Teach For America’s Houston T-shirt Sale

It looks less like altruism and more like opportunism.

Teach for America (TFA) sells apparel advertising its organization.

One can dish out brand-name bucks by purchasing TFA apparel via J Crew (see here and here, for example), or one can purchase less expensive TFA apparel at the TFA online store.

At the TFA online store, one can purchase a TFA t-shirt for $11.95 (plus shipping).

As I was browsing TFA Houston’s Facebook page, I noticed an ad for TFA t-shirt sales “with the proceeds going towards helping those in our network affected by [Hurricane] Harvey”:

Our Teach For America – Houston swag shop now has #HOUSTONSTRONG items for sale with the proceeds going towards helping those in our network affected by #Harvey.

In the face of challenges, we rise to the occasion. We volunteer. We roll up our sleeves and get to work. We give. We put on for our city. We are #HOUSTONSTRONG.

I was curious about how much money from each t-shirt sale would be designated for Harvey assistance, so I clicked on the TFA swag shop link.

TFA Houston’s Harvey fundraiser t-shirt is priced at $23.99 (plus shipping) and is accompanied with the following self-gratulating text:

In the face of challenges, we rise to the occasion. We volunteer. We roll up our sleeves and get to work. We give. We put on for our city. We are #HoustonStrong.

With the purchase of this shirt, you’ll be making a $10 donation to families affected by Harvey.

If one purchases a TFA t-shirt on the main TFA apparel website as opposed to on the TFA Houston site, one could donate the $12 difference to Harvey relief as opposed to overpaying TFA to send $10 in relief. (Note: Not an “if” for me to buy TFA wear.)

Or one could purchase the notably overpriced T-shirt from the newly devised TFA Houston swag shop site and end up giving TFA a $2 tip after it donates $10 for Harvey relief.

Indeed, TFA additionally benefits from your TFA Houston t-shirt purchase as follows:

  1. TFA gets continued advertising via folks wearing its t-shirts.

  2. TFA gets even more mileage for advertising that TFA is “donating” funds to Harvey.

  3. TFA has used a crisis to slyly fund-raise for itself (i.e., remaining profit, including that $2 tip).

Just how much is the wholesale cost of a printed tee like the one TFA Houston is selling?

Let’s estimate.

According to Custom Ink, if I order 500 color Gildan Ultra Cotton Tees (a good quality t-shirt) with a print on one side in 7 colors (like the TFA Houston t-shirt) and have them delivered to New York (zip 10004, TFA headquarters), each t-shirt would cost $6.76 (shipping free). (Note: Price is the same if shipped to TFA Houston, zip 77046, though shipping to Houston does not seem sensible given the post-Harvey devastation.)

If I increase the order to 2,000 shirts, the price per shirt decreases to $4.87.

At 5,000 shirts, the price becomes $4.14 per shirt.


TFA’s Harvey fundraiser is less altruism and more opportunism, especially as one considers setting the retail price.

T-shirt Magazine Online offers the following guidelines about retail t-shirt pricing:


Let’s take a look at some of the common price ranges for t-shirts:


This is usually found in new brands who plan on going with the ‘cheap shirts’ approach or brands who have been around for a while and can afford huge bulk orders that allow them to sell their t-shirts for low costs and still get a good profit.


The unofficial average price range for the majority of t-shirt brands. Most brands you come across will have their tees at this price range whether they’re new or have been around for a while. Great profit margin if you can afford huge orders, good enough margin if you place small wholesale orders.

Typically, retailers will take your product and sell it for 2x as much as they bought it for.  [Emphasis added.]

If I pay $6.76 per t-shirt and sell each for $23.99, I am making a killing.

If my cost per shirt drops below $5, it’s even more of a killing.

In donating $10 per price-hiked TFA Houston t-shirt, TFA is using Harvey as a fundraising opportunity for itself.

Either that, or TFA is selectively poor at getting a suitable wholesale price on its t-shirts.


Originally posted 09-09-17 at deutsch29.wordpress.com.



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Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

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