Utilizing Merch as a Tool for Advocacy

There are countless ways to be an advocate for the causes you believe in and it’s important to find the ways that work best for you, your organization, and the people you are advocating for. Advocacy work is incredibly important, but it can also be incredibly time-consuming and exhausting because of its ongoing nature. A tool you might not have considered utilizing – quite possibly because you weren’t aware of it yet – is creating an apparel campaign that spreads awareness and raises proceeds for your cause. 

The campaigns featured below are just a few examples of organizations that have created successful advocacy campaigns on Bonfire. These campaigns have helped them grow their support communities, connect with their supporters on a more intimate level, and expand the advocacy work that they are able to do because of the proceeds raised through apparel sales and donations. Let’s take a closer look at these campaigns and learn what they’re doing to advocate for causes that are near and dear to their hearts – and how they are using Bonfire to help. 

Love Makes A Family by Love Makes A Family

“… I think of when I reflect on what love meants to me and how i visualize it through my own lens – It’s unique yet personal to us all, imperfect yet beautiful. It’s specific and distinct, but finds a way to encompass families of all backgrounds, sexualities, identities, and races.”

-Joe Burke

Who Is This Campaign Advocating for and Who Benefits From the Proceeds Raised?

The Love Makes A Family Campaign was created to support queer individuals and couples who want to form their families through adoption, foster care, and surrogacy. All of the proceeds raised go directly to Family Equality, an organization that is fighting for a world where everyone can experience the unconditional love and belonging of family – and work hard to advance equality for LGBTQ families. Together, they fight against social stigmas, unjust laws, and the financial hurdles that are in place to create barriers for LGBTQ individuals and couples to become parents.

What Makes This Campaign Successful?

The design for this campaign is colorful and joyful. The illustrations are reminiscent of something a child might draw, which points back to the overall goal of creating families. And speaking of the colorfulness of the apparel, it was obviously no mistake that the color scheme is rainbow to show support for the LGBTQ community. The phrase used on the merch, “LOVE MAKES A FAMILY” is a simple statement that advocates for unconventional families and aims to remind us all that LOVE is at the core of anyone and everyone wanting to start a family. 

This campaign also offers many different merch and apparel options – so there’s sure to be something for everyone who wants to show their support by purchasing something from the store.

How Are They Extending Their Advocacy Beyond Their Merch?

Last year when Love Makes A Family was launched, they raised nearly $4,000 which all went to Family Equality and helped benefit its mission to provide legal and lived equality for LGBTQ families and those that wish to form them. The proceeds from that first campaign helped serve 1,123 families, advanced federal policy work such as the John Lewis Every Child Deserves a Family Act and the Equality Act, and targeted harmful state laws that unjustly hurt LGBTQ families. Since its relaunch for 2022, the Love Makes A Family campaign continues to raise proceeds for Family Equality and continues to fight for its original mission and purpose.

Fun fact:

Last year, this campaign won the Best of Bonfire Award for Best LGTBQ Design! Rather than keep the design the same, they relaunched this year with the design you see today – bursting with life and hope and love. The new merch is even more bold and empowering than the first design. This redesign was thoughtful and purposeful and has helped the campaign reach a broader audience.

I’M HAPPY YOU EXIST!  by Taylor Polcyn

“I love you guys. A lot. I’m really really freaking happy you exist.”

– Taylor Polcyn

Who Is This Campaign Advocating for and Who Benefits From the Proceeds Raised?

This campaign was created to promote Mental Health awareness, end the stigma surrounding mental health struggles, and aid in suicide prevention. The proceeds from this campaign go directly to the artist themselves so that they can continue their mental health advocacy work.

What Makes This Campaign Successful?

The design for I’m Happy You Exist is bright and eye-catching. This goes right along with Taylor’s goal of getting people to start talking openly and honestly about mental health. You can’t help but notice and read the large words on the merch, which hopefully leads to people having conversations surrounding mental health and suicide prevention. The design itself is also cute and trendy which makes it incredibly wearable. This will help more people want to purchase and rock this awesome merch for a great cause.

How Are They Extending Their Advocacy Beyond Their Merch?

Taylor included the suicide prevention hotline number right there on the front as a part of the design. It’s easy to see, easy to read, and easy to remember. By including this number in the merch design that people are wearing to countless places all over the world – the potential impact could be HUGE. A passerby could see this at a time when they needed this message and this number most of all, and they may never even exchange words with the person wearing the merch. It’s a very real possibility that Taylor’s I’m Happy You Exist merch has saved countless lives.

DMWTK Apparel by Don’t Mess With Trans Kids

“Spreading awareness, visibility, and love for our trans community in Texas and beyond.”


Who Is This Campaign Advocating for and Who Benefits From the Proceeds Raised?

The Don’t Mess With Trans Kids Campaign was created to raise proceeds to fight back against the anti-trans legislation being pushed in Texas. 100% of the proceeds raised from this campaign go directly to Equality Texas, an organization that serves the LGBTQIA community through political action, education, community organizing, and collaboration.

