May, 2013

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The Perfect Youth Ministry Fundraiser

 

fundraising      Every year there comes a time in youth ministry when extra money is needed for camp, mission trips, and even the youth budget in general.  Summer programs like mission trips and youth camp are wonderfully formative opportunities for students.  At major summer ministry events, many students may come to faith in Christ, have a sense of spiritual rejuvenation, grow closer with friends from your youth ministry, and make new friendships that will last a lifetime.  You, as the youth minister, know just how big the impact can be on students who attend these events.  If you could pay for all the students to go on trips out of your own pocket, you would.  Reality however, is that you’re a youth minister and your salary doesn’t allow you to be as generous as you may like. Sounds like it’s time for a fundraiser.

Yes, I said it—the “F” word.  (for youth ministry that is)  Over the years, I have met some youth ministers that seem to do more fundraising than ministry during certain times of the year.  After tallying the money, some fundraisers are hardly worth the effort required.  There may, or may not, be a “magic bullet” fundraiser that works every year for your group.  The quest for the perfect fundraiser is for the student minister, the search for the Holy Grail.  Here are four tips for effective fundraising:

1: Build Parent Buy InParents and other church members may hold to the idea that this fundraiser is the youth’s project so they should do all the work.  This may be true to an extent, but the money raised is not to relieve the bank accounts of thirteen-year-old Jr. High students.  The money raised helps the parents financially.   Many of the students rely on their parents for rides to church, and therefore transportation to assist with the fundraiser.  If parents are involved, you can bet your salary their students will be also.  Parents have just as much, if not more, to gain as their teens from being aware of and involved in the fundraising activity.   

2: Keep Overhead LowMany fundraising companies want you to petal their goods and wares, but only after you purchase large quantities of said goods.  Is buying $1000 of Tupperware or frozen pretzel dough really worth it when you consider the mark-up required to make a profit?  What if you get stuck with half of the product you purchased because you discover the hard way that the elderly people in your church don’t like hot pretzels for a late-night snack?  You may be able to make a giant pretzel at your next youth lock-in, but the money you eat will leave a bitter taste.fundraising

3: Communicate Early and OftenIf you were doing a big car wash, a church-wide garage sale, or a silent auction, you would be an idiot to announce it the week of the event.  In every church I have been on staff at, people generally want to support the youth ministry of the church.  Make it easy for them to do that by advertising your fundraising venture in every way possible for at least a month before the event.  Announce it in the bulletin and in weekly e-newsletters, mail reminder postcards, make announcement slides for worship times, hang posters around the church, get a giant inflatable gorilla to place on the roof of the church, and by all means have the students call everyone in the church directory to invite them to the event.   

4: Follow-UpAfter the event is over don’t forget to say thanks to everyone who helped.  A little gratitude goes a long way.  People will be more likely to help next time if they know that their gift of time or money is truly appreciated.  Twentieth-century author G.B. Stern once said, “Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.”  She was right.  Saying thanks is useful to the students, because it teaches them how to live a life of gratitude.  Saying thanks is useful to the adults who gave their time and treasure because it validates and affirms the worth of their gift, and the spirit in which they gave.  Don’t forget to say thanks after the fundraiser.  It will do everybody involved some good.

This past Sunday our youth group had a spaghetti lunch fundraiser.  We got parents involved by asking them to help with food prep and to bake deserts for a silent auction we paired with the luncheon.  Because the parents were involved, student involvement was high.  Over a month ago we started advertising the event in every way possible and did everything mentioned here (except the inflatable gorilla) to ensure high attendance.  Overhead was low because people donated almost everything from the homemade spaghetti sauce to the table decorations.  We made almost $3000, which will almost completely pay for the twelve students signed up for summer camp.  This week at our Tuesday night youth group meeting we will write thank you notes to those who donated their time and money to help us.  Was it a perfect fundraiser?  Not entirely, but it was pretty darn close.  

These are just a few tips for effective fundraising in student ministry.  Fundraising does become necessary from time to time in youth ministry, mostly because the majority of churchgoing people don’t tithe 10%, but that’s another blog post!  Fundraising for youth ministry can be a real pain if not planned carefully.  We want to hear about your successes and failures in the world of youth ministry fundraising.  What has your experience been?  What ideas do you have?  We would love to hear your input!