Youth Group Fundraising Basics from Catalog Orders to Events

In the past, church or youth group fundraising always seemed someone else's responsibility. Now, as a new Sunday School teacher, you suddenly find yourself confronted with the need to raise funds. Youth group fundraising is just around the corner as you prepare for an upcoming inner city mission trip. Or perhaps you need to need to reduce the per-child cost of fellowship or pay for curriculum or program materials, thus supporting the church's operating budget. Or you've been teaching the children in your class about service to others, and you want them to be involved in raising money for an orphanage in India .

How do you get church members to dig deep into their pockets? How do you organize an event, provide a service or sell a product that will adequately "reward" them for their generosity? How do you get your motley assortment of students organized and fully involved in obtaining sponsorship for youth missions?

There are actually several approaches you can take in youth group fundraising, and this in itself should prove a relief. You have choices! If "a-thon" type events are just not your thing, if a garage sale simply would not work in your church, you have other options to choose from.

The Walk-Me-Through-It Approach to Church Fundraising

Youth group fundraising can be a breeze: All you have to do is hand the project over to capable hands, a fundraising company that will guide you through each step. The two primary organized fundraising methods that we'll focus on are direct sales and order-taker fundraisers; both are fairly straightforward.

In a direct sales church fundraising event, you select a company and order their products, which can be anything from the standard chocolate to trash bags. Customized photo calendars, rubber bracelets, Christmas wreaths, gourmet foods, discount cards for local businesses, first aid kits, magazines the fundraising product selection is broad. Some companies offer free samples; take advantage of this, as you want to make sure you're delivering a high-quality product, especially if the brand isn't well known. You can also find fundraising companies that offer specifically religious items, such as Christian T-shirts, postcards and jewelry. Since your youth will be the ones doing the actual footwork in selling the items, make sure the item you choose is something they like and are not embarrassed to sell. The best way to sell the items is all in one shot, selling, delivering and collecting payment at once. Depending on the fundraising company you use, the entire amount will be due up front, before you actually even start the youth group fundraising event or at some point during or after selling the products.

In order-taker youth group fundraising, your youth will do exactly that: take orders. In other words, you will not be ordering a pre-set amount of products beforehand but only ordering the exact amount that the church members or parishioners have agreed to buy. In this type of pre-sales fundraiser, your youth show their potential customers a brochure, catalog of products or even a sample and then fill out an order form if the supporter is interested. Accurate records are key with this church fundraising event, as the total order is then sent to the company, which will ship and deliver the items to you and then your youth group will make a second round delivering the products. You can decide whether the customers pay up front, when the order is taken, or upon delivery.

To involve your students even further in order-taker youth group fundraising, you can order DIY kits of products, such as home-made soaps, crafts, keepsakes or "published" books with your students' text or artwork. The kits come with all the ingredients you need for your project and step-by-step instructions. You still have the security of working with an established fundraising company, yet you will feel more involved in the final outcome.

The Do-It-Yourself Approach to Church Fundraising

Does company fundraising bore you? Not really convinced about your youth group hounding church members with catalogs in hand? Perhaps you would like to try your hand at organizing a youth group fundraising event.

Your youth group will probably love helping you organize a craft or fair event in which vendors rent tables. Your youth can also host a dinner event, cooking the meal themselves and serving it to ticket buyers, even providing entertainment such as a dinner theater. Many churches will welcome a "rummage" or "jumble" sale, an "a-thon" event, a silent auction or a car-wash event. Or you can provide products just dispense with the fundraising companies by making your own bookmarks, gift baskets, candles, wreaths, T-shirts or anything else your group is capable of making, and then sell them as your church fundraising event.

One youth group fundraising or church fundraising approach is so straightforward it can often be overlooked: the simple "ask and you shall receive" method. Have your youth ask congregation members, family or friends for money. They can either do this directly or through a well-written letter. Or you can structure the campaign in clever ways, such as having each participant "sell shares" of the total goal amount. Of course, "investors" require a "prospectus" detailing the mission's goals, which the youth will have prepared ahead of time. Students can also encourage church members to give by asking them to "skip a weekend night out for missions." Church members give up something they would do on any given weekend night, such as going out to dinner or to a movie, donating the amount of money they would spend on these activities. Students can also arrange the program or mission information and a large jar on a table in front of a sympathetic business or in the parish hall. Or put together a congregational coin or penny drive; the children can then count and wrap the donated coins.

As you can see, you can think in or out of the box when it comes to church fundraising or youth group fundraising and, depending on your time, interest and abilities, you can choose the approach that works for you and your church.

Share your youth group fundraising ideas with us!

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Sponsorship Seeker's Toolkit A how-to guide to getting funding by speaking to organizations in corporate language -- using the right tools to open the money box.