How to Fundraise: Silk Screen T-shirts

When my YCI experience began I did not have a lot of fundraising experience. Besides asking family, friends and strangers to donate to a cause, I had never organized any fundraising activities or events. I decided that this time I wanted to use my creative abilities to express how excited I was for my YCI trip to Costa Rica.

Initially, I thought selling t-shirts would be a great way to fundraise. Supporters would receive something from donating, and could also use their shirts to spread the news of my fundraiser! However, how I would make shirts in a timely manner and make a profit was much trickier than I anticipated. At first I tried making spray paint stencils (which looked easy and cheap on youtube!), but in reality were a tragic disaster. My local art store owner, recommended buying a silk screening kit, which I was hesitant to do because of the price, but eventually gave in when my spray paint stencils dream came to a crashing halt.

The silk screening kit was much more time consuming than I originally planned. I was beginning to get nervous because my fundraising had yet to grow out of its initial brainstorming stages. Although the silk screening prepping process took more time, the result was a much cleaner and polished looking stencil.

Tail Feathers of the Quetzal

Tail Feathers of the Quetzal

I chose to draw a simple design, which would make it easier for me to make multiple prints, and would also appeal to many types of people. I also wanted it to have a connection to Costa Rica, with the hopes that the wearer would explain the meaning to others, and inspire more supporters! I decided to use the tail feather of the Quetzal, a tropical bird that resides in Costa Rica. The magnificent tail feathers of the male bird are a wonder to see, and my design attempted to mimic the cascading motion of the feathers, flowing down the right shoulder of the shirt.


Even though I had finished my stencil, there were still many kinks that needed to be ironed out in the screening process. I had to learn how much pressure and ink to use when stencilling, how many prints could be made cleanly in a row and much more! Even late into the process I made little adjustments here and there.

My neolithic printing process

The actual selling of the shirts took a little time to take off, but when it did I became incredibly bogged down with all of the orders. Some weeks I had twenty or more shirts to make! As fast as it picked up, it also died down, which was mostly a blessing, because it almost became a second job! With all the work it entailed, I still would have done it again, because I loved creating something for a good cause, and I felt so proud to see others wear my creation.

My recommendations for other volunteers who want to try something like this, is to take your time and anticipate some bumps in the road. The creative process is never as smooth sailing as you would like it to be, but it is always rewarding when you create for others!

– Abbi MacDonald is heading to Costa Rica for 4- weeks this November with Youth Challenge International 


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