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Fundraising 101

By Jen Bradbury | Glen Ellyn, Illinois | May 9 2012

At my first youth ministry job interview, I was asked, "How do you plan on fundraising the thousands of dollars required for our summer mission trip?" As a 21 year old, I'm sure I looked like a deer caught in the headlights as I fumbled to answer this question.

Thankfully, 10 years later, if someone were to ask me the same question, I'd be able to confidently answer, not with specific fundraisers (which vary depending on the context), but rather by sharing the following eight keys I've learned to successful fundraising.

1. Start early. As soon as you know what your summer trip is going to be, create a realistic budget that accounts for income from your students' families, your church budget and fundraisers. Then set a fundraising schedule that allows you to spread your fundraisers out throughout the year and avoid fundraising during times when people are strapped for cash.

2. Identify who your primary fundraisers are (students, parents or both) and what their gifts are so you can determine what kinds of fundraisers you can do most effectively. For example, at one of my churches, parents of high school students were my primary fundraisers. Because many were excellent cooks, two of our biggest fundraisers were cooking classes and a boxed lunch sale. In contrast, at my current church, my students are my primary fundraisers. As a result, we do things that utilize their gifts such as bake sales and babysitting.

3. Know when and how other organizations in your community fundraise, and avoid doing similar things. In my community, because school extracurricular activities constantly sell things, as a church, we never ask students to go door-to-door selling stuff.

4. Do at least one fundraiser that targets your community rather than your congregation. My favorite fundraiser for accomplishing this purpose is a rummage sale, which allows people in your congregation to rid their houses of unwanted things while bringing in people from the community who might otherwise never walk through your church doors.

5. Whenever you do a fundraiser that targets your own congregation, connect it to your overall vision for your trip. Help people understand where their money is going and how that actually matters in the lives of your students and in the community you'll serve.

6. Realize that most people in your congregation love your youth, not the stuff they sell. So find ways to creatively ask your congregation for money such as by asking people to invest in your youth by buying stock in them. You can then provide shareholders with stock certificates, investment updates and a thank-you dinner in which they get to hear about the return on their investment.

7. In order to unite people behind a common goal and remind them of how close you are to reaching that goal, constantly communicate fundraising goals to your congregation. My favorite way of doing this is to display a map showing the route from your city to wherever you're going for your trip. After each fundraiser you do, move a car or plane further along your route until you reach your final destination (and your fundraising goal).

8. Because it can be difficult to fundraise large amounts of money on a yearly basis, implement a trip rotation that enables you to relax your fundraising efforts occasionally. Do a local trip one year, a domestic mission trip the next and an international trip the third year so you're only doing large fundraisers once every three years.

Though fundraising is always time-consuming, by following these keys for success, you can cast your vision, garner support for your youth and rally people behind a common goal.

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