Looking for ideas to raise funds for your next mission trip? How much time do you have? No, really. When it comes to fundraising, it’s a question of time.
For example, you’re in one of two timelines right now:
- Time is of the essence. Maybe you just signed your group up for a missions experience or camp happening in the near future. You need ideas with a quick turnaround today so you’re able to do your thing tomorrow.
- Time is a luxury. Perhaps you’re thinking ahead about a trip or event you’ll do several months down the road. You have the freedom to consider ideas with more layers to them, which in turn can bear more fruit. The key will be identifying and managing all the logistics, including the timing of each fundraiser.
Time obviously isn’t the only factor to consider, but it’s a big one in determining the best bang for your buck (and the best buck for your bang).
You also must navigate the thin line between what your group wants to do vs. what you’re capable of pulling off. Well-meaning students and parents may insist you tackle their favorite fundraisers, despite a low payoff compared to other options. Dancing around that tension is a fine art.
Here’s a breakdown of common approaches—some simple and some more complicated—for generating significant trip funds:
The most popular fundraiser is getting something at cost or for free to sell for a profit. Consider what people want during major holidays and seasons; for example, they like pies around Easter, flowers near Mother’s Day, and an incentive to clean in spring (yard sale, anyone?). Another option is opening a year-round business, such as a T-shirt printing company or a small cafe.
Don’t underestimate the power of a live or online goods-and-services auction. The key is figuring out what people will spend money on and then becoming the vendor to sell it to them. Consider purchasing items on sale at retail stores, then re-selling them for a profit on eBay. Focus on only a couple of categories (such as books and sporting goods) to keep things simple, but the sky’s the limit!
Occasionally, generous people may seek you out on their own, hand you money, and say, “This is for any kid who needs it.” Usually, however, individuals and organizations will need to be inspired to become sponsors. Get creative! For example, make a “trading card” for each trip participant or have people “buy a mile” for every mile your group will travel. Give sponsors at least a month (preferably longer) to come up with a budget for their gift.
Some fundraisers work better as fun events that build relationships. These shared experiences spark great discussions, involve people who might not normally get to know your students, and give kids something exciting to anticipate. Events such as a Rock-a-Thon, Amateur Dinner Theater, or a Chili Cook-Off might not bring in as much money as other larger events, but they can serve as smaller “wins” and build relational trust that leads to future momentum.
Visual fundraisers are a form of viral marketing because they keep people coming back to see what has changed. One popular recent example is an envelope fundraiser. You pin 100 envelopes to a bulletin board, each with a dollar amount from $1 to $100. People take envelopes to indicate the amounts they’re donating. Another visual fundraiser is Flamingo Flocking, where people pay to send pink plastic birds to certain yards—and those people, in turn, pay to have the birds removed and relocated.
You might also create a “Send a student to camp!” tip jar. If your church sells coffee or donuts or books or sermon tapes, ask the powers that be if they would allow you to put a tip jar at each location with a little sign that says “Send a Student to Camp!” and use the donations to bless a single mom or out of work dad by paying for their child’s upcoming camp or retreat.
Your youth group members are likely good at something, so offer those services for a fair price or donation. Examples include transferring old videos to digital or disc format, raking yards, washing cars, cooking meals, babysitting, and so on. The key is making sure students do a quality job.
You might also do a “service” to the environment instead—build or purchase a little shed that you’ll call the “Recycle Shed.” Place the little shed someplace on campus (ideally in the corner of the parking lot). Let the church know that they can be environmentally conscious and help the youth ministry at the same time by saving their plastic bottles and aluminum cans and bringing them to church a couple times a month. Simply unlock the shed before and after services and allow folks to toss in their bags!
Why not turn the fitness craze into a fundraiser? Advertise that you’re sponsoring a Fun Run (not a serious marathon), perhaps on a community hiking trail or public school track. Charge a modest entry fee and rely on a large turnout to make up the difference. You can also sell energy bars and drinks to participants and spectators.
What can you add to this list? What favorite fundraisers have worked well for you? A penny for your thoughts…
By Tony Myles and Kurt Johnston