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When you need more: Church fundraising basics

Face it. Sometimes the offering just isn’t enough. When your church needs to increase giving, what do you do? What types of fundraisers should churches conduct, and how can you get your members on board? Is it possible even to make fundraising fun and meaningful?

What types of fundraisers should churches conduct? Is it possible to make fundraising fun? 

Before you begin

While fundraising is definitely not the only way to raise money, it is one way that some churches choose to do so. If your church decides to host a fundraising event, you need to consider these three primary fundraising objectives.

  • The most obvious purpose is to raise money for the church or one of the ministries of the church.
  • Another objective of fundraising is to highlight and encourage support of the church or a specific ministry, its mission and its needs.
  • Finally, since fundraising can often be seen as the process of “buying and selling” and not generous giving, it is important to help your church understand the difference. However, fundraising helps build community and encourage good stewardship — two very important components of discipleship.

First United Methodist Church of Lakeland, Florida, states in its Fundraising Policies, Principles, & Procedures manual: “Fundraisers should never overshadow the practice of stewardship.” In defining stewardship, United Methodists believe that everything, including financial resources, is a gift from God. Therefore, how financial assets are spent or given away is a part of Christian stewardship. One vital aspect of stewardship is the monetary support of the church and its ministries. If conducted in the right way, fundraisers can help congregants to be good stewards of their time, talents and finances.

Planning a fundraiser

Having a fundraising plan is very important. If you haven’t already done so, you may want to define your church’s policies and procedures for handling fundraisers. Here are a few important questions to ask before you begin to plan a specific event or program:

  • What is the need?
  • Will the monies earned be used for essential elements of ministry?
  • How will the fundraising be conducted?
  • Is there anything about the fundraising activity itself that is in opposition to the purpose and identity of The United Methodist Church?
  • Will this fundraising effort draw our church closer together?
  • Is there anything about this that might cause division?
  • Is this something that is already being done elsewhere in this church body? If so, will a duplication actually be successful?

By answering these questions, you help ensure that the fundraising effort will bring glory and honor to God and promote the ministries of the church. Any fundraising activity should be respectful of the church ministries and space, as well as the church congregation (including those who may not be able to contribute).

Adding the “fun” to fundraising

There are a variety of ways to fundraise. Three basic categories are:

  • personal donations/campaign or pledged giving
  • sales campaigns
  • special events

Personal donations and campaign/pledge giving are often used in churches when a large sum of money is needed for a building program or ministry extension. Sales campaigns and special events are more commonly used to raise money for smaller, more specific needs such as helping support a specific mission project or need within in the church.

Regardless of the fundraising format, asking for money can be a tedious and uncomfortable task for many. You need to consider what moves people to give or how you can make the process more fun and meaningful.

Be creative. There are literally tons of fundraising ideas. Try something new. Don’t be afraid to move beyond the bake sale. Almost everyone has bought a cake, but many people have never participated in an art auction. By enlisting the help of various artists within your church or community, you give others the opportunity to practice stewardship of their talents as well as their finances. In addition, you may have the opportunity to introduce your church to your unchurched neighbors.

If you don’t think you have any artists in your church, you are most assuredly wrong! The art doesn’t have to be created by professionals. Give your children and youth the opportunity to create pieces. Inexpensively frame or display their art, and watch all the grandmas, grandpas and parents get ready to spend. One church had each child in vacation Bible school use fabric markers to color a cloth square. A volunteer in the church sewed the squares into a quilt that was then auctioned for several hundreds of dollars.

Include young people. Young people add fun instantly to any project. By getting children and youth involved in fundraising, you are sure to bring some extra enthusiasm and energy to the event.

Perhaps you are hosting a Valentine’s dinner to raise money for a mission project. Coordinate with your children’s and youth minister to find young people to provide the entertainment or to help serve.

In addition, you can teach kids about stewardship by creating fundraising events exclusively for them. For example, encourage children to compete in a penny war to see which class can collect the most pennies. Make sure that the children recognize the need that is going to be met by the money that is collected, and if possible, include them in some tangible aspect of the ministry. For example, if the money is used to purchase food for Thanksgiving boxes, let the children help do the shopping, packing or delivery of the items.

Make it a team effort. The more people you can get involved, the more fun you are likely to have. Don’t be afraid to recruit help from other classes or groups within the church. For example, the senior ladies at one church spend the year making soaps, lotions and crafts to sell to support a particular mission. Instead of trying to sell the items themselves, the products are sold at the annual Christmas children’s event. At the event, the children are rewarded with money they have earned in their classes throughout the year for completing various tasks. The money must be spent in the “Bethlehem store” where the children can buy presents for their parents or other loved ones.

Look for ways that people in your church can use their talents to help contribute, and think outside the box for fundraising ideas. We often think of the people who can cook or bake or sing. But people who are good at woodworking or fixing things can also help. Host a time and talent auction where customers bid on the time and services of a skilled volunteer. For instance, a winning bidder could get two hours with a handyman who will work on household projects. Another bidder might win a Saturday evening babysitter. And still another might get his taxes prepared.

In addition to these tips, never forget to promote, promote, promote! If no one knows about an event or a sale, no one can give. And always make giving easy. You may want to check out the UMC Development Center to find out how The United Methodist Church is partnering with local churches to use fundraisers to make a difference in individual communities and the world.

Fundraising doesn’t have to be boring, and it definitely doesn’t have to be a chore. When it is used not only to raise funds but also to encourage stewardship, fundraising can be seen as both a method to fund the church and as a way to teach the church.

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