In my church each year we have fundraisers for the youth to be able to earn money for summer camps. While the end results are worth it sometimes getting there can be a struggle!
Finding a balance between helping the youth fundraise and taking over a project can be hard for some leaders but here are some tips I have gained and also a lot of ideas for fundraisers that have been successful.
Tip # 1: Have a compelling why
Be sure the activity the youth are fundraising for is really what THEY want to be doing. Sometimes we think we know what kids want and I’ve seen leaders just plan activities that none of the kids are excited about. Because of this you spend your whole time dragging the kids along on fundraising.
So my first tip is be open to what the youth want to plan for their summer activities. You may have to sleep in a tent a few nights, or not be in a cabin, but the attitudes at events will be so much better if they are heavily involved in the planning and have the desire to attend because they want to make it a success not you.
It is so easy to just do it for the youth but really you aren’t helping them if you do it all for them (that goes for being parents as well). They will never learn how to be good leaders if we don’t give them opportunities to step up and step into that role.
Tip # 2: Plan farther ahead than you think you should
I have been a camp director or an assistant director or in a Youth Leader role for nearly half of my life and this is one that I always have to shake my head at when people think they can put together a successful fundraiser in 2 weeks WITHOUT losing their minds or hating the project (and the youth they are working with) when they are done.
How much time is enough? I would start planning out at least 3-6 months ahead of time if not more.
If you are like our church, you will have meetings 1x per month and that simply isn’t enough time to plan a fundraiser or activity out in a few weeks and have it go well.
In an ideal world, I would start brainstorming with the youth 6 months out on what they want to do for the camp & also the fundraiser. Let them determine what type of fundraiser they want to be involved in. Don’t just go for easy, easy doesn’t always teach us anything, sometimes it even makes us apathetic.
But also, be realistic in your plans as well. If it will cost you more than it can potentially make, rethink your plans and find ways to improve the fundraiser.
Tip #3: How successful your event is depends on how well you advertise
Often I think fundraisers are a bust simply because no one knew about them. Advertising is a key element of fundraising and telling your church about the event 1-2 times isn’t enough. They need to have heard about the event at least 5-6 times, have seen flyers in halls, delivered to their door, sent around on sign ups and posted on social media multiple times for people to remember and get on board.
This is another area that you need to get the youth involved. Leaders shouldn’t be the ones announcing fundraisers in adult classes, send in the youth and you will get a better response. And invite friends, neighbors, grandparents, everyone, not just members of your congregation!
If you aren’t going to earn more than $50 per youth it probably isn’t worth your time to plan, spend money on and put effort into.
Tip #4: What you expect from the youth, you will see from the youth
If you expect them to be involved all along the way not just “show up to help” the night of, you will get better results. Don’t think they can’t handle something and don’t step in and take over if someone doesn’t do their part. Instead plan far enough out that you can help them be successful even in “they forgot”.
So I guess the biggest thing I have learned with this is don’t just “tell them” what to do, let them discover through planning what they need to do.
Tip #5: Think donations over making or buying things for a fundraiser
Fundraisers are for making money, not spending money and you can get a lot of things donated. Probably more than you even realize so your out of pocket expenses stay extremely low.
If you are buying supplies for your fundraiser it is extremely important that you know your base costs before you set prices! A batch of cookie dough will cost you at least $5/batch – containers vary by what you put them in – so you can’t be pricing them at $8 and making enough profit to make it worth it!
But if you get items donated..it’s a new ballgame!
Doing an auction? Get all the items donated. One caveat, be sure you get good donated items. You don’t want to be stuck with people junk and it is better to have a good experience year to year than have junk that people leave wondering why they came for that. **See ideas below for details on not getting junk donations.
Having a spaghetti dinner? Get supplies donated.
Making cookies? See if you can get some of the cheaper supplies like flour or sugar donated.
Ideas for fundraisers that work to raise funds
Garage Sales in the Spring or Fall
This is actually one of my favorites because there is no output beyond flyers and if you get everyone really involved and advertise well you can make a few thousand depending on what gets donated. Even in our small youth group one year the youth made $600+ with terrible advertising of the event. I have had garage sales personally where we made nearly $2K so if you have the right items and actually advertise, you can do well with this one. Be sure you advertise for items at least 2 months out and start gathering at someones house and have it at a house that gets good traffic, it goes better at a house than at a church in my opinion. Again, be careful about donations, you don’t want to just be hauling away everyones junk at the end of the fundraiser. Try to get gently used items people would want to purchase donated. And if you don’t stick the junky stuff in your back corner area! If it gets bought great but keep the good stuff at the front.
