of votes a particular design receives. The advantage here is the empowerment of your voting audience, who will have the full knowledge that their votes will make a difference in the organization. Other organizations may use votes as one factor in choosing a winner, but also combine that with “expert” or “celebrity” judges who are familiar with the t shirt design industry. They can consider factors outside of what the voting audience may think about, like the practicality of a design, how it might translate to other mediums, etc.

If you’re using extra judges, make sure to clearly articulate in advance what they’ll be looking for and how much weight their opinion carries, versus the voting public. And if there’s a tie, make sure you have an equitable, pre-developed and communicated plan for breaking it and choosing the final winner.

Keep in mind that voting for your contest is happening in real time, so you’ll be able to instantly see the winner of your contest. When you set up your t shirt design contest, you can designate whether you’d like the contest results to be instantly visible, or whether you’d prefer to have results disabled on the contest platform so that you can announce a winner at a later date.


Partner with a Print Shop to Create the T Shirt

Don’t let the term, “print shop” intimidate you if you’ve never had t shirts printed before. A quick online search will reveal many different options for print partners. Big names like Café Press, Custom Ink, or others are quick and easy to use.

You basically upload the winning design submission, choose the type of shirt you’d like, and select your quantity. Or if you’d prefer, you can partner with a local t shirt printer, who may even be willing to sponsor your event and print the shirts at no cost in exchange for the visibility and promotion via your existing communications channels.

Depending on the format of your winning entry, you may need to partner with a t shirt printer with a creative designer or graphic designer on staff to recreate your winning design into a format that is usable.

Another point to think about: you can also seek other sponsors who may be willing to participate in your contest in exchange for their logo(s) being printed on the winning T shirt.


T Shirt Design Contests are a Great Way to Spark Community Participation

A T shirt design contest is just one of the many ways you can use the 360PhotoContest platform to raise money for your nonprofit organization. Our goal is to help your organization raise as much money as possible in a way that is fun and engaging for your stakeholders—and smooth and easy for you.

If you still have questions, we’d love to discuss them. Fill out a form today to request a free demo or set up a call to talk through your organization’s fundraising needs and how we can help. We promise you won’t regret it!