This event has been a 30+ year tradition at this church. I am thankful for the opportunity that the youth ministry has to put this event together. All that to say that I have been busy this week, not doing anything major but just taking care of the little things. I am not the biggest fan of fundraisers but I know they are important in most ministries. Our ministry is lucky enough to only have two fundraisers to do. These events have been a part of the church for many years and we greatly benefit by getting about $15,000 per year from our two events. I know most youth ministries don't have this kind of opportunity but I think with the right mixture and help, you can pull off a great fundraiser.
Here are a few tips that I have learned in working with churches of various size and budgets.
- Get parents involved. This may seem like a no-brainer (or something you hadn't thought of) but I know many youth pastors who take on the full responsibility to raise money for students who need it. Most of the time all the money goes to the students who help, so why not get the parents involved. I mean, involved as in leading the fund raiser. A friend of mine got tired of having no help at fundraisers, so he told his parents that he wouldn't be doing another one, ever. His parents got the idea and now all the fundraisers are done by parents and he helps when he can.
- Involve the Community. Both fundraisers we do involve the church and the community to make them happen. By expanding your base to include your community, you expand your opportunity to make more money. This can be anything from car washes at a local fast-food place to a garage sale. Involving the community also takes pressure off the church to help the youth ministry beyond their normal tithes.
- Determine the Most Bang For Your Buck. When we think of fundraisers, we normally think of fast and easy. Things like bake sales, car washes, etc are events that are easy to organize and easy to run but are not always the most effective when it comes to raising money. Remember, you get out what you put into a fundraiser. Do some research to find out what other groups might be doing fundraisers, what kind are they doing and what has worked best. I remember at our last church we did a car wash on a Saturday in the summer and within a 1 mile radius, there was 6-7 other car washes going on and one less than a block from us. We made a total of $60 that day. Doing some prior planning will go a long way in making a successful event.
- Create a Tradition. I have said already that each of our fundraisers bring in a good bit of money, but that is only because they have been going on for 30+ years. Find a fundraiser that you can do each year around the same time and build on that. Our two fundraisers are summer garage sale called Trash-n-Treasure and a Turkey Dinner. Both of these started out small and grew over time. By creating a tradition you build anticipation during the year, people begin to look forward to your fundraiser.
- Most importantly, Do Something People Need. Todays students have been turned into little Amway sales people. Between school, sports, clubs and church, they spend a good deal of time asking people for money. When planning your fundraiser, try to create an event where people need what you have or create something they will normally do. Our Turkey Dinner fundraiser works because everyone eats and we provide a good meal at a reasonable price. Work with your senior pastor to talk about the needs of the church and plug your group in. Maybe you have a church with an older generation that needs help doing things around the house, create a Student Auction where students are "sold" for a per hour fee. People are more likely to help when they get something good in return.
Fundraisers can be great events or they can be horror stories for youth pastors. There are very few churches that don't have to do fundraisers. If you are that church, great for you, enjoy it. Churches from the smallest groups to the largest usually need some extra help for their students. We can serve our ministry well by having well-planned fundraisers. Be creative. Make the fundraiser fit your group and your setting. I remember one summer I did two car washes, one made around $50 per student, the other made $5.
Youth Pastors fight all the time with parents over money. I have had parents tell me they didn't have money for a specific event, but then the next week their student comes in with an iPod they just bought. We need to help educate our parents that youth ministry events are just as important, if not more, than the other activities their students are involved in. Good luck to you all.