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I'm looking for fundraising ideas that have a “purpose.”

IÕm looking for fund raising ideas that have a “purpose,” not simply candy sales, t-shirt sales, etcetera. Any ideas I can check out? Thanks! And thanks for your ministry.

David, Little Falls, MN


Dear David,

Thanks for your kind words and for contacting The Source about purposeful fundraising. I'll give you a couple of specific ideas in a moment, because I totally hear where you're coming from. But I'll say this upfront: I think meaning in any fundraiser can come from the ultimate purpose for it, not the activity. I like your heart-attitude in wanting purpose in your fundraisers, but don't completely throw out those mundane activities. When there's a significant purpose kids can get behind, and when you, as I heard one speaker say, “preach your announcements” with passion and conviction, they'll do whatever fundraiser with enthusiasm. Which leads me to my first suggestion: Give your kids two or three choices of purposes (e.g. homeless shelter, Salvation Army, a missionary your church supports, etc.) and ask them which they'd be most interested in, and what they're willing to do to raise money for.

With that in mind, here are the specific ideas I promised:

From the top our home page, under the FREE RESOURCES & IDEAS drop-down menu, click on FUN EVENT & ACTIVITY IDEAS, and scroll down to Penny Contest. There's also an event called Piano Smash. Our youth ministry once considered something similar, only with an old junk car instead of a piano and charging people a certain dollar amount depending on the part of the car they want to smash (example, $10 per headlight, $25 per window/windshield). Whatever fundraiser you do, create big posters with photos of whomever or whatever you're raising money for and prominently place those posters all over your church.

My youth ministry's most popular fundraiser happens each fall when we host a donation-only potato lunch after church. We have people in the church donate the food and our youth leaders and students prepare and serve the meal. We come up with various themes and add humor to the dŽcor and goofy prize give-aways. One year we hosted “Spud Wars.” One of our video guys made a funny Star Wars spoof video with some of our kids and potatoes and we showed it during the luncheon. One year we did a mock “Jeapordy” game while people were lunching called “Spudeapordy” — asking 'contestants' trivia questions. Always, at some point, one of us gets up and explains why we're doing what we're doing. Again, visuals are key, PowerPoint slides or videos, showing the faces of people you're raising funds for.

With any fundraiser, it takes pre-planning long before the event with a team of people doing one or two things each that help make the total event work. In fact, I feel so strongly about pre-planning (and planning well), David, that recently my intern and I agreed to cancel a pancake breakfast fundraiser coming up soon because the youth worker in charge dropped the ball and didn't get bulletin items and advertising covered ahead of time. We'd rather suffer potential embarrassment by rescheduling the event than to put on a lame-o fundraiser. We won't tar and feather that leader; but you can bet my intern and I learned a valuable lesson about “putting people in charge and leaving them alone” – that you still need to ask the periodic check-in questions to be sure they're doing what you've asked. A national youth director I know suggests not stressing out doing several fundraisers throughout the year, but rather doing two very well-thought out, well-planned events each year. That may or may not work for everyone, but you get the point.

Once Jonathan included 5 good fundraiser ideas in an ezine. Under ARTICLES, HOW TO'S, click on ARTICLE ARHIVES then the SUBJECT LISTING box. In the Programming Tips, Youth Ministry Management and Other Helps category, you'll find the article almost at the end of the list titled, Top 5 Fund Raisers That Help You Raise Funds for Ministry.
Still, I appreciate where you're coming from in wanting to do a fundraiser that has some meaning behind it. There are a couple of things I've done with my group that have been just that. One is a local organization that sends food to starving kids all over the world. Our students actually go in, don aprons and hairnets, and fill small bags with dry food ingredients that will get shipped out in boxes of 36 to various countries. My students groove off the experience of physically putting these food packets together and boxing them up; more hands-on than knocking on doors, obviously. Being in Little Falls, MN, you've probably heard of it: Feed My Starving Children. They have locations in Brooklyn Park, Chanhassen, and Eagan. Not sure how far Little Falls is from any of those, but if you like what you see on their site, you could email them and ask which site is closest to you.

World Vision provides scripture-based curriculum with a fundraising element for student groups. Last year, the student group I team-lead participated in a very meaningful program called One Life Revolution (now ended) and it was an excellent, non-political way to help students get a clue about kids in Africa who have contracted AIDS and actually do something about it. So it covered both bases. We placed posters all over the church, did Sunday morning plugs, and really talked it up and made the kids heros for caring about kids in Africa. Now, the primary event World Vision provides for student groups now is the 30-Hour Famine.

David, I hope these ideas help. Thanks again for emailing us, and even more for your investment in Minnesota students!

Same team,

Danette Matty, Resource Correspondent
The Source for Youth Ministry


Jonathan McKee

Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Guy's Guide to FOUR BATTLES Every Young Man Must Face; The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices; If I Had a Parenting Do Over; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers on Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.

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