Fundraising: Low Investment, High Return



by Jason Sansbury

Fundraising was my youth ministry kryptonite. Don’t believe me? At one of my earliest jobs, I ran a fundraiser that lost $2000. (On a related note, you should always make sure your middle schoolers haven’t laid their rags in the dirt BEFORE they “clean” the doors of the BMW at the car wash.) But unless you are at one of those rare-like-a-unicorn churches that fully funds the youth ministry and doesn’t allow fundraisers, you are going to have to learn how to raise money.

And my simple rule is this: Let’s raise the most amount of money possible with the minimal amount of effort. In my experience, for example, running a pumpkin patch for a month requiring literally a thousand man hours for a few thousand dollars is a terrible use of the efforts of your people in terms of how much money will be raised per hour. Here are some ideas that maximize the amount of time per dollar raised and will help you raise the amount of money needed.

1. The 100 envelope challenge

The youth ministry world owes Adam Walker Cleaveland a debt for this post in which he taught us all this genius idea. The basic premise is that you number 100 envelopes 1-100. People are able to choose the envelope(s) of their choice and make a donation of at least the number on the envelope. If you do 100 envelopes, you would raise $5050. If you do envelopes for 144 envelopes, you raise $10,440.

I love this fundraiser because of the amount of work involved (minimal), the knowledge of how much you should raise and everyone can choose their own level of support.

2. Re-invent old ideas

Car washes in my area will net around $300-$500. Every time. If it is a perfect sunny day. If it is a torrential downpour. Without fail, we land in that amount of money raised. So how do you change the dynamic? Do a sponsored car wash. Instead of charging for a car wash, get people to sponsor by pledging a set amount per car you wash, usually less than a dollar per car. This is especially useful if you can get a high visibility location where you can move cars in and out quickly. (And accept donations at the car wash as well.)

3. A shareholder’s dinner

Invite people to sponsor your youth ministry for a certain amount. I have seen this work as a monthly amount, a yearly amount, or in-between. Regardless of how you set up the sponsorships, hold a dinner at the end of the year for all those sponsors so they can hear a report on what they have invested in. This meal becomes an awesome intergenerational experience that is celebrating all the things that God is doing in the youth ministry of your church. Pro tip: at the dinner, be ready to sign people up to be shareholders again for the next year.

4. Flamingos

Sneaking around in the dead of night (or in the middle of the day) to put pink flamingos in someone’s yard is a pretty fun way to raise money. Encourage church members to sign up to either send a flock of flamingos to someone or pay for “anti-flocking insurance.” Here are some sample forms to get you started:

You’ve Been Flocked!

Anti-Flocking Insurance

Send the Flock to a Friend

Fundraising is a part of ministry. You may have never been great at it, but you can learn how to maximize the amount of money raised in the minimal amount of time and energy, which will make your youth, your church, and your parents happy. Check out Deech Kirk’s 9 Great Fundraisers for more ideas.

What are your favorite fundraisers that have the biggest return on your small investment?


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