Fundraising, especially youth ministry fundraising in a local church, can be a source of tension and frustration for all involved. Most youth workers dread this part of the job and engage with it as a necessary evil rather than viewing it as an opportunity not only to raise funds, but to connect the whole church body to their youth ministry, as well.
Many youth workers find themselves scrambling to pull off fundraisers while others are stuck working with the fundraising expectations and traditions of their church culture. Fundraisers also require a lot of forethought and planning, which is a struggle for many youth workers because of the nature of their work and personality. Yet there is a substantial amount of pressure and need to succeed in fundraising as many youth and programs rely on these funds.
For more than 12 years, I, too, have struggled with fundraising in youth ministry in the spite of my good organization. In high school, I was an excellent fundraiser as I was motivated by the reality that my family did not have the resources to send me to camp. I enjoyed the challenge that came with fundraising, especially given that I am not particularly creative. In my professional career, many of my most creative moments have come in fundraising; yet many of my failures in youth ministry also have come through fundraisers.
While I have not yet mastered the art of youth ministry fundraising, I understand two important conclusions that have helped guide me to greater excellence in this area of ministry. The first conclusion is that we must have a plan for fundraising. It is critical to take a planned approach to fundraising, taking as many factors as possible into consideration, including the church context in which we serve. Too often, youth workers ignore their larger church context in planning their youth ministry fundraising. In one church context where I served, the church finance team required all ministry areas to submit a fundraising plan to the finance team at the end of each year so they could look at the plans of various ministries. While this felt intimidating and cumbersome, this team approach is filled with wisdom.
The second conclusion I have discovered is that youth ministry fundraising efforts must be as balanced as possible. While balance can be a dangerous word in the context of our faith and the true nature of the kingdom of God, there is wisdom in taking a balanced approach to fundraising in youth ministry. First, make sure to spread out fundraising efforts through the year instead of cramming them into one season, such as right before mission trips. In doing this, we can avoid frustration and failure.
Second, balance fundraisers between those who look to the church as the source of support and those who seek support outside of the church. In doing this, we consider the needs of our church context and honor the church, which builds support for our youth ministries.
Finally, balance fundraising efforts between those ideas that require good sales ability and those that simply require participation and work. In doing this, we recognize and honor the reality that our youth have different gifts, and we equip them to grow in their strengths and weaknesses.
Fundraising is an opportunity for youth workers to better resource their ministries, support their youth and connect others to the youth ministry who might otherwise be disconnected. It is an opportunity to share the story of God with others that might not hear it.