I’ve never had the luxury of having a ministry budget that took care of all of the needs for the year. Fundraising has always been inevitable. Over the years I have implemented numerous activities to supplement my budget and am eager to share the ones that have been the best. First, let me define best….
A “best” fundraiser is:
- one that people are willing to attempt again
- one that creates money in a short amount of time (not to be confused with a small amount of effort)
- one that is fun
- one that builds community…
The five listed are ones that I have done and have met the at least three of the four stipulations above.
1. Trivia Night– This is by far my favorite way of making more money for any type of group. A Trivia Night is an evening where groups/teams of no more than 10 people answer questions in order to win the grand prize. Groups pay an entry fee and answer 10 questions from 10 different categories in written form as a team. We usually charge about $70 per team but easily could charge a $100 fee. The math is simple. Ten tables at $100 a piece will bring in $1000 and all in just an evening. If advertised and space is available it would be easy to raise more. Detailed information about hosting a trivia night can be found here.
- Pros: Larger sums of money can be made quickly, Community builder, Very fun night, relatively low number of volunteers required
- Cons: Requires gathering the 100 trivia questions, Large space needed for table set up (we had to rent a civic center ballroom) Gathering prizes may require asking for donations from businesses.
2. Restaurant Nights– I was approached several years ago by a restaurant chain asking if I would be willing to have them host a fundraiser for our ministry. There was really nothing to lose. All we had to do was hand out a “coupon” that was to be given to the server at the time of payment. A portion of the proceeds of the meal went to our ministry. If we didn’t meet the $200 some dollar minimum then we would be issued a gift card for a certain amount. We did just that and made about $3oo dollars for eating out. There were some other regulations like passing out coupons on their property, etc., but for the most part it was a very easy fundraiser. We participated with the Max and Erma’s franchise but have since experienced BD Mongolians, Coldstone Creamery and Pizza Hut similar helps.
- Pros– Very little preparation and no overhead. Builds community as people within the church usually gather inside the restaurant and socialize while eating
- Cons– People who are on a tight budget won’t like the idea of eating out. If people would just donate the $40 meal money instead of eating out it would be a greater fundraising outcome.
3. Store Shopper Cards– If enough people get on board and use the cards it seems that there is the likelihood of having a relatively steady supplement to a budget. Stores like Kohl’s, Meijer, Kroger and more have cards that can be swiped with each purchase and a portion of your sale goes to the organization. Some places will even allow you to have more than one organization on your card.
- Pros– Nothing to do but provide forms for people to fill out and advertise
- Cons– You can’t depend on the money because each time your payment could vary… one month $60 while another month may be more like $260.
4. A creative dinner– Cook up a pot of chili and you’ve got a fundraiser in the making. Add a bit of creativity and you have an incredible fundraiser. Creative dinners can come in several forms and here is how we have done them.
Specific ministries dinner night– At a church we once attended our athletic ministry was trying to raise funds for a softball tournament trip. So each week families took turns making dinner for the church. We created meals that were easy-soups, pastas and sandwiches- and asked for a suggested donation. Donation was the key word. What was spent for the food items was reimbursed to the family and whatever was made on top of that was entered into the fundraising account. I’ve seen several dinner programs att
Specialty dinners– While leading student ministries, we offered a Valentine’s Dinner that was an annual event. We borrowed card tables from the congregation and turned our largest room into an incredibly “romantic” getaway for couples. People made reservations and bought tickets for a candlelight dinner. The teens were the servers of the meals while counselors cooked and prepared food in the kitchen.
Themed Dinners– We also offered a Fifties Drive-in Dinner. We offered burgers, hot dogs, Milkshakes(although I think I would opt out of this one and offer floats instead) etc. The teens dressed up in fifties outfits and waited on people in their cars. We also invited a local car club to come out and when they lined their antique cars up we filled almost couldn’t keep up with demand. The evening was a family event with hula hoop, bubble gum blowing and other contests that created a festive atmosphere.
- Pros– Great Community Builder, Teaches servanthood and service to younger volunteers,
- Cons– A lot of volunteers and preparation needed, have to have funds to purchase food, hard to know how to estimate purchasing, great organizational leader needed
5. Ebay or Craigslist– What is hiding in your office or deep in some storage closet that is taking up space? You might be surprised how much someone would pay for an old slide projector or old curriculum set. I’m not saying you will raise thousands in this manner but if you have someone who has the time to list items on ebay or craigslist for you and you advertise that you are needing items to sell it is highly likely that you can easily raise hundreds of dollars throughout the year.
- Pros: Do not need a large volunteer base, can be done at anytime of the day, can help clean out “junk”, if Paypal is used money would never touch the hand of the volunteer
- Cons: One who volunteers must be extremely responsible as ebay is feedback based, can be time consuming with picture taking, description writing and mailing items, have to pay a small fee even if something doesn’t sell