Fundraisers can be the bane of any youth leader's existence. Figuring out what works, what doesn't and how to organize the event are basic questions to answer before beginning any fundraiser. Fortunately, many others have gone through the same circumstances. Here is a list of fundraising tips and ideas to help you on your journey through the hectic world of fundraising.
First, here are some factors to consider before delving into a project.
• What are surrounding schools or organizations doing? The kids in your youth group might already be doing a certain fundraiser for their school or another organization; doing something similar to that most likely will be detrimental to your intake. Consider unique and original ideas that offer something different from what everyone else is doing. Chris Bjork, youth pastor at Hawley Alliance Church in Hawley, Minn., says, "You don't want to over-sell and make it a burden to the congregation."
• What works for your audience? "It's just deciding what works best for your congregation," Bjork says. Each congregation is different. Take a poll and see what most interests your target group. Is there a special event that would be a good hit? Are there things that are unique to your church that they would be more apt to buy?
• What's your budget? Many fundraisers require start-up funds. Make sure you think about your budget before deciding on a fundraiser. If you have a small budget, think small for your first several fundraisers. Then you can use the money you take in from those to help set up larger fundraisers.
• What does your volunteers' schedule look like? Get an idea of how much time and effort the volunteers will be willing to put forth. Keep in mind the schedule of the parents of those in the youth group as you often will need adult volunteers to help with events. Bjork says delegating is the key.
Now that you've thought about what type of fundraiser would work best, here are some fundraisers that have turned successful profits by others.
• Laura Rosenberg, a former youth leader at Shuvah Yisrael Messianic Synagogue in Long Island, N.Y., suggests a Valentine's Day Dinner. After selling tickets and planning a theme and menu, the youth are responsible for bringing ingredients and cooking. "The youth take an entire afternoon to make and prepare the meal, decorate and set up for the dinner. At the dinner is a self-serve beverage bar where servers and guests can get their own drinks. The youth are the servers, bringing out two courses of food." Rosenberg suggests two different choices for the main dish. During the meal, they play music coinciding with the theme and playing a couple of games. Later, they give the attendees the option to "buy" a certain portion of the expenses, which usually are divided into categories and smaller portions. Various desserts are prepared ahead of time. After making one for each table, they are then auctioned off. "These usually go for $20-$100," says Rosenberg. Bjork includes a game show of some sort after the dinner. "Those are fun things the congregation can enjoy," he says.