Another tip on this one is getting someone to come pick up any leftovers right away – schedule it out with local thrift stores or the youth to take away right at the end so you aren’t left wondering what to do with it all in the end.
Cookie Dough Fundraisers
These are okay but you will honestly put out more money than you bring in if you don’t get donations and don’t advertise well in advance. Because really how many overpriced dozen cookies does one family need? Usually you will get people ordering a couple dozen per family that knows about it. And you will put out a heck of a lot of effort if you are shaping and freezing or shaping and baking.
What we decided would have been easier the time we did this was just made tubs of cookie dough rather than shaping and freezing. Just be sure you figure the cost to make the dough + containers into your pricing.
I’ve never seen these fundraisers make more than $800
In my opinion, only do these if someone really knows how to make good salsa. But similar to the cookie dough buy tubs to put the salsa in and be sure you add this to your price. It is a good skill to learn and ingredients can be pretty cheap to donated so it can go okay.
You are most often making $600ish on this fundraiser depending on advertising.
Spaghetti Dinner and Dessert Auction
Spaghetti dinners are super easy – donations for your spaghetti noodles and sauce plus a few salads and garlic bread make this easy to come together.
People will buy their ticket to come eat, plus you will get donations to auction off for dessert that you don’t have to provide and it can be a lot of fun to see where the bidding goes for “Bishops cookies” or “Sister Good’s cheesecake”!
On average I think we made about $800-$1000 on fundraisers like this.
This is one we did way back when I was a youth and I think it went pretty well from what I remember. We had sign ups go around the church and neighborhoods (we were pretty close to all the people in the neighborhood) and we offered to do service for the people and they donated to our group. In groups of 2-3 people we cleaned blinds, washed windows, did yard work, detailed cars, babysat and more but this was a good one because generally each person donated $50+ (some were vary generous) to us and there were really no costs. With a large youth group we spent a Saturday at 3-4 homes and made plenty to pay for camps.
Now often, I think if you are making under $1000 it may not even be worth having a formal fundraiser but rather put it back on the youth to find their own ways to raise money so here are the two ideas that have always brought in the most money for our groups (when planned out well and in advance).
Spaghetti Dinner and Live Auction
What is the difference in this and the one above? Well the donations really. You want to get a large amount of really good items donated and advertise the heck out of it ahead of time. We always found the most animated of auctioneers from our church group, you know the person who can talk anyones ear off and is just funny and can get into the role of auctioneer to get bids up quick and keep things lively.
What are good donations for this type of event? Here were some of the best we got one year that made the youth over $3500. This took going into adult classes for months soliciting donations from members but in the end it was totally worth it. And we didn’t just take anything we were looking for big items that would sell for $40-$300.
Donations such as:
- Kayak borrowing for the day (they would bring them to the river and pick them up when you were done at a set time).
- Estate Plans
- Handmade Instruments
- Art made by church members and youth
- A website design
- House cleaning and yard work by the youth
- Handmade Jewelry
- Borrow someones tandem bike for the day
- A ride along with a cop
- Music lessons
- Painting of your family
- Gift Baskets (Gardening items, school supplies, kids items, summer fun, etc.)
We also paired this with a silent auction of dessert & baked goods around the edges of the gym.
We did charge a small amount for people to come to the dinner so we could know how many to plan for and to help cover the costs of the food, but really we wanted them to be generous with their bids on auction items.
Give yourself 4-6 months of planning to make this one a hit!
Get our Template pack of signups, editable flyers and tickets for a spaghetti dinner and auction by clicking here. Boom, your just checked off one major thing that saved you hours of designing!
Pulled Pork Sandwiches Dinner
This is not one I have personally done but another friend did and they made over $4500!
The point of this one is the cost of a pulled pork sandwich on it’s own is pretty low, but pair it with a bag of chips and a soda and you can charge people about $7-$10/meal and do really well if you advertise this. The men in the church enjoyed slow cooking the pork, you pick up BBQ sauce (or homemade is even better), buns, chips and soda’s and have a picnic at the park activity with games and such setup and boom! You are done and you may even get stragglers driving by if you put out signs for it on the road and do it at a park that gets good drive by traffic.
You could even do potluck desserts or silent auction desserts if you wanted to without a lot of hassle. So easy and fun to get people together.
Whatever you decide to do remember to have those who will benefit most involved. They will appreciate it more and you won’t be silently cursing them in your head!
Have your own ideas that have worked well for fundraising? Share them in the comments!