Creative Fundraising in Youth Ministry

Fundraising is probably the biggest nemesis and necessity in youth ministry. You probably either love it or hate it. It is necessary because it costs money to do ministry that motivates students. It is a nemesis because it never is completed; we always need more money! Below are some thoughts to help point you in a good direction.

Expense vs Investment

I always asked the parents of students to answer this question when entering our youth ministry: Is the cost of youth ministry an expense for you or an investment in the spiritual lives of your students?

When it comes to fundraising, I think that same question should be asked of everyone participating in the fundraiser: students, leaders, parents. The goal of fundraising is to invest in the eternal, spiritual lives of our students.

Macro and Micro Perspective

There are two ways to look at fundraising.

First: What event are we raising for and what is the total needed? If you have 20 students who want to attend camp and the cost is $200 per person, then you need to raise $4,000. Look for a fundraiser that has the ability to raise $4,000.

Second: Evaluate how your students will participate in the fundraiser. Is it individual selling, each getting a share in the profit, etc.? How much might each one earn from the fundraiser? Make these expectations clear to your families ahead of time.

Inside and Outside

Fundraising can be done both inside and outside the church.

Outside fundraising could look like selling fireworks in a store parking lot, doing a car wash at a car wash, or selling concessions at a city event. Find out what events are happening in your city where funds can be raised, and join them! In addition to raising money for your students, it gets you out and involved in your community.

When fundraising inside the church, think of things that people within the church are willing to buy because they love your students. Ideas include pie auctions, bake sales, pizza sales. Just remember, you can only go to the same well so many times before it dries up!

Annual Fundraisers

When a fundraiser is successful, try and make it an annual event. It becomes something that your people can look forward to. We did the Little Caesar Pizza Kit Fundraiser. It took place every January. Our students built up a clientele of people who bought pizzas, and one year we sold them a second time because so many people were asking for them.

Annual fundraisers help solidify your ability to raise funds long-term. This can help new students be successful in raising funds.

What Resourcing Do We Have?

Always ask about the gifts, talents, and resources that our church has to help in raising funds. One church I served changed over time. At first, it had the kind of people who would pay $100 for a pie. But over time, our congregation became much more middle to lower class. Our fundraisers had to change.

The most successful fundraiser we had was “Scrap Metal.” Many of our people couldn’t write a check, but they were throwing away their pop cans, soup, vegetable cans, dryers, lawn mowers, rusty bolts, etc. We developed a place where they could bring the items, and when we had enough of a load, we would take it to the local salvage yard. I also had an autobody owner who saw our youth ministry as an investment in students; he would give us all of his scrap metal! Over the years, we raised thousands of dollars this way. It was a continual fundraiser, but the opportunity to raise money to help our students attend camps, retreats, NYCs, and other events was so worth it!

Plan Your Fundraisers

Too many times, a youth pastor will come up with an idea and want to do it in the next two weeks.

First: Plan most all of your fundraisers a year at a time! We have to be careful how many times we are asking our people for extra money. If you decide to do four fundraisers a year, space them out while working in conjunction with the other area of the church that might also fundraise.

Second: Organize a group of leaders for your fundraisers. Include leaders, students, parents, or anybody who has the gift of raising funds. DO NOT DO IT ALL ON YOUR OWN! Schedule meetings to talk about, plan, and organize the fundraiser. An initial meeting should be three months out. Then plan all of the steps that it will take to accomplish the fundraising event. Also, make sure there is accountability involved. In other words, who is responsible to do each item and by when? Without these small but significant steps, a fundraiser will be less effective.

Find Fundraisers You Enjoy

You should be excited about the fundraiser! Make it fun for everyone, and always celebrate and thank the people who helped plan the fundraiser. Always remember that fundraising is a necessity in youth ministry!

Edward Belzer
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