Fundraising is a reality for 99% of youth ministries in the country. At my first youth ministry job, I inherited the tradition of having a monthly potato bar lunch after the 11 a.m. service. I hated this fundraiser. It wasn’t that I hated the potato bar itself. If we had only done it once a year, it would have been fine. But doing it every month was a beast, and we raised only about $500 at each lunch. Yes, we would earn over $5,000 for the year but this fundraiser broke several of the rules of fundraising that I believe everyone should follow.
To save you from the frustration of having a fundraiser ever other month, I offer you my eleven rules of good fundraising.

Rule 1. Bang for your buck

This rule goes both ways. Participants, church members, and everyone who gives to the ministry through the fundraiser should feel like they received more than they gave. Additionally, your ministry’s investment of time and energy should produce an appropriate return on your work. The potato bar was what I would call cheap/cheap. People didn’t give a lot and they didn’t get a lot. By the end of the year, the youth and parents had contributed a lot of hours and were tired of potatoes.

Rule 2: Meet your financial goal

Your fundraiser should have the capacity to meet your financial goal. I quickly learned that I would rather do one fundraiser that raised our need of $5000 for our ministry instead of 12. I believe church members have no desire to be nickel and dimed to death (keep in mind that the band, Girl Scouts, and everyone else is doing this already). Choose one or two fundraisers that will meet your financial need and do them well.

Rule 3: Promote your youth ministry

In addition to raising funds, your fundraiser should be a marketing tool of your ministry. Instead of begging people to give to a charity, invite them to invest in the youth ministry and young people’s faith.

Rule 4: Clear objectives!

People want to know why you need their money and how it will be used. Be sure in your marketing to connect their gifts directly to the ministry that they will support. Be specific in how their gifts will help.

Rule 5: Be organized!

Whether you are selling something and need to make sure that the youth are well-trained and versed on what the are selling, or if you are hosting an event, make sure all the details have been taken care of.

Rule 6:  Youth participation

Don’t have a fundraiser where parents do everything. Youth should take an active role in the fundraiser. Do not continue society’s entitlement trend. Make them work for it.

Rule 7:  Major Event Coordinator

Your fundraiser is a major event. Recruit help, including a major event coordinator and team to make it happen. The more folks invested in the fundraiser the more money will be raised. Do not try to do it on your own.

Rule 8: Intergenerational

Don’t have only parents raising money from each other to pay for their kids’ trips. Create a fundraiser that engages the whole church. It is the church’s youth ministry. They should support it collectively.

Rule 9: FUN

Churches have a shortage of fun events. Happy people give more money. If you have a choice, why not make your fundraisers fun?

Rule 10: Build a tradition!

The churches that raise the most money each year typically have a fundraiser that follows all of these rules listed above that has become a tradition. The church understands the importance of the event, it is well-planned, they get a great return on their investment, and those who participate have fun.

Rule 11: Thank them!

People love seeing the impact that their gifts have had on youth, so be sure to circle back after your mission trip or other significant ministry moments and let your supporters know what they helped make happen. The best way to thank them is to let them see the impact their support had on a teen’s life. Read Celebrating Summer with the Whole Church for ideas.

Bonus: Non-member money

Although it’s not a rule, the finance committee will love you if you are able to support your ministry with non-member money. You can do this by having a fundraiser that invites non-members to participate or that invites businesses to support your ministry or underwrite your fundraiser.
You can see how my monthly potato bar missed the mark on too many of the “Rules of Good Fundraising” and why we were regularly frustrated. How many of the “Rules of Good Fundraising” do your fundraisers meet? How might you change them to meet more of the rules?
Is it time for a new fundraiser? If so, you might want to look at my list of 9 Great Fundraisers.