Fundraising – A Necessary Evil

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Every youth ministry has to deal with it…unfortunately.  I have fielded several phone calls this week alone about it.  There is an abundance of ideas on how to do it yet many of them are not good ones.  The worst is youth ministries are not the only group or organization out there that has to fundraise, so competition is high.  In our family budget, we literally have an envelope designated for giving away to fundraisers, and we have to say “no” more than we say “yes”.

There are lots of questions surrounding fundraising.  Use a company or do it yourself?  Seek dollars from the community (like a car wash) or from inside your church (like a spaghetti dinner)?  Do you sell something or provide a service?  How much money is a reasonable investment before hand?  What percentage of profit makes it worth your time?  How do you split up the proceeds?  Most of the answers to these questions will change based on your specific situation and need, which just makes this whole issue more complex.

Wow…deep breath needed after all that.  Let me tell you about the best fundraiser we have ever done, and we continue to do it every year.  In fact, I have had 3 people specifically ask when we will start doing it again.  Yes, you read that right, people are calling me begging to donate to our mission trip.

We call it “hire a youth”, and it really is that simple.  We put an article in our church bulletin asking families to hire a youth student if they need extra help around the house.  Yard work, moving, house cleaning, anything they need help with.  They contact me with how many students they would like and when, then I call down the list of students who have signed up to work and put a crew together.  Once the work is complete they donate straight into the students trip account.  Here are a few reasons why this literally is the best fundraiser we have done or ever will do:

It is 100% profit

If a fundraising company calls me I tell them unless they can offer me 85% profit or more I am not interested, those conversations are quick!  There is no upfront cost (other than my time to coordinate) and we keep every penny that is donated.  We keep it purely by donation, and if people ask I say we have no set price, whatever they can pay.  Yes we have a few people every year that give $10 for a several hour job.  But we also have people that have paid over a $100/hour for raking leaves, to every person on the crew!

The people that do the work get the money

You know it is true, there is always the student or leader that shows up late to the car wash and takes the easiest jobs once they arrive yet still gets an even cut of the proceeds.  Since we have each person raise their own account, if they work they get money, if they don’t they don’t.  Much easier to do with a 3 person crew and specific jobs than with large group events.

We actually help people as we make money

Since we have been doing this several years now, people count on the help every year.  They are getting the help and labor they need AND get to support our trip.  They also see how hard of workers our students are, so they know their money is going to a trip where we will make some real impact.  People love it.  And I love that we are not asking them to buy cookie dough they don’t want or a discount card they will never use or get their car washed for the 5th time in a week.

It provides great relational opportunities

Over half of our regular “customers” are the older generation in our church, who are also great cooks.  Several crews have stayed an extra hour after the work is complete to eat a meal that was provided, or even to just finish the conversation.  I love to see them interact with students at church that have worked in their yards.  Several students report afterward “I didn’t do hardly any work, we just talked most of the time.”  It also gives us a jump start on the unity of our mission team, since the leaders work along with the students we already know each other and have worked together before we go on the actual mission trip.

It builds up our church in the community

People in our church have loved the crews so much they brag to their friends.  We have had people call and hire crews that don’t go to church at all (of course we make sure an adult leader goes too).  It has been an incredible tool for reaching out and helping our community.  One year the Dad of one of the students went back to an un-churched families house the next day and repaired their gutters after meeting them the day before, what an awesome way God can work!

I have had my share of fundraiser horror story experiences, and I am sure you have too.  But this is one idea that has turned into gold.  As you can see, many of the benefits are way better than any profit we raise.  What golden ideas do you have for fundraising?

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