Published at Youthworker Online (A part of Youthworker Journal)
Read the online article here
Avoiding the Perils of Fundraising: Five Tips
Most youth workers do not get excited about fundraising. Whether it is for the ministry budget, for the youth trips or to help fund something else, it is not in most youth workers’ nature to enjoy fundraising. Sometimes money can be seen as a necessary evil in ministry and rarely do we ever feel as though we have enough in churches, especially in recent years. Youth workers should not see fundraising as an enemy or a necessary evil. It is not the most meaningful or enjoyable part of my work with youth, but I have learned some things over the years that have helped with this area of youth ministry programming and leadership. These five tips are not the only things that need to be considered as we look at fundraising in youth ministry, but hopefully one or more of them are helpful to you.
Tip #1: Be Organized
Many people do not see youth ministry or youth workers as the organized type. While that can be an unfair characterization, the nature of youth ministry along with the personality of youth workers can tend to lead to more chaos than organization. Pulling off an event or youth group lesson at the last minute is very doable. Pulling off a fundraiser at the last minute is ill advised for many reasons. Chaos is difficult when you are raising money and failing to be organized often creates frustration amongst youth, parents and the congregation. The last thing you want to do when fundraising is to create negative experiences and emotions. Failing to be organized can hurt a fundraiser, but more importantly it ruin relationships as well as future fundraising efforts.
Tip #2: Know your Context
This tip applies to everything in ministry, which should be obvious to us, but I have often forgotten about context when planning fundraisers for youth ministry. For example, a youth auction (for the youth to work) is going to go well in a congregation with a lot of older members, but if most of the people in your church are under 60, it will not go so well. You are not likely to pull off a car wash if your church is located close to a car wash that has great prices and a great reputation, especially if its January and you live in Minnesota. When planning for your fundraisers, think about your church, your community and consider what other fundraisers are happening in the schools before you plan you fundraising efforts. Build fundraising traditions that will last and can best engage your youth, families, church and community.
Tip #3: Diversify
Make sure you have diversity in your fundraising efforts. I write about this in ‘Taking a Balanced Approach to Fundraising’ if you want to know more, but the summary of this tip is that you need to have variety to your fundraising. Offer different types of fundraisers at different times of the year. If you do not have diversity in what you do in fundraising, you will often miss a portion of your youth, church and community who may want to participate. Not everyone is good at selling things, nor is everyone’s life built for giving up a Saturday to work. Some families do not have much money to give, but have plenty of time, while others are just the opposite. If you do all your fundraising inside the church, you will miss out on opportunities to have visibility in your community. If you fundraise only in the community you miss the chance to build support for your ministry in your congregation. Make sure when you think about fundraising to mix things up.
Tip #4: Plan Ahead
This goes along with both tip #1 and #3, but the possible redundancy is worth it because these factors are important in fundraising. When I started at one church, I was asked if I could do a fundraiser that was not in May or June. Apparently all of the fundraising for mission trips that happened in July was done in May and June. Besides being a terrible time for fundraising, the lack of planning caused a lot of stress for everyone due to the lack of planning. Even if you work in a context where money is not an issue for your families, most people need to know ahead of time about costs and fundraising. Make sure to do most of your fundraising so that it is completed at least one month, if not two months, before the event you are trying to fundraise for.
Tip #5: Don’t see Fundraisers as an Enemy, but an Opportunity
If you have an attitude that fundraisers are the enemy or that you should not have to do them, you have already lost. As leaders, how we view things always impacts how well we do them and how well others respond to them. Many of our challenges around fundraising in youth ministry are directly related to our attitude towards them. Everything in life and ministry can be an opportunity. Sure, a mission trip is much more likely to create life change than a car wash, but if we see everything as an opportunity to help our youth and families encounter Christ, then our fundraisers can become meaningful experiences for our youth ministries.
Fundraising is not going away, and we need to consider our approach to this piece of youth ministry often treated as an annoyance when we should see it as an opportunity. Hopefully these tips can help us all to not only be more effective in our fundraising, but also in how we approach the parts of our job and ministry that we are not as passionate about.
Rev. Marcus J Carlson has worked with children and youth for over 13 years and is a spiritual director. He current serves as Associate Pastor at Bethel Lutheran Church in Colorado Springs, CO. (marcusjcarlson.com).