Culture and safety concerns have changed ministry fundraising. Use these creative ideas to raise money—and keep kids safe.
Remember when you were a child, sitting alone at the corner of your block selling lemonade? without parental supervision? Or when your elementary school sold Christmas wrapping paper and you racked up big sales by selling to every house within three blocks?
Today’s safety-conscious culture has changed the way schools and ministries conduct fundraising. Gone are the days of sending kids into neighborhoods to sell candy door-to-door in efforts to raise money for summer camp or a playground. Heightened awareness of dangerous people and abduction fears have put a halt on many traditional fundraising methods. But ministries still need money, especially for things outside the budget—such as camps, retreats, missions, or extra equipment.
If you’re facing a new season of fundraising, don’t feel discouraged. The trick isn’t to give up on traditional types of fundraising; it’s to think creatively. Traditional methods such as sales campaigns can flourish—and still keep kids safe. Plus, there are alternative fundraising opportunities that with parent support can build ministry budgets and causes. Take a look at the new face of fundraising.
Selling to the Masses
Many fundraising companies successfully help organizations raise money by selling products such as candy, wrapping paper, candles, and other gift items. Since kids approaching neighborhood strangers door-to-door is frowned upon nowadays by everyone from your insurance carrier to homeowners, try these creative venues to still generate hefty sales and make the most out of individual-sales fundraisers.
1. Worship Services
After church is in session, set up a booth for people to purchase items you’re selling. Schedule plenty of time to get items back to purchasers if it’s around the holidays and they’ll be using their purchases for gifts or decorating. If sales go toward individual accounts for camp or a mission trip, have kids sign up for shifts to make it fair. Ask for parents to help at the booth each time.
Many businesses such as grocery stores, discount stores, and banks allow organizations to sell fundraising products at the entrance of their stores. Bring signs, tables, and sample products if they’re available. If you’re raising money for a cause or mission, offer information in case people want to donate later but not on the spot. Enlist parent help in shifts, and train kids prior to sales on the art of approaching patrons without being pushy.
More fundraising providers offer options for organizations to have kids send emails to friends and relatives about the products they’re selling, and individuals can purchase and pay for items directly online. This process is simple because it only requires kids to send a mass email. The companies track purchases and send organizations a check based on their profits. This is a great way to get contributions from friends and relatives who don’t live nearby, and delivery is worry-free since products are mailed directly to purchasers.
4. Public Events
Consider selling items at community events such as festivals, county fairs, or swap meets. Many venues allow nonprofits to set up booths for free or at a substantial discount. Encourage small groups or families to sign up together to work shifts. Not only is this a great way to sell fundraising items, but it showcases your ministry, church, and upcoming events.
At different times throughout the year, you may want to set up a stand in a parking lot at an intersection. (Check with local authorities for safety precautions.) Christmas (wreaths), Valentine’s Day (flowers), Easter (chocolates), or Independence Day (fireworks) are prime holidays to set up a stand for sales. If you sell products this way, acquire the proper licenses, permits, and sign-offs from local authorities. (For example, if you’re hosting a fireworks stand, the fire department must sign off on your set-up and location). Of course, parent help makes these fundraisers fly.
Some churches won’t approve any type of outside sales to raise money, or maybe your ministry needs to get out of a rut and try something new to pad your budget. Sometimes all you need is a little creative thinking to spark new and innovative ideas for ministry fundraising. Here are ideas to investigate and implement in your ventures.
6. Fan Ware
Families love to purchase items with your ministry name on them. Everything from T-shirts to water bottles can be created with your logo and sold right inside your ministry area. This type of fundraiser requires putting some cash up front, but as long as you don’t change your logo for a while it can bring in continuous income over a longer period of time.
7. Food for Thought
Various eateries host nonprofit nights where a portion of their sales goes to your organization or cause. The key to success is advertising ahead within your church and the community at large. Some establishments require adults to help behind the counter while others request volunteers to hand out coupons to patrons.
8. Helping Hands
Check with local businesses about odd jobs your group could do such as yard work, weekend cleaning, or stuffing envelopes for mailers. This is a win-win for businesses and nonprofits-you can earn money and the business can donate to your organization and receive help with jobs it might otherwise have to hire a contractor to do.
9. A Sporting Chance
Many sports venues and convention centers hire nonprofit groups to work concessions or hand out game-day giveaways. The catch for this money-maker is that you typically need to staff it with individuals over age 18. Many parents actually enjoy working at these events because a perk is they get to see their favorite teams play for free.
10. Getting Crafty
If your church has a large parking lot and is located on a heavily traveled road, try hosting a Saturday craft show. Vendors rent space for a fee and bring their merchandise to sell for the day. Kids can make additional money by setting up food concessions and serving food throughout the day.
11. Parents Night Out
This is a great fundraiser for both children’s and youth ministries. Staff a Parents Night Out with teenagers raising money for camp or mission trips. (You’ll also need several parents of teenagers to help supervise.) Parents can drop off kids for a night of fun activities while they go out for the evening, child-free. Charge per child with discounts for families with more than three kids. At the end of the evening, the youth group shares the total money brought in (after expenses) with your ministry.
12. “A-Thon” It
Kids collect pledges to complete a feat such as walking, jumping rope, reading, or rocking (a cute one for the nursery). You have kids solicit pledges at church services or through email. Kids then complete a feat within a set amount of time, and people can pledge per feat (lap or jump) or per hour. This is a fun community-builder that can raise significant money for ministry.
Have kids and families gather favorite recipes and compile them into a children’s ministry cookbook. A volunteer can input recipes into book format, then make copies and bind them into books. Sell the cookbooks in your ministry area, bookstore, and on your Web site. Kids love to see their treats and meals in a book with their name, and the cookbooks have a great record as surefire fundraisers.
Many recreation and amusement venues rent to nonprofits during off-peak hours to host a fundraising event. They’ll charge your church a minimal fee, and then you can charge a set price per family to enjoy the facilities without huge crowds. Not only can you raise money, it’s a great way for your church families to invite neighbors and friends to a church event that’s not intimidating or uncomfortable.
Carmen Kamrath is the associate editor for Children’s Ministry Magazine.
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