Fundraising can be frustrating. I remember being fresh out of college and suddenly responsible for raising $20,000 in half a year. At this point in my personal life, I didn’t have a credit card, I never paid rent, and I had no real concept for raising that much cash outside of the lottery. Honestly, I hardly made that much in a year! Talk about a mammoth task.
You may be wondering why on earth a 22 year old had to do this. Let me explain. Our youth group was going on a mission trip overseas. Foreign trips tend to be expensive. We had over forty people sign-up for a trip that cost more than a grand per person. As a church policy, we committed to raising half of the funds for all the students. Thus, we were on the hook for just over 20k.
It was insanely stressful. Fortunately, I had an amazing mentor who helped me through the process of raising funds. He was like a fundraising Jedi. While working together, I gleaned four principles from him that I use as a filter for all fundraising:
Don’t do bake sales.
This is not a direct critique of bake sales necessarily. Who doesn’t love a homemade pecan pie for five dollars? The logic of this statement is that bake sales usually require a lot of work with little profit. Plus, you are collecting donations two ways — asking for baked goods and then asking people to buy them. Simply be sure that your profit will be worth the work. If you can do that by selling cookies and brownies, then go for it! Just be sure to consider your return on investment.
Fundraisers should be fun.
Strive to do things that are memorable and enjoyable. Sure, they require a lot of work, planning, and preparation. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a blast with your groups putting them on! Many of our best fundraisers carried just as much excitement and energy as an event.
Don’t let your whole group canvas the church with support letters.
A lot of people may disagree with this, and that is okay. You don’t want church member’s mailboxes to randomly be overflowing with dozens of support letters one weekend. This will inevitably place some of your key leaders in a tough position. Don’t get me wrong. I am a big fan of support letters, but ensure the students don’t just canvas the whole congregation. Encourage them to mail them to friends, family, and people they know well.
Visibility is valuable.
Be sure that people know you are raising funds. Put stories of students in front of your audience constantly. Put on events. Share powerful stories. Have students visibly volunteering. Always ask yourself — how am I making this as visible as possible?
Always answer “why?”
People do not like to give to organizations. Donors are most likely to invest in ideas and people they believe in. Be sure those ideas and individuals are at the forefront of your communication.