What Makes This Campaign Successful?

Don’t Mess With Trans Kids has stayed consistent and transparent since they first began their campaign. Their message is simple, but has a huge impact – DON’T MESS WITH TRANS KIDS. By including images and colors from the Texas flag, and even an image of the state of Texas itself, there is no question who their message is directed towards. This is super important because it leaves no room for incorrect interpretation. 

If you scroll through their Instagram page, you’ll see photo after photo of all different types of people wearing their Don’t Mess With Trans Kids shirts. This is a wonderful way to build a community, celebrate your supporters, and inspire others to purchase a shirt as well.

Helpful tip:

If you want to include words and images on your advocacy campaign t-shirt -remember, the more specific the better. You don’t want people to see your shirt and have questions about what it’s trying to say or what it means. You want to be as direct as possible so that your message can reach as many people as possible.

How Are They Extending Their Advocacy Beyond Their Merch?

Don’t Mess With Trans Kids has an incredibly active social media presence – they share  (and save on their highlight reels) information about events and rallies that are happening, fundraising updates, and make sure their community has access to helpful resources they may need. 

Rise Up Against Racism by Rise Up Against Racism Inc.

“Centering on families and education, we encourage antiracist learning and bring communities together to actively dismantle racism.”


Who Is This Campaign Advocating for and Who Benefits From the Proceeds Raised?

This campaign was designed to help raise awareness for Rise Up Against Racism’s mission – to rise up against racism, whether that’s in your community, in your family, in your school, wherever you may be. All proceeds raised go directly to Rise Up Against Racism, a non-profit organization focused on implementing change through sustainable initiatives.

What Makes This Campaign Successful?

Rise Up Against Racism partnered with designer (and friend), Hope Meng, to create the design of their merch. Hope’s lettering is captivating and draws you in. The letters themselves also appear to rise up as they go along. A strong design is super important when you are hoping to sell a bunch of shirts to supporters and also get a lot of people out in the world to take notice of your design. In this case, the message on the merch and the name of the organization are the same. This keeps everything consistent and easy to remember if you wanted to look up the org to find out more.

How Are They Extending Their Advocacy Beyond Their Merch?

Rise Up Against Racism centers around the idea that education can radically transform society – with that, they are currently focusing on building Little Antiracist Libraries throughout communities so that children have access to stories from diverse voices.

All Autistic Communication is Valid by NeuroClastic

“Speaking, Signing, Writing, Spelling, and Pointing— all Autistic Communication is Valid.”

NeuroClastic Team

Who Is This Campaign Advocating for and Who Benefits From the Proceeds Raised?

This campaign was created by NeuroClastic, an Autistic-led nonprofit that aims for a future that is more accepting, accommodating, and empowering for Autistic people. All proceeds go directly to NeuroClastic and help them create tangible resources to support their readers. Their goal as an organization is to help folks understand what it means to be autistic, as well as help those seeking diagnosis. They advocate for everyone within the autism community to have access to resources for seeking equal opportunities in education, employment settings, and help to receive therapeutic resources.

What Makes This Campaign Successful?

This campaign does a great job of creating visibility for Autistic people with different communication styles and needs. The illustrated images on the design might lead to questions being asked if someone is unfamiliar with that particular way to communicate. (Remember, these questions should ALWAYS be asked in ways that respect the boundaries of the Autistic person or non-Autistic ally who is wearing the shirt.) The design is blocky, bold, and beautifully done. It’s aesthetically pleasing and also easy to wear. This immense care put into this campaign is apparent in the design, the description of their mission, and the organization behind the whole thing.

How Are They Extending Their Advocacy Beyond Their Merch?

The design for the shirt was created by autistic illustrator, Natch Azure. This is important because the mission of NeoClastic is to empower folks within the autism community. The design also features different ways that Autistic people might communicate or express themselves – by speaking, writing, using an AAC device, sign language, or pointing to spell on a letterboard. These communication techniques could potentially be new knowledge for a lot of people, and visibility of that alone is hugely beneficial.

NeoClastic focuses mostly on advocating for the autism community, but they also expand their advocacy to the neurodivergent community as a whole. 

These campaigns are just a sampling of the amazing groups and organizations that have chosen Bonfire to be a part of their advocacy journey. We are honored, as a company, to be a small part of their huge impact in their continued efforts to make this world a kinder, more empathetic place. In recent years, we have seen the true potential of what merch campaigns can do when it comes to spreading awareness and expanding an organization’s reach. 

Hosting a campaign on Bonfire costs nothing, but the benefits are limitless. Let’s build your Bonfire campaign today so you can continue working on making the world a better place – one person at a time, one t-shirt at a time.

Ready to jump right in?

Start making your own premium custom merch for free on Bonfire.

Written by: Hayden Ireland / Content Specialist
Illustrated by: Madison Summers / Lead Marketing Designer

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